Another MUST READ column on Jumoke/FUSE by Sarah Darer Littman

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Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens.  She is also one of the most important voices on behalf of public education in Connecticut.

This week Sarah Darer Littman’s commentary piece on  CTNewsJunkie is a key addition to the discussion about the impact the corporate education reform industry is having in Connecticut and how key players in the Malloy administration, the City of Hartford and various pro-education reform entities are undermining Connecticut’s public education system.

In a piece entitled, “Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse,” Sarah Darer Littman writes,

“…I read the Hartford Courant report on the discovery that computers and equipment are missing from the Jumoke Academy at Milner…

[…]

Last year, Hartford received a “gift” in the form of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Hartford is a city where the Board of Education is under mayoral control — a situation the corporate education reformers in this state (and many forces from outside the state) tried extremely hard and spent a lot of money to try to replicate, unsuccessfully, in Bridgeport in 2012

This means that Mayor Pedro Segarra appoints five members of the Hartford Board of Education, and four are elected by the people of Hartford. However, according to its bylaws , the Board is meant to act as a whole.

But that’s not what happened in the case of the $5 million grant announced back in December 2012.

On June 29, 2012, staff members of the Gates Foundation came to Hartford for a meeting. According to a memo former Hartford Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto sent to the Board on October 12, 2012  — which was the first time the wider board knew of the meeting — “Participants included Board of Education Chair Matthew Poland, Mayor Segarra, Hartford Public Schools, Achievement First and Jumoke Academy senior staff members, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, ConnCAN, and other corporate, community and philanthropic partners.”

[…]

What’s really disturbing is that by funneling a grant through another foundation, a private foundation was able to impose public policy behind closed doors, and what’s more, impose policy that required taxpayer money — all without transparency or accountability.

I had to file a Freedom of Information request in order to get a copy of the paperwork on the Gates grant and what I received was only the partial information, because as Connecticut taxpayers will have learned from the Jumoke/FUSE fiasco, while charter schools consistently argue they are “public” when it comes to accepting money from the state, they are quick to claim that they are private institutions  when it comes to transparency and accountability.

But what is clear from the grant paperwork is that Hartford Public Schools committed to giving more schools to Achievement First and Jumoke Academy/Fuse, a commitment made by just some members of the Board of Education in applying for the grant, which appears to be a clear abrogation of the bylaws. Further, as a result of the commitment made by those board members, financial costs would accrue to Hartford Public Schools that were not covered by the grant — for example, the technology to administer the NWEA map tests, something I wrote about back in December 2012, just after the grant was announced.

One of the Gates Foundation grant’s four initiatives was to “Build the district’s capacity to retain quality school leaders through the transformation of low-performing schools, replicating Jumoke Academy’s successful model of a holistic education approach.”

And the stunning, disturbing and incredible story gets worse…. Much, much worse…

The entire “MUST READ” article can be found at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_dont_let_foundation_money_be_a_trojan_horse/

Sarah DarerLittman ends her piece with the observation,

That’s why we need transparency and accountability in our state, not backroom deals structured to avoid the public eye, but which still impact the public purse.

Editor’s Note:

While Sarah is absolutely right about the need for greater transparency and accountability, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that various players within the Malloy administration and the City of Hartford violated the spirit and the letter of Connecticut law.  While great transparency and accountability is vitally important, when it comes to the Jumoke/FUSE issue, indictments and convictions are also in order.

But please take the time to read the commentary piece – Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse.

Questions that teachers (parents, public school advocates and all voters) should be asking…

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Over the next week, the leadership of the Connecticut Education Association will be deciding whether to follow the lead of the American Federation of Teachers and endorse Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest school districts or whether they will endorse another candidate or whether they should make no endorsement in this year’s gubernatorial election.

Here are some of the issues that Connecticut’s public school teachers should be mulling over;

Issue #1:  As has been noted repeatedly, no other Democratic governor in the nation has proposed doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the poorest and lowest performing public schools.   At a candidate debate earlier this month, Malloy tried to clarify his infamous observation that teachers need only show for four years to get tenure by saying,

I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure… I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

Wait, What? … Malloy’s comment wasn’t about teachers, “It was about tenure?

If Malloy thought he deserved the support of Connecticut’s teachers, why hasn’t he publicly renounced his anti-tenure, anti-collective bargaining proposal?

 

Issue #2:  Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative requires teacher evaluation programs to be linked to standardized test scores despite the fact that standardized tests scores are primarily influenced by poverty, language barriers, and the lack of special education services for students rather than teacher performance.  On the other hand, there are multiple teacher evaluation models that do not tie teacher evaluations to unfair, inappropriate and misleading standardized test results.

