Governor Malloy: Blessed are the Poor

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At yesterday’s press conference at the State Capital, Governor Malloy bragged about the extraordinarily positive impact Connecticut’s new minimum wage law will have when it takes effect at midnight tonight. 

“As the clock strikes 12 in this state, many people … will actually lift themselves out of poverty,” Malloy said during a press event and rally.

Malloy was referring to the mandated .45 cent an hour increase in the State’s minimum wage that will be taking effect.

The federal poverty level for a family of three in Connecticut is about $18,400.  For the 70,000 to 90,000 Connecticut residents living on minimum wage, a full-time job brings in $17,160 per year.

Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman joined Malloy in “celebrating” the raise in the minimum wage.  It will, according to Wyman, mean Connecticut’s minimum wage workers will make an extra $18 hours a week as long as they don’t miss a single hour of work.

That increase translates into an extra $936 a year — leaving most minimum wage families still living below the poverty line; this despite the fact that Connecticut remains the wealthiest state in the nation.

The notion that the “generosity” of the increased minimum wage allow many people to “lift themselves out of poverty” is beyond absurd.

However, yesterday’s performance was particularly insulting considering the “wage inflation” that has occurred among some of Malloy’s key allies and appointees.

One example of the double-standard can be found just down to street from the Capital at the Connecticut Board of Regents, the entity Malloy created when he pushed through the ill-conceived merger of the Connecticut State University and the Connecticut Community College System.

While Connecticut’s minimum wage earners wallow in their additional $18 more a week, Elsa Nunez, the Board of Regents’ Vice President of State Universities and President of Eastern Connecticut State University has seen her pay increase by $1,125 per week since Malloy become governor.

Nunez is one of the Board of Regent administrators who received the inappropriate and illegal bonuses that led to demise of the new agency’s president and executive vice president in 2012.  Although Nunez’ bonus was among those rescinded, it was later reinstated.

Despite Malloy’s record budget cuts to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities and the resulting massive tuition increases that have taken place, Nunez and other senior executives at the Board of Regents (and the University of Connecticut) have seen their salary and benefits grow and grow and grow.

Nunez, a Malloy ally in his corporate education reform initiative, is now making more than $377,000 this year, an increase of nearly 20% since Malloy took office.

And that salary doesn’t even include the massive compensation package that includes retirement funds, the use of a historic home in Ashford, Connecticut and a wide variety of other benefits.

With that as the background, it is hard to know what is more insulting.  Celebrating an $18 dollar a week increase in the minimum wage or claiming that, “As the clock strikes 12 in this state, many people … will actually lift themselves out of poverty.”

Connecticut: Poverty in the state with the highest per capita income

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Connecticut Children living in Poverty

  • CT 2001          10.2% live in poverty (82,000)

  • CT 2012:        14.8% live in poverty (117,000)

According to a study conducted by Connecticut Voices for Children, the independent research and advocacy organization, “At the start of the Great Recession, Connecticut experienced the largest increase in child poverty of any state in the nation, rising from 7.9% in 2007 to 9.3% in 2008.  Data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show that the official end of the Great Recession has had no real impact for the most vulnerable children in our state, who experienced a net increase in poverty from 2008 to 2012.

In fact, the number of children living in poverty has grown by almost 20% since 2008.

Just over a decade ago, Connecticut set an official policy goal of reducing child poverty by 50% over the next ten years.  Instead, child poverty has grown by nearly 50% since 2001.

n  Child poverty is the highest in our state’s urban areas: Hartford (53.1%), Waterbury (40.0%), New Haven (37.9%), Bridgeport (37.6%), New Britain (31.0%), Norwalk (13.0%), Danbury (11.0%) and Stamford (9.7%)

n  At 53.1%, Hartford has the highest child poverty rate of any city with a population of over 100,000 in the United States.

The prevalence of poverty among children varies significantly along racial and ethnic lines;

  • White children living in poverty in Connecticut = 5.8%
  • African American children living in poverty in Connecticut = 24%
  • Hispanic children living in poverty in Connecticut = 28%

Note that in 2012, the federal poverty threshold was $23,283 for a two-parent household with two children.

What does this data mean when it comes to improving academic performance in our state’s public schools?

