Cha-Ching! Wealthy Charter School backers give big to Malloy – Malloy gives big to charter schools

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Call it the new American Way.  The billionaires, millionaires and corporate elite who fund charter schools give generously to Democratic and Republican politicians and the politicians return the favor by shifting public funds into the coffers of the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.

Here in Connecticut the system was clearly on display last week when Governor Dannel Malloy and his sidekick, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, rolled out their new “austerity budget” for 2016-2017.

In classic fashion, their plan slashes a full array of vital services while giving the wealthy yet another tax break.  Their plan makes absolutely no effort, whatsoever, to require Connecticut’s richest resident to pay their fair share in taxes.

But their budget certainly targets the middle class and all of Connecticut’s working families, along with those who rely on state services to lead more fulfilling lives.

Failing to even identify where 40 percent of the budget cuts would actually come from, Malloy proposed a spending plan that would provide $720 million less than what would be necessary simply to maintain the current level of state services.

Malloy targeted some of his deepest cuts to programs that help children in crisis, the developmentally disabled, those with mental illness, Connecticut’s public schools, the state’s public colleges and universities, and municipal aid.

Of course, the Governor promised – yet again – that he would not raise taxes … overlooking the fact that his budget would force cities and towns across Connecticut to raise property taxes.

But while everyone else loses under Malloy’s budget, charter schools win!

In the midst of their budget slashing frenzy, Malloy and Wyman are actually increasing the amount of taxpayer funds going to Connecticut’s privately owned charter schools.

The CT Mirror explained the situation in a story entitled, Malloy: Increase charter school, cut neighborhood school funding;

“Charter schools have escaped Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget knife and are slated for a $9.3 million boost in his newly proposed state budget.

But the Democratic governor also wants a $52.9 million cut in funding for special education, after-school programs, reading tutors and other services in low-performing public schools across the state.

Malloy also wants to rescind an $11.5 million funding increase in the Education Cost Sharing grants for the next school year. It is the state’s principal education grant to municipal public schools, and the idea of a reduction is not sitting well with some of the lawmakers who helped approve the ECS money last year.

The Democratic governor and Lt. Governor who used to decry the lack of adequate funding for the state’s public schools are now proposing the deepest cuts to public education in Connecticut history.

At the same time, their “generosity” toward charter schools only grows.

The reason seems pretty obvious.  Connecticut’s charter schools and their supporters have become a “golden egg” for Malloy’s political aspirations.

In the months leading up to and through his re-election campaign, corporate education reform proponents and the charter school industry poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Malloy’s various campaign entities and organizations.

Take, for example, Greenwich millionaire Jonathan Sackler.

Sackler, whose company brought the world OxyContin, likes charter schools … a lot.

Sackler serves on the Board of Directors of Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island and the Board of Directors of ConnCAN, the Connecticut charter school advocacy front group.  Sackler helped bankroll the formation of Achievement First Inc. and was the founder of ConnCAN.  He is also a major player in the national charter school movement.

During Malloy’s re-election campaign, Sackler and his immediate family donated well in excess of $100,000 to Malloy’s campaign operation and the spigot didn’t stop when Malloy won a second term as governor.  Since the 2014 election, the Sacklers have donated an additional $50,000 to Malloy’s political activities.

According to reports filed with the Federal Election Committee and the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission, over the past few years, Dannel Malloy’s fundraising operatives have collected more than $330,000 from the people who serve on the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors, the ConnCAN Board of Directors or play a leadership role in Connecticut’s charter school and corporate education reform organizations.

The truth is that the corporate elite behind the Pro-Common Core, Pro-Common Core testing, Pro-Charter School and Anti-teacher agenda that Dannel Malloy has been pushing have become Malloy’s most important sources of campaign cash.

During the very same time, Malloy and Wyman have turned their backs on the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers that actually support and fund Connecticut’s public school system.