If Malloy wanted to show he understands the challenges facing teachers and public education why hasn’t he said that, if re-elected, he will decouple the mandated teacher evaluation system from unfair standardized testing?

 

Issue #3:  When running for governor in 2006 and 2010, Malloy admitted that Connecticut’s present Education Cost Sharing Formula is outdated and inadequate.  As Mayor of Stamford, Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in the critically important CCJEF v. Rell court case, but as governor he has spent the last four years trying to get the case dismissed and then postponed until after this year’s election.

If Malloy believes he deserves the votes of teachers (and parents and taxpayers), why won’t he simply say that if he gets a second term in office he will settle the CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit and use the CCFEF Coalition’s expertise to fix Connecticut’s broken school funding system?

 

Issue #4:   As Governor, Malloy has increased state funding for privately-run charter schools by 73.6% while providing Connecticut’s public schools with only a 7.9% increase in support.  Virtually all of the new funding was allocated to the state’s 30 so-called Alliance Districts (with major strings attached).  The result has been a loss of local control for Connecticut’s poorest towns and no meaningful support for middle-class towns that have become even more reliant on regressive local property taxes.

If Malloy wants teachers, parents and public school advocates to vote for him, why hasn’t he announced that he will institute a moratorium on additional charter schools and devote scarce public resources to where they belong…Connecticut’s real public schools?

 

Issue #5:  COMMON CORE AND THE COMMON CORE TESTING SCHEME

The Common Core and its associated massive Common Core Testing Scheme have become particularly controversial.  Tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on the massive standardized testing program.  In addition, the Malloy administration has repeatedly lied and mislead parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the new tests.

If Malloy wants a second term, why hasn’t he ordered his State Department of Education to be honest with parents (and teachers) and tell parents that they DO HAVE A RIGHT TO OPT THEIR CHILDREN OUT OF THE COMMON CORE TESTING SCHEME and why does he continue to support the implementation of the Common Core and its massive Common Core Testing program?

These and many other important education issues will face the individual who is elected in November.

Before endorsing or supporting or voting for any candidate, Connecticut’s public school teachers (and every other Connecticut voter) should ask why Malloy has failed to adequately address these important issues.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

The question IS NOT whether UConn has a major impact on Connecticut’s economy

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The question IS NOT whether UConn has a major impact on Connecticut’s economy.

An additional issue is whether voters fully understand how UConn spends its public funds.  For example, UConn uses student and public funds to subsidize the school’s big-time athletic programs to the tune of about $19 million a year.

Yesterday, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and UConn President Susan Herbst released a $50,000 study, produced by an out-of-state company that reported that that the University of Connecticut “had a $3.4 billion impact on the state’s economy in 2013.”

The University of Connecticut is a public institution of higher education that is dedicated to research, teaching and public service.  UConn’s total budget is in excess of $1 billion a year, about 27% of which comes from state funds.  It wasn’t that long ago that the state funded almost half of UConn’s budget.  UConn is part of the nation’s network of land-grant universities.   The concept of land-grant universities originated in the 1860s as a way to target public funds to promote “agricultural and technical educational institutions.”

Putting aside the obvious issue that this publicly-funded study was timed to showcase Malloy during the 2014 gubernatorial election, the bigger question is the governor’s double-standard when it comes to UConn and Connecticut’s other public colleges and universities.

At yesterday’s press conference, Malloy proclaimed,

“It’s important for the people of Connecticut to understand just how vital the University of Connecticut is to economic activity.”

Of course, this statement comes from the very same governor who pushed through the deepest budget cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education.

Since becoming governor, Malloy has reduced state support for the University of Connecticut by well over $100 million.  (The same pattern of budget cuts has taken place at the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges).

As a direct result of Malloy’s budget cuts to UConn and the other public colleges and universities, the schools have been forced to shift the costs onto the backs of Connecticut’s students and their parents.

Since Malloy took office, the cost of going to UConn has skyrocketed by 20% for students living on campus.  As a result of Malloy’s budget cuts, students who commute to UConn or can’t afford to live on campus have seen their tuition and mandatory fees jump by an incredible 28%.

Compounding the problem is the lack of transparency and honesty coming from the Malloy administration and UConn’s Board of Trustees.

The public subsidy of UConn’s athletic programs is just such an example.

When the State of Connecticut built a new stadium in East Hartford and UConn moved to 1-A football, state officials claimed that the move would be lucrative and that within a few years UConn football would be paying for the entire cost of UConn’s athletic programs.