Considering poverty, language barriers and the need for special education services are the three most important factors that influence standardized test scores; there can be no fundamental success when it comes to closing the “achievement gap” and “turning around” standardized test scores in Connecticut until we successfully confront that monumental influence that poverty is having on our children and their schools.

If so-called education advocates aren’t talking about combatting poverty and providing all poorer schools with the resources needed to help children overcome the effects of poverty then they aren’t true education advocates.

With well over 300-400 schools in “Alliance Districts,” (that is districts that are facing the greatest challenges); the solution is not cherry-picking 8-10 schools to become guinea pigs in the Commissioner’s Network experiment.

Instead, the Governor and General Assembly should be instituting systemic changes that ensure the State of Connecticut, and especially the State Department of Education, provide the resources and support necessary to help all the children in those Alliance Districts.

The policies being pushed by Governor Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor are exactly the wrong solution for the very real problem facing many of our state’s school districts and the children that these districts have a constitutional obligation to serve.

Connecticut must re-do its education funding formula and develop real and effective teacher professional development programs rather than rely on the absurd notion that you can use test scores to force teachers out of the teaching profession and pummel those teachers who decide to remain.

Recognizing and accepting reality is the first step towards developing a solution.

And recognizing and accepting reality begins with the understanding that Connecticut, the state with the highest per capita income in the country is facing a major poverty crisis.

You can read more about the extremely disturbing trend in Connecticut at: http://www.ctvoices.org/publications/poverty-median-income-and-health-insurance-connecticut-summary-2012-american-community-

 

Wealthiest Americans donate 1.3% of their income; the poorest, 3.2%…

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As so many religions celebrate this season of renewal and rebirth, it would seem that some among us have forgotten the core teachings and guidance of the Wise.  Whether those words come from the Holy Books or the Holy Visionaries, they follow a common theme;

“A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” – Proverbs 22: v 9

“For it is in giving that we receive.” – St. Francis of Assisi

“The believer is not the one who eats when his neighbor beside him is hungry.” - Prophet Muhammad

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha

“The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.” – Lao Tzu

Yet according to a recent article in the Atlantic magazine, the wealthiest are often the stingiest.  In fact, you could call them miserly when it comes to paying their fair share in taxes and even more miserly when it comes to their level of generosity.

The article explains, “In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.”

Or as Paul Piff, a professor at the University of California – Berkeley wrote in a New York Magazine article, “The rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people…more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.”

The Atlantic Magazine will leave you shaking your head as it reveals that the truth that surrounds us;

“Wealth affects not only how much money is given but to whom it is given. The poor tend to give to religious organizations and social-service charities, while the wealthy prefer to support colleges and universities, arts organizations, and museums. Of the 50 largest individual gifts to public charities in 2012, 34 went to educational institutions, the vast majority of them colleges and universities, like Harvard, Columbia, and Berkeley, that cater to the nation’s and the world’s elite. Museums and arts organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art received nine of these major gifts, with the remaining donations spread among medical facilities and fashionable charities like the Central Park Conservancy. Not a single one of them went to a social-service organization or to a charity that principally serves the poor and the dispossessed.”

Furthermore, the Atlantic writes, “More gifts in this group went to elite prep schools than to any of our nation’s largest social-service organizations, including United Way, the Salvation Army, and Feeding America (which got, among them, zero).”

The full article can be found at http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/why-the-rich-dont-give/309254/

The Parasites known as Charter Schools

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Bruce Baker is a professor at Rutgers’ Graduate School of Education at Rutgers.  He is considered one of the nation’s foremost experts on school financing.  He has written extensively on the subject, including serving as a lead author of the definitive graduate text book called Financing Education Systems.  He is also the author of a blog called School Finance 101.

A couple of days ago Baker posted a “MUST READ” article on his blog that drives home one of the most important points Wait, What? readers have been learning about over the past year.

Charter schools cream off the students.  They cream off students because they are trying to get the “right students” so that can “produce higher standardized test scores” so they can continue to mislead government, foundations and wealthy donors to give them money.

Then, when their test scores come out, they completely fail to explain that those scores are not a product of the quality of the education these schools provide, but are a direct result of selective, discriminatory enrollment policies they have and their increasingly well-known system of forcing out (often called migrating out) those students that won’t produce the results they want.

While Baker’s latest blog looks at charter schools in multiple states, the Connecticut data he presents makes the strongest case yet for the intentional fraud being perpetrated on Connecticut’s public schools, our students, teachers, state government and taxpayers.