Since taking office, Team Malloy/Wyman have dumped over $450 million in scarce taxpayer funds into charter schools in Connecticut, although these schools consistently discriminate against children who require special services, children who aren’t fluent in the English language and children who won’t adhere to the charter school’s abusive “no-excuses” disciplinary policies designed to push out children with behavioral issues.

While public schools in every town will suffer from Malloy’s budget cuts, and local taxpayers will be forced to pick up some of the lost state funding, the charter schools will continue to wallow in more state support.

The CT Mirror noted;

In Stamford, the governor’s proposal means the public schools will not get the $225,000 increase they would have received, but the new charter school in town will get about $3 million more so enrollment can increase. That charter school and another in Bridgeport are to expand by about 650 seats.

Other towns in line not to receive previously scheduled increases include Danbury ($1 million), Rocky Hill ($450,000), Shelton ($500,000), Southbury ($600,000), West Hartford ($1.6 million) and Wethersfield ($530,000).

Of course, the charter school supporters who donated and worked for Malloy are overjoyed by the news that Malloy was coming through, yet again, for the charter school industry.

“Jeremiah Grace, Connecticut state director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network, applauded the governor’s proposed budget.”  (CT Mirror 2/5/16)

Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public school advocate pointed out the harsh reality in her blog yesterday, Connecticut Governor Malloy Increases Funding for Charters, Cuts Funding for Public Schools;

Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy is faithful to his state’s hedge fund managers, who supported his campaigns. But he is not faithful to the children, parents, and educators of his state.

Malloy is offering a nice increase for charter schools, but budget cuts for the public schools that educate the vast majority of students.

The truth is that the charter school industry has put an unprecedented amount of money on the political table.  Dannel Malloy and Nancy Wyman happily took that money and continue to produce for their favored donors.

It may be the new American Way, but it is a disgusting style of politics that shouldn’t be tolerated here in Connecticut.

Connecticut’s historic school funding formula trial finally begins next week

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As Connecticut education advocate and columnist, Wendy Lecker, reports in her latest commentary piece in the Stamford Advocate, Connecticut’s children finally get day in court.

Of the many disappointments that have arisen since Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman were sworn in to office in January 2011, few, if any, is greater than their immoral efforts to dismiss, derail and delay what may be the most important Connecticut court case in our lifetime – the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell School Funding Lawsuit.

The truth is that Connecticut’s school funding formula is not only illegal, it is unconstitutional. 

Inadequate funding is robbing Connecticut’s public schoolchildren of their constitutional right to a quality education, while placing an unfair burden on Connecticut’s local property taxpayers.

A new funding formula is needed.  But Connecticut politicians lack the will to adopt one, so the responsibility to act has fallen on the courts.

Despite having been supporters of the lawsuits prior to taking office, Malloy, Wyman and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen have wasted five years and massive amounts of taxpayer funds trying to stop Connecticut’s judicial branch from even hearing the critically important court case.

As mayor of Stamford, Dan Malloy was actually one of the original sponsors and plaintiffs of the CCJEF V. Rell School Funding lawsuit.

Running for office in 2010, Dan Malloy bragged about his role in pushing the CCJEF lawsuit, telling the Hartford Courant on March 23, 2010;

“I think in the long run it is very important to the state of Connecticut,” said Malloy, who was among the group that launched the coalition that brought the lawsuit. “I began these efforts years ago because I firmly believed that the state was not honoring its constitutional requirement and the funding formula for education in poor and urban communities was not fair to those communities.”

Nancy Wyman and George Jepsen were also strong advocates for addressing Connecticut’s unconstitutional school funding system.

And then, when they were finally in a position to make a real difference, these three “leaders” turned their backs on Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, schools and taxpayers.

While the Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen were able to delay the day of reckoning, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell school funding lawsuit is finally set to begin on January 12, 2016 in a Hartford courtroom.

Wendy Lecker explains;

On Jan. 12, Connecticut’s school funding trial, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell, will finally begin. The plaintiffs include a statewide coalition of parents, municipalities, local boards of education, and organizations, and individual parents in districts across the state. They began the case in 2005. Since then, the state has waged a costly, failed crusade to keep the plaintiffs from having their day in court.