However, according to a 2013 financial report provided to the NCAA, the State of Connecticut and UConn students continue to provide a massive subsidy to UConn’s big-time athletic programs.

Last year, UConn’s athletics program cost in excess of $63.3 million.  Incredibly, 29.7% of that money comes from UConn’s Operating Fund which is primarily made up of tax dollars, as well as, UConn student tuition and fees.

While “big time” athletics are certainly part of almost every major university, Connecticut taxpayers, students and parents deserve to know that they are subsiding UConn athletics to the tune of about $19 million a year.

And while having top tier coaches is a vital part of any successful major athletic program, most Connecticut taxpayers, students and parents probably don’t know that UConn’s top four coaches collected in excess of $7.1 million in compensation in 2013 and that nearly a third of that money came directly from students, parents and taxpayers.

The truth is that Connecticut should be proud of the University of Connecticut and the impact UConn has on the state.

And Governor Malloy certainly has the right to highlight the fact that he has put nearly $2 billion on the state’s credit card to build even more new buildings for the University.

But for Governor Malloy to hold a press conference about UConn, without explaining that he implemented historic cuts to UConn’s operating fund, is extremely inappropriate and misleading.

As a direct result of Malloy’s policies, UConn has become more expensive for Connecticut families.

That is certainly something he shouldn’t be proud about.

You can read more about the new study and Malloy’s press conference at:

CTNewsJunkieNew Report Touts UConn’s Impact On State Economy

CT Mirror: UConn touts its economic contribution but touches off a political dustup

CT Democratic Chair – The pot that called the kettle black

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“The pot calling the kettle black” is an idiom used to claim that a person is guilty of the very thing of which they accuse another.

For example,

“Oho!” said the pot to the kettle;
“You are dirty and ugly and black!
Sure no one would think you were metal,
Except when you’re given a crack.”

“Not so! not so!” kettle said to the pot;
“‘Tis your own dirty image you see;
For I am so clean – without blemish or blot –
That your blackness is mirrored in me.”
—Maxwell’s Elementary Grammar, 1904,

With that as the backdrop, some of you may have recently received an email from Democratic State Chair Nancy DiNardo.

The email ALERT read,

BAD NEWS: GOP Super-PACs are planning to spend an unprecedented $6 million (and probably more) on TV ads to defeat Democratic candidates across Connecticut.

And this is on top of everything else the GOP is doing to win this November.

We need September to be a HUGE month for Connecticut Democrats if we want our candidates to survive the onslaught of attacks. Chip in $5 or more now >>

Truth be told, the email is another fine example of the pot calling the kettle black idiom.

The Chair of the Connecticut Democratic Party was writing on behalf of Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy.

The same Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy that pushed through the legislation that allows a candidate for governor in Connecticut to take $6.2 million in public funds for their campaign and still raise millions more through their political party and related political action committees.

In Malloy’s case, not only has he cashed the $6.2 million taxpayer-funded check, but he has raised more than $3.5 million into the Democratic State Central Committee from state contractors, lobbyists, and individuals that have benefited financially from Malloy’s corporate welfare programs.

And that doesn’t even count the Democratic Super-PAC called Connecticut Forward, an entity that has already dumped more than $3.5 million into campaign 2014 to support Malloy and oppose Foley.

And just who are the people and organizations that are pouring money into the Malloy campaign operation?

Readers won’t be surprised to learn that one of the biggest donors to Malloy’s campaign extravaganza is the corporate education reform industry.

According to the last set of federal and state campaign finance reports, Governor Malloy, the champion of the corporate education reform industry and the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest schools has received well over a quarter of a million dollars from leaders and political action committees associated with the national education reform and privatization effort.

You read that right…Malloy’s political campaign has benefited from more than $250,000 in campaign contributions from the corporate education reform industry.

For example, in Connecticut, the leading force behind Malloy’s education reform initiative is ConnCAN.

ConnCAN is the charter school advocacy group that helped make the lobbying campaign in support of Malloy’s education reform bill the most expensive in state history.

ConnCAN’s Board of Directors and their immediate family members have donated more than $100,000 to Malloy’s campaign.

In addition, donors to the Democratic State Central Committee and political action committees supporting Malloy’s re-election bid include the anti-teacher Democrats for Education Reform, one of the nation’s leading corporate education reformers, billionaire Eli Broad, and Connecticut billionaire and education reform-funder, Steven Mandel.

Sadly, the Chairperson of the Connecticut Democratic Party fails to explain to the Democratic Party’s rank and file that their $5 contribution to confront the GOP Super-PAC will be deposited into the same account that is awash in millions of dollars that are being dumped into the Malloy campaign by the corporate elite that are so eager to see Malloy in office for another four years.