You can read Backer’s full article here (see link), but the key Connecticut findings are as follows;

Using data from the State Department of Education and the NCES Common Core, Baker summed the “total number of public & charter school enrolled children by City (school location in CCD) and the total numbers of free lunch, ELL and special education enrolled children.”

Here is a chart highlighting the data – and once again – the data makes the situation absolutely clear.

We know the greatest predictors of standardized test score performance are poverty, language barriers and special education needs.  We also know that in case after case after case after case, Connecticut’s charter school educate children that are less poor, have far less language barriers and need fewer special education services.

CLICK ON THE CHART TO OPEN IN NEW WINDOW SO YOU CAN GO BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN TEXT AND CHART:

Student Demographics  Charter Schools Vs. The City those schools are in

In fact, Connecticut’s charter schools are particularly brutal on locking out students who are not fluent in English – which are usually the children who come from homes where English is not the primary language.

If Charter schools educate children who are less poor, have fewer language barriers and few special education needs, they will, by default, end up with high standardized test scores.

So what has Governor Malloy, Education Commission Pryor, the Connecticut Board of Education and the Connecticut General Assembly done?

They have given more funds to those that are discriminating while making things worse for the schools that are actually trying to what every child deserves under the Connecticut Constitution – a few, high quality, public education.

As Dr. Bruce Baker puts it, “In a heterogeneous urban schooling environment, the more individual schools or groups of schools engage in behavior that cream skims off children who are less poor, less fewer language barriers, far less likely to have a disability to begin with, and unlikely at all to have a severe disability, the higher the concentration of these children left behind in district schools.(see for example:http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/effects-of-charter-enrollment-on-newark-district-enrollment/).

Baker goes on to speak the absolute truth when he said, “…with independent charter expansion, districts lose the ability to even try to manage the balance. Sadly, what may initially have been conceived of as a symbiotic relationship between charter and district schools is increasingly becoming parasitic!

In a “competitive marketplace” of schooling within a geographic space, under this incentive structure, the goal is to be that school which most effectively cream skims – without regard for who you are leaving behind for district schools or other charters to serve – while best concealing the cream-skimming – and while ensuring lack of financial transparency for making legitimate resource comparisons.”

Baker calls the impact the “Collateral Damage of the Parasitic Chartering Model” and writes, “In previous posts I showed how the population cream-skimming effect necessarily leads to an increasingly disadvantaged student population left behind in district schools. High need, urban districts that are hosts to increasing shares of cream-skimming charters become increasingly disadvantaged over time in terms of the students they must serve.”

Baker’s post goes into far greater detail.

He uses the data to explain and highlight the problem.

It is an issue Wait, What? readers know well.

And if the policies are left unchanged, it will be the legacy that haunts Governor Malloy and those who support the discriminatory policies that are undermining our schools and destroying our public education system.

Read the full post here:  http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/from-portfolios-to-parasites-the-unfortunate-path-of-u-s-charter-school-policy/

Windham’s Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy: The problem is even greater than it first appeared

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As noted in previous Wait, What? posts, Windham, Connecticut’s Board of Education is building the Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy.  Seventy percent of the students at the new K-8 STEM magnet school are scheduled to come from Windham and thirty percent from adjoining towns.

Over the past few days we’ve been on a mission to track down the source and meaning of a clause in the Magnet School’s Operating Agreement that says, “New students entering beyond grade 3 must be reading at grade level.” 

The staff at the State Department of Education refused repeated requests to explain the source and meaning of that language.  Then, the staff at the Windham Schools refused to explain the source and meaning of that language.

Finally, in response to a letter I sent yesterday to a wide variety of Windham education officials, the Chairman of the Windham Board of Education took the time to provide an answer to my question.

While I appreciate his willingness to respond to my request for public information, his answer highlights a situation that is even worse than I had originally imagined.

Connecticut’s education laws and policies state that, “No student may be denied enroll­ment because of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, genetics, age, religion or any other basis.”

In addition, the Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that Article eighth, § 1 of the State Constitution guarantees all students an adequate education.  As a plurality of the justices explained in the state’s most important education case, the state of Connecticut must provide “an education suitable to give them the opportunity to be responsible citizens able to participate fully in democratic institutions, such as jury service and voting… [and] to progress to institutions of higher education, or to attain productive employment and otherwise contribute to the state’s economy.”