The plaintiffs claim that the state’s flawed school funding system provides inadequate resources to schools, thereby depriving Connecticut’s public school children of their rights under the Education Article of Connecticut’s constitution.

Under Connecticut’s Constitution, the state is responsible for providing children with a “suitable” public education. In 2010, when Connecticut’s Supreme Court denied the state’s first attempt to dismiss the case, it defined a “suitable” education as one that enables graduates to participate in democratic institutions, attain productive employment, or progress to higher education. The court ruled that the state must provide sufficient resources to enable students to obtain this level of education.

The CCJEF plaintiffs contend that for children to have a constitutionally “suitable” education, schools must have certain essential resources:

  • high quality preschool;
  • appropriate class size;
  • programs and services for at-risk students;
  • high quality administrators and teachers;
  • modern and adequate library facilities;
  • modern technology and appropriate instruction;
  • an adequate number of hours of instruction;
  • a rigorous curriculum with a wide breadth of courses;
  • modern and appropriate textbooks;
  • a healthy, safe, well-maintained school environment conducive to learning;
  • adequate special needs services;
  • appropriate career and academic counseling; and
  • suitably run extra-curricular activities

This list of essential resources is consistent with what courts across the nation deem necessary for a constitutionally adequate education.

In the state’s last attempt to dismiss the case, in 2013, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration claimed that its 2012 reforms, including yearly common core standardized testing of students, evaluating teachers by students’ standardized test scores and a system of ranking, shaming and punishing districts with low test scores, would solve all the state’s education woes.

This failed tactic was attempted by states in other school funding cases, such as Kansas. The Kansas court declared that relying on similar unproven reforms rather than adequate funding was “experimenting with our children (who) have no recourse from a failure of the experiment.”

The CCJEF court ruled that there is no evidence that Malloy’s reforms would redress the constitutional inadequacies and ordered that the state prove it at trial.

The state has known all along that the plaintiffs are right — that schools need the essential resources the CCJEF plaintiffs demand. In 2005, Connecticut’s top education official, Commissioner Betty Sternberg, wrote to then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and told her so.

In the letter, Commissioner Sternberg requested permission to continue testing children only in grades 4,6, 8 and 10. She stated that adding standardized tests in the other grades “will cost millions of dollars and will tell us nothing that we do not already know about our students’ achievement and what we must do to improve it.”

Sternberg maintained that high-needs schools needed support to improve and set forth proven strategies to improve education, including:

  • High quality preschool;
  • School based health centers/family resource centers;
  • Small class size;
  • Adequate support staff, such as nurses, social workers, psychologists, reading specialists and guidance counselors;
  • Incentives to retain experienced teachers;
  • Adequate technology, curriculum, supplies and professional development;
  • Adequate learning time;
  • Adequate space for learning.

In 2005, Connecticut’s top education official enumerated almost the exact same list of resources that the CCJEF plaintiffs seek. Moreover, Commissioner Sternberg maintained that these resources “are not a buffet,” but rather a “full-course meal.” “If we want to see significant improvement in student achievement, all of these areas should move ahead in concert,” she wrote.

Despite this admission by the state that schools need these essential resources, the state did nothing over the past 10 years to try to ensure every Connecticut school be properly equipped. Rather, the state chose to waste millions of taxpayer dollars in a futile attempt to keep the facts about its failure to fund schools from coming out in court. During that time, a generation of Connecticut children passed through the educational system deprived of basic educational resources they needed to succeed in school and life.

The governor, legislature and state education officials knowingly and repeatedly disregarded their duty to our children. One hopes that when the facts finally emerge, the court will grant our children the justice Connecticut politicians consistently denied them.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s column which first appeared in the Stamford Advocate at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Connecticut-s-children-finally-6745644.php

We lose Dr. Dianne Kaplan deVries, A True Public Education Hero

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Dr. Dianne Kaplan deVries, a dear friend and extraordinarily powerful champion for Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and public schools died on Sunday after a battle with cancer.