Malloy’s Fundraising Operation – “Offensive but not illegal”

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As noted earlier this week in Wait, What? post entitled, Three cheers for campaign finance corruption in Connecticut!, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his campaign operation has collected at least $3.5 million for his campaign by directing large campaign contributors to make donations to the Democratic State Central Committees “federal” account.  Much of the money has come from state contractors, lobbyists, political action committees and the wealthy.

Under Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance reform law that passed in 2005, following former governor John Rowland’s conviction, Malloy’s fundraising scheme would have been illegal.

But thanks to changes in the law that were proposed by Malloy and approved by the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly in 2013, the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission ruled yesterday that Malloy’s tactics are an “offensive” violation of the law’s “spirit and intent,” but not illegal.

Details of Malloy’s close call with the law can be found in the Hartford Courant’s Panel Condemns NU Exec’s Pro-Malloy Solicitation As ‘Offensive’ – But Finds No Violation and the CT NewsJunkie’s Election Regulators Call NU Solicitation ‘Egregious’.

As CTNewsJunkie explains,

The State Elections Enforcement Commission dismissed a complaint against Northeast Utilities CEO Thomas May Tuesday, but not before offering some harsh criticism of the solicitation the state contractor sent last September to his employees.

“The next gubernatorial election is upon us, and I am asking each of you to join me in financially supporting Connecticut’s Governor Dannel P. Malloy,” May wrote in his Sept. 27, 2013 email to company managers. The email, which was sent from May’s private gmail account, suggested that donations be made to the Connecticut Democratic State Central’s federal account.

State election law prohibits state contractors from contributing to state party accounts or the campaigns of statewide candidates. Even though the email solicitation mentioned Malloy’s accomplishments at length, the commission was unable to find that May violated state election law because the money went to the party’s federal account.

“The Commission does conclude that the content of the solicitation by Mr. May is both offensive and disturbing and violates the spirit and intent of the Connecticut state contractor ban,” the 5-0 decision to dismiss the complaint reads.

The Hartford Courant adds,

If May had asked his people to donate to the Democratic Party’s account for state political operations, or directly to Malloy or any other candidate for state office, it would have violated the statutory ban on contractors giving money to state campaigns, the commission said.

However, “[b]ecause the contributions…were deposited into the [Democratic Party's] federal account which is generally outside the Commission’s jurisdiction, and not to a state [party] committee,” the commission “lacks the authority…to sanction the conduct,” the commission said in its decision.

The underlying problem with the State Elections Enforcement Commission decision is that everyone associated with the Malloy ploy knew exactly what was going on.

The Hartford Courant quotes an SEEC Commissioner as saying,

“To direct money that on its face was being raised for the support of a statewide candidate” – Malloy – “and deposit that money into a federal account, is an abuse not only of what that federal account is intended for, but clearly seems to be an effort to bypass the workings of the Connecticut finance law,” commission member Stephen T. Penny said.

Twice in the past month, the commission put off a decision in the case after deliberating it behind closed doors. “At first blush the conduct of [May] appeared to be an egregious violation…but after a careful review of state law, we were unable to find any specific violations,” Penny said.

In a blistering attack on the State Elections Enforcement Commission’s ruling, State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney issued a statement saying,

“Clearly, NU’s CEO violated the spirit of our clean election law – a law which was once a model for the country. That historic legislation has become a mockery. Gov. Malloy now has a choice to make. He can keep the money he received from NU officials, or he can return it. If he keeps the money, he will place a cloud on our campaign finance system. If he returns it, he will restore some integrity to the system.”

But of course, the likelihood of Malloy returning the ill-gotten campaign funds is zero because on top of the $50,000 he collected from NU are millions of dollars more from other state contractors, as well as, individuals and companies that have benefited from Malloy’s corporate welfare program.

While Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance reform legislation was rigged to keep 3rd party candidates out of the system, it did do an outstanding job limiting the influence of corporate, lobbyist and special interest funds.

That was before Malloy, with the help of the Democratic members of the Connecticut General Assembly, made a mockery of the law adding a series of loopholes designed to allow Malloy to use public and special interest funds to pay for his campaign.

Now, not only are Connecticut taxpayers giving Malloy (and Foley) $6.2 million each, but Malloy and his political operation are inappropriately, but not illegally, taking millions of dollars from those doing business with the state or benefiting directly from Malloy’s state spending strategies.