However, the response I received from the Chairman of the Windham Board of Education makes clear that the sign outside the Windham STEM Magnet will say, in essence, “The poor, minorities, non-English speaking students and students who need special education services need not apply.

How has this outrage come to pass?

The Windham Board Chairman’s letter explained that the language I quoted – New students entering beyond grade 3 must be reading at grade level” – only applies to students who transfer into the STEM Magnet School after the 2nd Grade.

He wrote, “It does not apply to ANY student applying to enroll in initial classes during the startup period nor to students applying to pre-school or kindergarden once the school is fully enrolled.”

The Chairman added, “Once the school is fully enrolled, the only new students will be the annual entering pre-K class and children who transfer into openings that result from students who leave the district or choose to transfer to another school. Students who transfer into grades 4 to 8 will be expected to meet the required STEM standard; however, no admitted student will be dismissed from the school because they are not reading at grade level by the end of grade three or thereafter. Instead, resources will be directed as required to assist students to achieve and maintain reading at grade level.”

So as long as a parent with a child entering Pre-Kindergarten know that their child wants to attend a Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) Magnet School, they will not have to prove that their child can read at grade level and will be provided support services if they have reading issues later in their school career.

In addition, if openings exist, children attending kindergarten or first through third grades can transfer into the school or move into the community and attend the school without proving they are at grade level.

However, after third grade the public school WILL NOT ALLOW any child to transfer into the program who doesn’t read at grade level.

Apparently, the reason this policy is in place is because someone has decided that reading at grade level is necessary to be successful at a Science, Technology, and Engineering & Math (STEM) Magnet School.

But of course, reading at grade level is a result of a wide variety of factors that don’t have anything to do with intelligence or future ability.

As with test scores, poverty, a lack of fluency in English and special education needs are the greatest predictors of test scores and those same factors correlate with the likelihood that a child may not be reading at grade level by the 3rd grade.

These factors, and others, are not related to intelligence or an ability to succeed and to imply that they do is ridiculous and disgusting.  

But one thing we definitely know and that is that study after study reveals that those reading below grade level are overwhelmingly students who are poor, Black, Latino or those who have special education needs.

The people who inserted this language into the new Windham STEM operating agreement can say what they want, but a policy that prohibits children from transferring into this public school if they are not reading at grade level is defacto discrimination against the poor, minorities, those who aren’t fluent in English and those who need special education services.

As the Connecticut Supreme Court wrote in the Sheff decision, “Racial and ethnic segregation has a pervasive and invidious impact on schools, whether the segregation results from intentional conduct or from unorchestrated demographic factors.”

Whether intentional or not, the policy about the 3rd grade reading requirement at the Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy forces a discriminatory outcome and has no place in the public education system of Connecticut.

More than 73 percent of Windham’s students receive free or subsidized lunches.  70 percent of Windham’s students are minorities, 35 percent of Windham’s students go home to households in which English is not the spoken language, 25 percent of the students are not fluent in English and 16 percent of students need special education services.

If the Windham STEM Magnet’s discriminatory policies are allowed to stand, the vast majority of Windham students will be prevented from attending the Magnet unless they happen to get in early enough to sidestep what amounts to an unfair and discriminatory regulation.

The impact of this policy is equally upsetting for parents in neighboring towns who might want to make use of this new STEM Magnet School. 

The policy ramification is clear.  No matter how interested you and your child may be in attending a Science, Technology, Engineering & Math program, they will be prohibited from transferring into the Windham STEM Magnet, even if there is room, if they aren’t reading at grade level.

They can get the support services they need, as long as they stay in their home district school, and give up their desire to focus on Science, Technology, Engineering or Math.

In Connecticut, interdistrict magnet schools receive special funding BECAUSE they are supposed to “reduce, eliminate or prevent the racial, ethnic or economic isolation of public school students while offering a high-quality curriculum that sup­ports educational improvement.”

The Windham STEM Magnet has begun to recruit students for next fall, and yet a discriminatory, outrageous, insulting and disgusting policy has been put in place.

The policy must be removed – immediately – and the question of who was behind this inappropriate effort must be investigated and appropriate action taken to ensure that the person or persons are not in a position to develop more policies of this nature.