Although her legacy is yet to be fully written and those who will benefit the most from her incredible work may never know her name, as the leading force behind the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding [CCJEF], Dianne has been and will remain the most vital force behind the historic effort to ensure that Connecticut’s public schools are adequately and fairly funded and that every Connecticut child is provided with the education, knowledge and skills they need to live more fulfilling lives.

J.R.R. Tolkien whose work is categorized as fiction rather than non-fiction, and therefore cast aside by the Common Core and Common Cores testing enthusiasts wisely noted that,

“It is not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit” – J.R.R. Tolkien

With that knowledge and in that light there are few who have been as courageous and dedicated as Diane Kaplan deVries and fewer still whose lifetime of work has been as important to the future of our children.

Incredible in life, perhaps the most disturbing truth of all about Diane Kaplan Devries’ work is the uncomfortable fact that so many elected officials, often led by so-called Democrats, immorally and unethically sought to throw up barriers to stop Diane’s critical effort to make sure that Connecticut’s children got the education they needed, while ensuring that Connecticut’s middle income property taxpayers were treated more fairly.

It was a topic that many education advocates including Wendy Lecker and I wrote about often.  To fully understand the meaning of losing Diane Kaplan DeVries and the way in which some worked so hard to undermined her efforts, I respectfully request that you click on the links and read some of the following articles;

Jepsen/Malloy Continue to Squander the Opportunity of a Lifetime; (2/7/2012)

It’s only the most important school funding case in our lives – Malloy supported it/Now he opposes it (by Wendy Lecker) (3/23/13)

The Dan to Dannel transformation on the most important education lawsuit in Connecticut history (4/5/2013)

The CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Case: The incredible transformation of Malloy and Jepsen (9/16/2013)

Malloy can tell it to the judge (By Wendy Lecker) (12/14/2013)

Whatever you do, don’t mention school funding and the school funding lawsuit! (1/15/2014)

NEWS FLASH: Kids win, Malloy/Jepsen lose as judge rules school funding trial to begin this summer (1/16/2014)

As CCJEF (www.ccjef.org) reported in the press released that they issued last Monday night,

For the past 17 years Dianne has been the leading champion in the battle to force long-needed school finance reform here in Connecticut. Here dedication to overturning Connecticut’s unconstitutional school funding formula began with the case of Johnson V. Rowland which lasted from 1998 to 2003.

When that case was dropped, Diane built a much larger statewide coalition that led to the filing of the CCJEF V. Rell lawsuit.  In 2010, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that “under the education clause of the state constitution, public school children are entitled not just to a free and equal education but also to an adequate (quality) education, and the state must pay for it.”  Although the court’s determination remains unfulfilled five years later, the finding was the turning point in how Connecticut will fund its schools.

While Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in the case, upon being sworn in as Governor Dannel Malloy, the self-described education proponent completely reversed his position and has spent that last five years wasting precious time and taxpayer funds in his concerted effort o delay, derail and destroy what is probably the most important Connecticut legal case in our lifetimes.

But despite Malloy’s effort and that of his administration and other key Democrats, the CCJEF v. Rell will come to trial in January 2015 in Hartford Superior Court.

In the CCJEF press release, Herbert C. Rosenthal, the CCJEF President said,

 “Dianne Kaplan deVries was a tireless advocate for the rights of all Connecticut public schoolchildren — regardless of economic background, race or town of residence — to receive the quality education our state constitution promises and requires.  The passion, intelligence and commitment that Dianne brought to educational equity and adequacy is unsurpassed.  Our friend and colleague will be sorely missed. In this sad time, all of us in CCJEF rededicate ourselves to ensuring that her dream of equal educational opportunity is realized.”

And CCJEF consultant and fellow education advocate James J. Finley added,

“Dr. Dianne Kaplan deVries will be in the forefront when the history of equal educational opportunity in Connecticut is written.  At great personal sacrifice, Dianne dedicated over 17 years of her life to righting the wrongs of our state’s PK-12 education finance system.  It is because of her singular and indefatigable efforts that the work of CCJEF will continue.”