You can read more about this development at:

CTNewsJunkie:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/election_regulators_call_nu_solicitation_egregious/

Hartford Courant: http://touch.courant.com/#section/2237/article/p2p-81383792/

Jumoke Charter School Company back in the news due to missing computers

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The disgraced charter school company that got tens of millions of taxpayer dollars thanks to no-bid contracts from the Malloy administration is back in the news.

Apparently the constant flow of checks from Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s Department of Education wasn’t enough to appease the charter school company and its management.

The Hartford Courant is reporting that Jumoke may have removed more than $40,000 worth of “technology and equipment” before being booted out of Hartford’s Milner School earlier this year.

The Malloy administration gave Jumoke/FUSE charter school company no-bid contracts to run public schools in Hartford and Bridgeport and was granted management of a new charter school in New Haven.  There are also reports of a secret deal that fell through to give the charter school company control of a public school in Waterbury.

After a series of scathing investigative news stories written by the Hartford Courant, the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company collapsed, although the Malloy administration has allowed Jumoke to continue to run its original charter school in Hartford.  To date, Jumoke’s Hartford Charter School has cost Connecticut taxpayers over $50 million.

Now, according to a report in the Hartford Courant, when the Hartford Public School System re-took control of the Milner School this past summer, “among the 30 assets that cannot be found at Milner are 19 computers with monitors, including nine Lenovo computers that were acquired by Milner in January 2013 at a price of $900 each.”

The Hartford Courant reports that Hartford School officials wrote to Jumoke saying,

“If the Hartford Public Schools does not receive notice that Jumoke Academy, Inc./FUSE is returning the items or paying for the full replacement value of the identified missing materials, we will have no alternative but to treat the matter as a theft with the appropriate authorities,” wrote Paula Altieri, Hartford schools’ chief financial officer, in a certified letter dated Sept. 9.”

[…]

Hartford school officials said the district conducted a physical inventory of all schools in May 2013, then reviewed Milner’s assets again in late February and noted 54 “unaccounted for” items totaling $70,391.90 in value, including 11 laptops and five electronic SMART Boards.

School officials said they informed Michael M. Sharpe, then the CEO of FUSE, of the results of the second Milner inventory during an early March conference call. Sharpe has disputed the district’s findings.

At some point along the way, the Hartford Courant apparently asked Michael Sharpe, Jumoke/FUSE’s former CEO, about the missing equipment.  According to today’s Courant news story, Sharpe “blamed the Hartford school system for losing the equipment.”

You can read the full Hartford Courant story at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-81386037/

Why Malloy’s (and Foley’s) anti-tax pledge is anti-middle class

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In a September 3, 2014 Wait, What? post entitled, Foley and Malloy are just plain wrong on taxes, the blog explained that Malloy and Foley are being fiscally irresponsible with their pledge not to propose raising taxes if they are elected. The article begins with the following;

Although Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy is fond of saying that he inherited a $3.7 billion budget deficit when he was sworn into office in January 2011…The candidate who is sworn in as Governor of Connecticut in January 2015 will be facing a combined budget deficit of at least $4.8 billion over the next three years!   YES – You read that number correctly.  Even after taking into consideration increased revenue from an “improving” economy, Connecticut state government will be $4.8 billion SHORT of what it is needed to maintain the present level of services and meet its present statutory obligations.

As a result of Governor Malloy’s irresponsible borrowing policies, the state MUST increase its debt service payments by at least $672 million dollars over the next three years.  The additional mandatory payments for the state employee and teacher pension and healthcare funds will require an additional $620 million.

And that doesn’t even count the minimum increases needed to maintain the most vital state services.

There is absolutely no way to balance Connecticut’s state budget without additional taxes.  The question is not whether we will have tax increases, but who will be providing that additional state revenue.

Furthermore, by pledging not to “raise” taxes at the state level, there will be no meaningful state increase in state aid to municipalities and that will translate into massive increases in local property taxes, as towns face the growing costs of education, public safety and other local services.

While Malloy and Foley can try and claim they won’t raise taxes, by forcing higher local property taxes, the two major party candidates will – in fact – be raising taxes that disproportionately hit middle-income families and small business that are particularly hurt by the way in which Connecticut raises revenue at the local level.

But Malloy and Foley’s “no-tax” pledge is even more unfair than it seems because they are promising to maintain the existing tax system that coddles the rich.