The burden to act rests on the Governor, the State Department of Education, the State Board of Education, Windham’s Special Master and the Windham Board of Education.

If they refuse to take any action, a lawsuit should be filed against these entities and their members to force the repeal of this discriminatory and outrageous policy.

Damn it’s that poverty thing again…

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Following last week’s State of the State address, Wait, What? wrote Connecticut – The State of the State: But what about poverty?

The post pointed out the that ten years ago, Connecticut state government passed legislation creating a commission on poverty and pledged to cut the rate of poverty in Connecticut by 50 percent over the next decade.  However, ten years later, the rate of poverty in Connecticut has not gone down, in fact, it has gone up significantly.

Now CTNewsjunkie has a story about a new report about Connecticut’s working poor.

Jim Horan, the executive director of the Connecticut Association for Human Services, is quoted in the article and the underlying report indicating that, “Twenty-one percent of Connecticut’s working families are now low-income, increasing from 16 percent in just the past five years.”

Horan goes on to say, “Connecticut needs to invest in human infrastructure. We need to make sure our citizens can work hard and earn a wage that sustains housing and health care and lets them provide for their children. More action is needed now to ensure that all families in our state can build a secure future.”

As with other studies that have been released recently, this new report also reiterates that income inequity is growing dramatically in the United States with the gap between the top and the bottom growing, as well as the gap between the top and the middle class.

According to this study, in 2011, the top 20 percent earned 10.1 times the total income earned by the bottom 20 percent.  That number is up from 9.5 times in 2007.

Or, as the report states, “the top 20 percent took home 48 percent of all income while those in the bottom 20 percent received less than 5 percent of the economic pie.”

And as readers of Wait, What know, the income gap in Connecticut has increased faster than in any other state in the nation.

Connecticut is the second largest in the nation behind only New York.

You can read the CTNewsjunkie story here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/new_report_finds_poverty_is_on_the_rise/ and the new report here: http://www.workingpoorfamilies.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Winter-2012_2013-WPFP-Data-Brief.pdf

Connecticut – The State of the State: But what about poverty?

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“Poverty is the worst form of violence.” Gandhi

Earlier today, Governor Malloy stood before a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly and gave a moving State of the State speech, much of it focused on the unimaginable violence that occurred in Newtown.

His remarks reminded everyone who heard or read the speech that the horror and tragedy of that day stole something precious, not only from the families who lost loved ones, but from each and every one of us who make up the community called Connecticut. It was comforting to hear that our elected officials recognize the importance of working even harder to make our communities better and safer places for our citizens and especially our children.

The Governor also used his speech to lay out his list of perceived accomplishments and his goals for the upcoming legislative session.  Among the items he highlighted were his Administration’s economic development efforts, including his First Five corporate welfare program, his Small Business Express Program and his most recent Innovation Ecosystem effort, a program to support businesses seeking to play a greater role in the new Green Economy.

According to the Governor, “By investing in growth industries like bioscience and digital media, by recruiting companies like Jackson Laboratory and NBC Sports, and by standing with our small businesses and start-ups, we’re taking steps to make sure that Connecticut leads the way.”

You can read Governor Malloy’s complete speech here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/text_of_gov._dannel_p._malloys_2013_state_of_the_state_address/

It is no surprise that Governor Malloy’s 2013 State of the State Speech raised the issue of economic development.  Like governors across the nation, creating an environment that promotes the creation of good, well-paying job is a priority.   In fact, a state where more than 177,000 Connecticut workers remain unemployed, and tens of thousands more find themselves underemployed, finding ways to attract and create jobs is at the very top of everyone’s list.

But as is so often the case, there is a key economic sector that went unmentioned.

Connecticut doesn’t just need jobs that come with high salaries and good benefits; it needs to identify and implement strategies and tactics that will create jobs for the vast array of people who need work.

Over the last few years, tens of thousands of Connecticut families have been forced to the edge of economic catastrophe, and far too many found themselves going over the edge.

As lower income workers already knew, it is often only a small step from losing your job to living in poverty.

And living in poverty is something many Connecticut residents already know all too well.

As measured by per capita income, Connecticut is the wealthiest state in the nation.  If we were our own nation, we’d be one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

We also know, though, that there is more than one Connecticut.

According to data collected in 2011, the per-capita income in New Canaan is $101,000.  That is – on average – every man, woman and child in New Canaan collects over $100,000 a year in income.