Additional media reports on losing Diane can be found in the following recent news stories.

CT Newsjunkie – School Funding Advocate Dianne Kaplan deVries Dies of Cancer

Hartford Courant – Education Activists Say Director’s Death Won’t Stop Funding Lawsuit

CT Mirror – Kaplan deVries, leader of school-funding coalition, dies

Malloy Admin- Drops $2 million on consulting firm to micro-manage Alliance Districts then blames districts for program’s failures.

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Here we go again…

Rather than properly fund Connecticut’s public schools, Governor Malloy has turned his back on the majority of Connecticut’s public schools and local property taxpayers by shifting almost all new state education funding to Connecticut’s so-called Alliance Districts.

Making matters far worse, rather than using the State Department of Education’s expert team of superintendents, principals and policy experts who had been working with Connecticut’s Priority Schools, Malloy’s first Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor,  laid off and reassigned these experienced Connecticut educators and handed their work over to Mass Insight, Inc., a politically-connected, out-of-state Corporate Education Reform consulting company.  Mass Insight then sent in a team of consultants, with little to no education experience, to manage the day to day work associated with the Alliance District and Turnaround Program.

And heading up the overall operation, which has spent more than $300 million in public funds, Commissioner Stefan Pryor recruited a school principal from Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company that Pryor co-founded.

Lacking the certification necessary to teach or work in a Connecticut school, Morgan Barth had already spent eight years illegally teaching and working at Achievement First, Inc.  However, Barth’s claim to fame was that he was a close relative of Richard Barth, the CEO of the massive KIPP Charter School chain who, in turn, is married to Wendy Koop, the founder of Teach for America.

When it comes to actually overseeing Malloy’s Alliance District program, Barth and Mass Insight’s track record has been abysmal, but that didn’t stop Mass Insight from collecting at least $1,957,960 in consulting fees and Barth finding the time to head out to Storrs to get his superintendent’s certification via one of the short-cut training programs at UConn’s NEAG School of Education.

Of course, not surprisingly, when Stefan Pryor bailed to take a job in Rhode Island, Malloy’s new Commissioner of Education, Dianna Wentzell, continued to use Mass Insight to run the Alliance District Program.

But despite the State Department of Education’s record of failure, or perhaps because of their record of mismanagement, Commissioner Wentzell is now blaming the Alliance Districts themselves for problems that have developed with the program, rather than the inexperienced, but highly paid consultants that she and her predecessor hired and coddled.

The Hartford Courant covers the new development in an article entitled, Some Struggling Districts Using State Grant For Unintended Purposes while the CT Mirror’s story is entitled, Schools redirecting money intended for reforms, officials say.

As the Courant reports,

“The board is aware of a couple of examples that have been brought to our attention of extreme misuse as a result of carryover,” Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell said. “This allows us to keep the Alliance District funds focused on the Alliance District plan.”

Extreme misuse?

Keep Alliance District funds focused on the Alliance District Plan?

Considering the way in which the out-of-state consultants coordinated the program, attacking the Alliance Districts is particularly revolting.

And let’s be clear, it’s not like Wentzell and her management team weren’t well aware of the problems associated with the way the Alliance District Program was being run because, as has been clear from the state, those problems started at the top and were a direct result of the policy decisions Pryor and Wentzell made.

The following 17 Wait, What. Blog posts are just a fraction of the reports about the way in which Mass Insight Inc. and the State Department of Education were managing the Alliance District program.

Connecticut legislators take note, before Malloy’s State Department of Education and State Board of Education start attacking Connecticut’s most challenged school districts, they should be required to come clean about myriad of problems that were caused by the way they “managed” the program.

The following are Wait, What? Posts on Connecticut’s Alliance District Program and the way in which Malloy’s own commissioners and consultants mismanaged and undermined the program. 