As the non-partisan CT Voices for Children has reported;

  • In Connecticut, wealthy residents pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than the rest of us, while families raising children are uniquely hurt by Connecticut’s present tax system.
  • After federal income tax deductions, Connecticut’s wealthiest families pay an average of 5.5% of their income in state and local taxes, while the middle class pay 10.5%, and the poor pay 11% of their income in state and local taxes.
  • In addition, Connecticut is one of only two states that make no adjustment in their income taxes for the cost of raising children.  A family with $60,000 of income with three kids owes the same as the family with $60,000 of income and no kids.  It is a tax policy that is hardly pro-child.

The candidates for governor who have made a “no tax pledge” is not only being fiscally irresponsible, but is sending a loud and clear message to Connecticut’s middle class.   What Malloy and Foley are saying is that not only are they refusing to take responsibility for properly running the state of Connecticut, but they are admitting that they will be leaving Connecticut’s unfair tax structure in place while increasing the burden on local property taxpayers.

As of now, the Democrat and Republican candidates for governor have made a strong case for why they SHOULD NOT BE ELECTED.  Only 3rd Party candidates Joe Visconti (and I) have had the courage and wisdom to admit that the next governor needs to keep all the tools of governance on the table.

It is time for Malloy and Foley to admit their no-tax pledge is bad fiscal policy.

Or worse, while they know that additional taxes will be needed to balance the state budget and reduce the burden on the middle class, they’ve decided to lie rather than tell the truth in an attempt to get elected.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Three cheers for campaign finance corruption in Connecticut!

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy has deposited his check for $6.2 million from the State’s Public Finance System.

As a result of Connecticut’s landmark 2005 campaign finance reform bill, in return for raising $250,000 in contributions of under $100, Malloy (and the Republican nominee for governor) have each received $6.2 million in public funds to pay for their gubernatorial campaigns.

The original concept, which passed following the conviction of Governor John Rowland in 2005, was that in return for a multi-million dollar campaign donation from the public, candidates would agree to forgo private funds raised from state contractors, lobbyists, political action committees, the wealthy and other special interest.

But that was before Malloy and the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly torpedoed the most important elements of the law.

Now, in addition to the $6.2 million in public funds, Malloy and his political operatives have collected at least $3.5 million for his campaign into the Democratic State Central Committees “federal” account, much of it from state contractors, lobbyists, political action committees and the wealthy.   The political maneuver was made possible thanks to a proposal Malloy and the Democrats pushed through in 2013.

In addition, a “separate” political action committee called Connecticut Forward, has already raised $2.5 million to run ads in support of Malloy and against his opponent, Tom Foley.  To date, about $1.3 million of Connecticut Forward’s money has come from the Democratic Governors Association, $900,000 from the AFSCME union and $250,000 from the American Federation of Teachers.  In the coming weeks, the Connecticut Forward PAC is expected to raise another $3-$5 million or more in their effort to promote Malloy’s campaign.

So how on earth did we go from having one of the “best” campaign finance reform laws in the nation to a campaign in which Malloy gets $6.2 million in public funds, while accessing another $10 million or more in campaign donations including money from state contractors and others who personally benefit from the governor’s policies.

While a portion of the blame rests with the unprecedented Citizens United decision by the United States Supreme Court, in which companies were determined to be people for the purposes of campaign finance laws, Connecticut’s present campaign laws, along with their appearance of corruption, rests on the shoulders of Governor Malloy and the Democrats in the Legislature.

A June 1, 2011 Wait, What? post entitled, “Oh…Remember When Democratic Leaders were for Campaign Finance Reform,” observed, “Democrats Complete the Task of Undermining the State’s Public Finance Law.”  And yet the worst was still to come.

As background, back on January 27th, 2010, when then-candidate Dan Malloy spoke out after a Zogby public opinion survey found that 79 percent of Connecticut voters supported public financing and the Citizens’ Elections Program, Malloy said;

“In my view, this poll should serve as proof of just how strongly Connecticut voters feel about campaign finance reform, and as a warning for those candidates who think they can brush aside the Citizens’ Election Program…”

At the time, Malloy was echoing the sentiment of Democratic Party leaders.

Following the passage of Connecticut’s historic campaign finance law, Speaker of the House Chris Donovan wrote;

“Almost 230 years ago, the founding fathers took a huge risk when they signed the Declaration of Independence and set the wheels in motion for the world’s greatest democracy. Today, this historic campaign finance reform legislation reaffirms that this is a government for the people, not special interests. This campaign finance reform bill is our declaration of independence. We can look our constituents in the eye and say we created the strongest campaign laws in the United States.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Don Williams’ rhetoric was equally impressive, with an official biography that read,

“Since his election as Senate President, Senator Williams has been a leading advocate for cleaning up government. He authored legislation to reform the State Ethics Commission and supported sweeping changes to the campaign finance system and the state contracting process. With the creation of a publicly funded campaign finance system in 2005, Connecticut now has the strongest reform laws in the nation.”