Darien’s per capita income is over $95,000; while Greenwich, Weston and Westport all enjoy per capita income rates of over $90,000.

Compare that to Hartford, with its per capita income of $16,000 or Bridgeport with a per capita income of $18,000.  In fact, New Britain, New Haven and Windham all have per capita income levels of less than $20,000 and Waterbury is pretty close to that threshold.

And poverty leads to a myriad of problems such as lower academic achievement and more serious health problems.

As of 2011, 10.9% of our state’s residents, more than 375,000 people, lived below the national poverty level.

Even perhaps even more disturbing, more than 100,000 Connecticut children, 15 percent of all children in our state, were living in households in the lowest of economic conditions.

And the term, lowest of economic conditions, is not an overstatement – because for a single-parent household with one child, the definition of what constitutes poverty under the federal definition is a household whose income is less than $15,500.  With two children, the level is $18,100.

And most shocking of all, the number of Connecticut residents living in poverty has been increasing dramatically over the past ten years, despite the State Government’s pledge to do something about the rate of poverty in Connecticut.

In 2004, Connecticut adopted Public Act 04-238, An Act Concerning Child Poverty.  The new law established the Child Poverty Council and instructed the new entity to recommend “strategies to reduce child poverty in the State of Connecticut by fifty percent (50%) within ten years.”

As we approach that ten-year mark, we must recognize our state’s complete and utter inability to achieve that goal.

While 10.9 percent of Connecticut residents live in poverty today, that number is up from 7.3 percent just ten years ago.

And the 15 percent of children living in poverty today is up from 10 percent a decade ago.

Instead of cutting child poverty by 50 percent, the last ten years has seen child poverty in Connecticut GROW 50 percent over the past decade!

In Hartford, an unprecedented 48 percent of all children are living below the federal poverty level.  In New Haven the number of children in poverty has reached 41 percent and in Bridgeport the number is 40 percent.

For many politicians, talking about poverty is not politically beneficial.  In fact, some aren’t even comfortable talking about the issue at all.

But the problem of poverty in Connecticut is very real and it is getting worse.

President Franklin Roosevelt said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

As the Governor and legislature prepare to tackle the financial challenges associated with this year’s remaining budget deficit and the projected $1 billion shortfall in next year’s state budget, they must remember President Roosevelt’s words.

The truth is, vital services are more essential than ever and true economic development and job creation is more than simply trying to persuade large, successful corporations to come or stay in Connecticut.

Adult education, literacy and job training must go hand in hand with new, more aggressive efforts that shift the use of our scarce resources away from helping companies that don’t need the help to helping create jobs for whom a living wage will change the trajectory of an entire family.

Despite the fact that the word poverty wasn’t mentioned at the State Capitol today, our elected officials must use this legislative session to do more to confront the horror of poverty in our state.

Are we winning yet? No, actually we’re failing Connecticut’s children.

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You want a campaign issue for the 2012 election?  Here is one…

A recent report by Connecticut Voices for Child, the state’s premier research and child advocacy organization, revealed that the number of Connecticut residents living below the Federal Poverty Level has increased from 10.1 percent in 2010 to 10.9 percent in 2011.

Connecticut is the wealthiest state in the country.  If we were our own country, we would be one of the wealthiest countries in the world.  Yet about 375,000 Connecticut residents, more than 1 in 10 live in abject poverty.

The extent of poverty is even greater among Connecticut’s children, and the situation is getting worse at a faster pace.

As of 2011, 118,809 Connecticut children, under the age of 18, lived in households with incomes below the Federal Poverty Level.  That is a breathtaking 14.9 percent of all children.

And we aren’t talking about people who simply don’t have that much money.  We are talking about children and families that are among the poorest in the entire nation.  The Federal Poverty Level for a two-parent household, with two children, is $22,811 a year.

The most shocking fact of all is that the rate of poverty in Connecticut is getting significantly worse.

A decade ago, in 2001, 7.3 percent of Connecticut’s residents lived below the poverty line.  That was about 242,000 people.  Ten years later, in 2011, the number of residents living in poverty has increased to almost 378,000.  That means the poverty rate in Connecticut has jumped from 7.9 percent to 10.9 percent.

The numbers are even more disturbing and disgusting when it comes to what has happened to our state’s children.  In 2001, about 82,000 or 10.2 percent of Connecticut’s children lived in households below the poverty line.