Mass Insight contract “magically extended” on its last day. Cost to taxpayers: $800,000 (2/3/14)

A plea to the public for help in tracking down the Malloy Administration’s effort to extend $1 million contract (1/28/14)

Pryor now using out-of-state company to recruit out-of-state school principals (12/23/13)

Are Alliance School Districts implementing their Turnaround Plans with “fidelity”? (12/4/13)

No Joke: Year 2 Alliance District “kickoff” tomorrow despite Pryor’s failure to get money to Alliance Districts (10/16/13)

Did Connecticut’s Director for School Turnaround illegally teach in the State of Connecticut? (10/8/13)

Malloy’s Education Commissioner prepares 2014 legislative agenda that increases his power and promotes charters (9/17/13)

Mass Insight swaps out more consultants: Further reducing experience for CT Alliance Districts (8/26/13)

Malloy/Pryor’s new “Turnaround Director” violated Connecticut law by failing to get proper teacher certification (8/20/13)

Just when Connecticut’s “Alliance” Districts thought it couldn’t get worse… (8/19/13)

Hello? It’s the 2nd week of August…where is the State’s Alliance District Funding? (8/8/13)

Malloy’s Commissioner of Education signs another $1 million contract with out-side consultants (7/20/13)

Warning! Warning! Alliance Districts Beware: (6/27/13)

Pay More, Get Less: The Malloy/Pryor Approach to Problem Solving: (6/5/13)

Layoffs for Connecticut Residents, Retainers for out-of-state consultants: The Malloy-Pryor-Mass Insight Contract (5/24/13)

The Malloy/Pryor Education Reform Consultant Full Employment Gravy Train (5/17/13)

Oh look, there goes more Connecticut taxpayer money to out-of-state “education reform” consultants (5/16/13)

21,000 children head off to the 1st day of public school in Hartford, but not Luke Bronin’s

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Last week Hartford, Connecticut parents got their public school children packed up, ready to go and sent them off to the first day of school.

But the man who aspires to be Hartford’s next mayor, and would have the responsibility of appointing a majority of the members of the Hartford Board of Education, wasn’t one of them.

Instead, Greenwich native Luke Bronin, who moved to Hartford and is running for Mayor, dropped his child off for their first day at the prestigious Renbrook private school in West Hartford, Connecticut where the annual tuition runs from $19,500 to $33,500 per year depending on which grade the child is enrolled in.

While the vast majority of children in the United States go to public schools, those with means have the choice to send their children to a public school or a private school.

Growing up, Luke Bronin only attended private schools.  Starting with the Greenwich Day School, where tuition starts at $33,500 for kindergarten and rises to $37,500 a year for the higher grades, Bronin then attended Phillips Exeter Academy, with a cost of $48,000 a year, although that does include the $180 a year “Linen Fee.”  Luke Bronin then spent ten years in the Halls of Yale, Oxford and the Yale Law School.

With privilege comes opportunity and while no one should ever begrudge a parent for doing everything they can to ensure that their child or children get a quality education, it is relevant when a politician who says he is ready to “turn-around” Hartford’s public schools won’t enroll his own child in the public school system he claims that he will serve.

As part of his campaign, Luke Bronin has been saying that taxes in Harford are too high and, if elected, he won’t raise them.

However, the harsh reality is that despite the fact that more than 80% of Hartford’s school budget is paid for by the State, Hartford’s public schools are inadequately funded.

Hartford class sizes are too large and there aren’t sufficient services to help students who come from poor families, those who aren’t fluent in the English language and those who need special education services.

So while Luke Bronin says he will “support” Hartford public schools, he is also promising not to increase revenue, which would leave Hartford schools with even fewer resources.

By comparison, while Bronin’s proposed policies would hurt Hartford schools, he is choosing a very different type of school for his own child.

According to Renbrook,

The Renbrook education is characterized by small classes and personal attention from faculty members. There are 189 students in Renbrook’s Upper School (Grades 6-9) and only 10-12 students in each classroom. In this small learning environment, students have the opportunity to ask questions, share ideas, and to learn from other students, as well as the teachers. Renbrook’s teachers are dedicated, passionate educators who support the advancement and achievement of each individual student.