But when candidate Dan Malloy became Governor Dannel Malloy, the official view and strategy when it came to campaign finance reform changed dramatically.

In Malloy’s first budget, the new governor took aim at the State Elections Enforcement Commission by reducing its funding, its autonomy and its authority.

At the time, State Senator Gayle Slossberg, the only Democrat to vote against Malloy’s plan, was quoted as saying, “I just think that the proposal in front of us undermines the independence and the integrity of the [State Election Enforcement Commission and the other] watchdog agencies,”

But Malloy’s effort to undermine Connecticut’s campaign finance law had just begun.

As the 2013 session of the Connecticut General Assembly came to a close, Malloy and the Democrats passed legislation that allowed candidates to keep the public campaign finance funds while opening the flood gates to tainted campaign contributions.

The bill doubled the amount of money private donors could give to political parties, removed the cap on how much political parties could spend to support candidates participating in the public finance system and created a massive loophole by allowing candidates, in this case Malloy, to better coordinate their activities with political parties and other political action committees.

The anti-campaign finance reform bill did not get a single Republican vote in the State Senate or House of Representatives.  On June 19, 2013 Malloy signed the legislation into law, which in turn, prompted former Governor Jodi Rell to observe;

“After a dark period in our state’s history, Connecticut became a role model for the nation with … our campaign finance reform. How sad that the Democrat governor, Democrat legislators and the Democrat Party are so greedy for campaign cash that they would willingly destroy what we so proudly enacted just a few short years ago.”

At the time, few fully appreciated how the legislation would change the political landscape, but you can read more about the Democrats successful effort to destroy Connecticut’s campaign finance law in the June 2013 CTNewsJunkie article entitled, “Malloy Signs Bill Changing Campaign Finance Reforms of 2005.”

Now, with just weeks to go in the 2014 gubernatorial election, laws have been changed to the point that instead of having $6.2 million, the Malloy campaign effort will probably spend in excess of $16 million to try and get a second term in office.

Of course, thanks in no small part to the same changes in the law, Tom Foley and the Republicans will be spending an equally obscene amount of money.

Finally, as Wait, What? readers know, the entire system is also rigged against third-party candidates.  Meaning in this campaign finance war of mutually assured campaign destruction, they only candidate not double and triple dipping, while still using taxpayer funds is third party candidate Joe Visconti.

So let’s hear it!  Three cheers for campaign finance corruption in Connecticut!

Here is one of the odd things about teachers, unions and democracy

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and eliminating collective bargaining for teachers in the poorest school districts.  His corporate education reform legislation is widely recognized as the most anti-teacher piece of legislation ever introduced by a Democratic governor.

Yet, the American Federation of Teachers (Connecticut chapter) endorsed Malloy without allowing his challengers to fill out a questionnaire, interview with the AFT Political Action Committee or address the AFT Executive Committee.

By comparison, the Connecticut Education Association held a candidate forum today, allowing teacher attendees to cast an “advisory” ballot that the CEA leadership will take into consideration when they decide whom to endorse in the coming weeks.

However, according to the latest round of campaign finance reports, in addition to the $6.2 million that Connecticut taxpayers gave to pay for Governor Malloy’s re-election campaign via Connecticut’s Public Financing Program;

  • The American Federation of Teachers has used union dues to donate $10,000 to Malloy’s campaign via the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee and $250,000 to support Malloy through the new Political Action Committee, Connecticut Forward PAC, which was created by the Democratic Governors Association (DGA).  The Democratic Governors Association also donated $1.25 million to the Connecticut Forward PAC.

And who are among the larger donors to the Democratic Governors Association?

  • The National Education Association’s Fund for Children’s Public Education!  The same group has also donated $5,000 in to the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee to help with Governor Malloy’s re-election.

The CEA hasn’t even endorsed a candidate and NEA is spending money (donated by teachers to their Political Action Committee) in Connecticut to support the nation’s leading anti-teacher Democratic governor.

It is Ironic, to say the least, that Malloy’s campaign has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from teachers when Malloy has earned the title as the most anti-teacher Democratic governor in the nation.

It makes one wonder – doesn’t it?

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

CEA Education Forum 2014 – September 13, 2014

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The Connecticut Education Association will be holding their forum with the gubernatorial candidates on Saturday, September 13, 2014 with a follow up CEA Political Action Committee meeting scheduled for September 17, 2014.