In 2011, that number had increased to almost 119,000, a stunning 14.9 percent of all children.

The number of children living in poverty in some of Connecticut’s cities rival that of some developing nations;

In Hartford, 47.9 percent of the children now grow up in households trying to make it on an income that places them below the federal poverty level.

In New Haven the child poverty rate is 41.4%, Bridgeport (39.9%), New Britain (35.7%), and Waterbury (34.5%). Danbury (17.9%) and Stamford (17.5%)

In 2004, the Connecticut General Assembly, and Connecticut’s Governor, created the Connecticut Child Poverty Council.  Our state became the first state in the nation to set a goal of reducing poverty in half by 2014.

At the time, with just over 10 of Connecticut’s children living in poverty, the state pledged to reduce the child poverty rate to 5% by 2014.

However instead of cutting that rate in half, as of now, we have seen an increase of over 50 percent.

Next time you hear an elected official or a candidate talk about their record of accomplishments or their plan for the future, ask them explain how they rationalize the fact that child poverty is skyrocketing in our state and demand that they explain, in detail, what they will actually do to save Connecticut’s poorest and most vulnerable children.

For the CT Voices report, go to: http://www.ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/econ12censuspovertyacs.pdf

Dear Public Officials; Take off the rose colored glasses…

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One of yesterday’s Wait, What? Blog posts dealt with the reality that, here in Connecticut, we taxpayers are giving the world’s largest hedge fund, $115 million dollars to stay and expand in Connecticut.  The public subsidy will cost us about $150,000 for each of the 800 jobs they are scheduled to create over the next ten years.

Meanwhile, as a member of the dwindling middle class, it will cost me, after the available public subsidies, about $160,000 to pay for my child to get an undergraduate degree in her chosen field.

We are witnessing  modern capitalism in which taxpayers are giving money to a company that paid its CEO $3.9 billion last year while a person making an income at about the state average builds up a debt that drag me down for the rest of my life.

And we are told that things are getting better.

Things might very well be getting better, but that misses the point.

Today, Connecticut Voices has released a report that drives the point home in way that everyone, across the political spectrum will be able to understand.

Entitled, The State of Working Connecticut 2012: Employment, Jobs and Wages in the Wake of the Great Recession,” the report reveals that “the wage gap between the wealthy and others has grown over the recent economic recession and recovery, with the highest wage workers enjoying wage growth four times that of median wage workers, while wages stagnated for low wage workers…”

The report examines the period from 2006 – 2011 and key findings include:

  • “The gap between Connecticut’s wealthy residents and everyone else has continued to widen.  Connecticut’s median wage grew by only 2.4 percent (after adjusting for inflation) over the lowest paid workers actually saw their wages fall by 0.2 percent.
  • “Connecticut’s higher paying manufacturing jobs are disappearing and being replaced by lower paying jobs in healthcare, hotels, and restaurants.”  14 percent of Connecticut manufacturing were lost between 2006 and 2011, while healthcare and social service sector jobs grew by 11 percent.“  The Problem:  Healthcare and Social service jobs pay “78 percent of the statewide average weekly wage,” meaning those that are getting jobs are getting them in fields that won’t allow those workers to even reach Connecticut’s existing middle ground.
  • “Connecticut’s Black and Hispanic workers have not experienced an economic recovery.”
  • “Connecticut’s youngest workers are most likely to be unemployed, but Connecticut’s oldest workers are most likely to face long-term unemployment.”  As of 2011, almost in one in five younger workers were officially unemployed.  Meanwhile, of the unemployed workers 55 or over, a shocking six in every ten have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks.   Losing a job when you are 55 or over is becoming a death sentence when it comes to ever finding work again.

This study should be mandatory reading for every legislative candidate seeking office.  In fact, perhaps some Wait, What? readers could print off the executive summary or full report, send it to your local legislative candidates and ask, no demand that they provide the voters with some substantive response.

The Executive Summary is here:  http://www.ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/econ12sowctes.pdf

The Full Report is here: http://www.ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/econ12sowctfull.pdf

I’m sorry; did you say the Milner School in Hartford? …

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According to the most recent Connecticut mastery tests, “only 13.3 percent of Milner fifth-graders tested proficient in reading, compared to the 75 percent state average.”