Having fallen short on the number of signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot, I will not be participating, but I do know the CEA endorsement process includes giving candidates a questionnaire and allowing them an opportunity so speak and answer questions, all before the CEA leadership endorses a candidate.  It is certainly an improvement over the AFT-CT’s “candidate endorsement” process.  In their case, they refused to allow candidates to fill out a questionnaire, interview with the PAC committee or even address the executive committee before they endorsed Dannel Malloy, the most anti-teacher Democratic governor in the country.  They have since provided him with even more member dues to help pay for his misleading campaign ads.

There are many questions that should be asked of the candidates for governor, but here are a few that will hopefully be asked at Saturday’s forum.

Question #1:  TENURE

Governor Dannel Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing public schools. 

To date, Mr. Malloy has not renounced his anti-tenure proposal.

In response to Malloy’s remark that public school teachers need only show up for four years and they’ll get tenure, Malloy recently told the audience at the Norwich Bulletin Candidate Debate, “I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure… I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

Apparently as late as this month, Governor Malloy is saying that his anti-teacher statement wasn’t meant to denigrate teachers but was meant to disparage tenure?

Q:  What is your position on teacher tenure?

Question #2:  TEACHER EVALUATION

Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative requires teacher evaluation programs to be linked to standardized test scores despite the fact that academic resources show that standardized tests scores are primarily influenced by poverty, language barriers, and the lack of special education services for students rather than teacher performance.  On the other hand, there are multiple teacher evaluation programs around the country that do not tie teacher evaluations to unfair, inappropriate and misleading standardized test results.

Q:  Will you commit to decoupling teacher evaluation programs from standardized test scores and replacing the present plan with one that actually ties teacher evaluation to factors that successfully measure teacher performance?

Question #3:  CCJEF SCHOOL FUNDING LAWSUIT

Connecticut’s present Education Cost Sharing Formula is outdated and inadequate.  In fact, Connecticut’s present school funding formula fails to meet the provisions of Connecticut’s Constitution.  The state’s failure to revamp its school funding system has led to the CCJEV v. Rell school finance lawsuit.  As Mayor of Stamford, Governor Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in this critically important case, but as governor, he has spent the last four years trying to get the case dismissed and then postponed until after this year’s election.

Q:  Will you commit to settling the CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit and use the CCFEF Coalition’s expertise to fix Connecticut’s broken school funding system.

Question #4:  EXISTING SCHOOL FUNDING

Over the past four years, state funding for privately-run charter schools has increased by 73.6% [from $53 million to $92 million], while Connecticut’s public school districts were provided with a 7.9% increase in support.  Virtually all of the new funding was allocated to the state’s 30 alliance districts (with major strings attached).  The result has been a loss of local control for Connecticut’s poorest towns and no meaningful support for middle-class towns that have become even more reliant on regressive local property taxes.

Q:  Since shifting to a new funding system will take time, as governor, how will you handle school funding during in the short term?

Question #5:  COMMON CORE AND THE COMMON CORE TESTING SCHEME

The Common Core and its associated massive Common Core Testing Scheme has become particularly controversial.  The state, local school districts, teachers, students and parents are being faced with rapidly adopting an extremely expensive, educationally questionable system.

Q:  Can you outline your opinion on the Common Core and Standardized Testing?      

Question #6:  COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION

Commissioner Stefan Pryor has announced that he will be leaving his position at the end of 2014.  Mr. Pryor’s tenure has been steeped in controversy, due in part to his commitment to the corporate education reform agenda, his leadership style and his relationship with charter schools, most directly with Achievement First, Inc., the charter school management company that has been the largest single financial beneficiary of state funds to charter schools over the past four years.

Q:  As Governor, what type of person would you appoint as Commissioner of Education and can you give us some names of people you think would be worthy of your consideration?

Question #7:  MANAGING THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Over the past four years, the Department of Education has been restructured.  Commissioner Pryor upended the Department’s “turnaround office” by eliminating the Leaders in Residence Program, removing three experienced former  Connecticut superintendents and four other expert administrators, as well as transfer out a number of nationally-recognized experts including one in English as a Second Language, one in Multi-cultural Education and one in School Climate and Bullying.  In their place, these tasks were outsourced to an inexperienced, out-of-state company for nearly $2 million dollars.  In addition, a series of other no-bid contracts were given to other out-of-state companies to perform tasks in which Connecticut expertise was available.

Q:  As Governor, what would be your vision for the State Department of Education and what is would be your approach to outside contracting?

There are many more questions that should be asked as well, please feel free to add them to the list:

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