People call that a failing school.

In fact, consider Hartford’s Milner School a poster child.  Failing to act is what the “Corporate Education Reformers” call defending the status quo. However, instituting landmark “education reforms” lead to real change.

As Hartford Courant story made the whole issue clear.  As the reporter noted;

“After years of baloney from education reformers in Hartford, something simple and revolutionary is unfolding.   Administrators are closing schools that fail…”

The article went on to report that the superintendent of schools has made it clear that “schools that don’t cut it, that haven’t cut it for years” will close.

The superintendent, as the reporter noted, held up the Milner School as a prime example of the change that had arrived.  Close Milner and reopen it with new teachers and new administrators.

Quoting Christina Kishimoto, the reporter drove the key point home;

“Our first and foremost goal is to get a significant increase in student achievement…”these schools have to be successful in year one so we can start building community trust. We are going to focus on assuring families that we will have their kids reading on grade level.”

Real “Education Reform” had finally arrived and the Courant reporter ended his article with a simple, but profound observation.  He wrote “Imagine that. Schools that must teach children to read — or else.”

The reporter who wrote the story was Rick Green and the story ran 1,380 days ago on August 15, 2008

At the time, Steven Adamowski was the Superintendent of Schools and Christina’s Kishimoto, Adamowski’s protégée and future successor, was the Assistant Superintendent of Schools.

Now here we are; four years have come and gone since the profound “educational reforms” that transformed the Milner School and that 13.3 percent statistic about Milner’s fifth-graders and their ability to score at a proficient level in reading comes from the 2011 Connecticut Mastery Test.

Four years later and what do we have.

Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools, Christina Kishimoto, proposing that the Hartford close the Milner Core Knowledge Academy because, as she put it, Milner is a “failing school.”

A month ago, Kishimoto’s plan was to close Milner and then reopen it “as a school affiliated with the high-achieving Jumoke Academy”.

Close the school; dump the administrators, get rid of the teachers and give the building to a charter school company so that it can open up a new school for the city’s children.

Before Paul Vallas arrived in Bridgeport, he used that technique in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans (school systems that were decimated by Vallas’ approach).  Steven Adamowski played the same game in Hartford before moving on to become the “Special Master” in Windham.

And after “reforming” Milner once, Hartford’s superintendent was digging out the game plan again.

Of course, we now know that since Kishimoto first announced her plan, Connecticut passed an “Education Reform” bill and the Milner/Jumoke maneuver has suddenly became the shining example of how Malloy’s “Commissioner’s Network” can transfer Connecticut’s education system and solve the state’s achievement gap.

While the Department of Education played a little game of duck and weave over the past couple of weeks, Kishimoto announced that the Milner School will definitely be one of the state’s first targets and revealed that she and the CEO of the Jumoke Academy had already been summoned to Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s office, where they were told that the Malloy Administration was going to use the Milner/Jumoke switch as part of their new “turnaround program.”

Backed by the knowledge that the Milner Core Knowledge Academy will, in fact, be part of the Commissioner’s Network, the Hartford Board of Education has even created a committee to work with the state on implementing the school’s upcoming transition to, what the CEO of the Jumoke Academy has called  “The Jumoke Academy at Milner.”

The Milner School, where more than 40 percent of its students go home to households that don’t use English as their primary language, will be turned over to a charter school company that has no non-English speaking students and absolutely no history, what so ever, in running English as a Second Language or English Language Learner programs.

Now that is what you call “corporate education reform.”

Oh and the Hartford Courant?  They did mention Milner’s earlier history.  Their article the day before yesterday included the line, “Milner underwent a redesign in 2008 but has yet to achieve notable gains on the Connecticut Mastery Test.”

While poverty and language barriers continue to be the greatest factors influencing educational outcomes, the education reformers from the Governor’s Office and the Commissioner’s Office, on down, continue to tell us that if we just close schools, dump the administrators and teachers and open them back up under new names and new management, all will be well.

For earlier stories take a look at Hartford Courant’s http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-school-board-0516-20120515,0,1092099.story,  http://articles.courant.com/2012-05-30/community/hc-hartford-milner-jumoke-0531-20120530_1_low-performing-schools-school-board-superintendent-christina-kishimoto and the 2008 article at http://www.hartfordinfo.org/issues/documents/education/htfd_courant_081508.asp

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