The Student:Teacher Ratio at Renbrook is 7:1

The Student:Teacher ratio in the Hartford school system is more than double that number.

And in addition, while Hartford’s public school students, parents, teachers and school administrators are crippled by the Common Core, the Common Core SBAC testing scam and Connecticut’s unfair teacher evaluation system, Luke Bronin’s child is attending a school that DOESN’T adhere to the Common Core SYSTEM, doesn’t force children to take the unfair Common Core SBAC testing program and treats their school teachers like the education professionals that they are.

Bronin’s platform will lead to budget cuts for Hartford’s students, while his child will be attending a school that informs parents that Renbrook is located on;

Seventy-five acres of woodlands, wetlands, fields and gardens; four athletic fields, a high-and low-ropes course; three playgrounds, plus a natural pond for science study. Teaching space includes 11 buildings, 10 math, science and technology labs, seven music and art studios, two theaters, a dining commons, a Middle School Mathematics Center, and a 16,600 sq. ft. Library & Technology Center, heated and cooled with geothermal technology.

Meanwhile, many Hartford schools don’t even have functioning libraries and most certified library professionals have been laid off or their positions not re-filled.

This week, Achieve Hartford! Inc., the corporate funded education reform group in Hartford wrote,

The first day of school in Hartford Tuesday underscored the importance of community partnerships, parent support, and staff dedication. At Hartford’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Engineering and Green Technology Academy, and Breakthrough Magnet Schools, a key message was that, if indeed it takes a village to raise a child, a whole lot of villagers are on board.

Yes, as we know… It does take a village to raise a child!

It takes a village and sufficient public funds to provide a quality education to all of the children in Hartford and Connecticut’s public schools.

And it also takes elected and appointed officials who are committed to helping those public schools succeed.

If Luke Bronin wants to send his child or children to an elite private school and can afford to pay $20,000 a year, per child, to ensure they have a private school education, that is certainly his right as a parent.

But parents, teachers and the public in Hartford and across that state shouldn’t be fooled.  When the person who wants to be mayor, and who would appoint the members of the Hartford Board of Education, decides to enroll his child or children in a prestigious private school, rather than the city’s public schools, it sends out a powerful message about privilege and entitlement.

Of course, Luke Bronin isn’t alone when it comes to claiming that he is ready to oversee public schools while sending his own child or children to a private school.

Heck, even Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education and leading corporate education reform advocate, claims that he supports public schools while sending his children to one of the most elite and expensive private schools in the country.

Malloy’s public school privatization effort hits Stamford

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Malloy administration gives Bronx charter school chain a green-light to “save” Stamford.

The Malloy administration’s extraordinary efforts to increase the number of charter schools and privatize even more of the state’s public education system took a giant leap forward at the last State Board of Education meeting.

In a farce that included Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, just happening to have a written resolution approving four new charters rather than the promised two, the corporate education reform industry drive to undermine Connecticut’s public schools surged forward.

Malloy’s “hometown” of Stamford was one of the latest victims in the inappropriate and under-handed strategy that has been displayed by Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education.

When it comes to “education reform” the Malloy administration’s watchwords seems to be, “grab the candy before you are thrown out of the shop.”

The following piece was written by Stamford Board of Education members Jackie Heftman and Polly Rauh.  It was first published in last Friday’s Stamford Advocate.

Democracy loses in charter school fight

On April 2, we went to a show trial in Hartford. Actually it was a meeting of the State Board of Education (SBOE). Sitting in the audience and later watching it on CT-N, we were reminded of the trials held in places with authoritarian dictatorships, where the outcome is decided long before the meeting begins.

The resolution that the SBOE was considering was for one more state charter school in New Haven and Bridgeport. The public agenda listed a discussion item of an additional charter school in Stamford and one more for Bridgeport. We were there to speak in opposition to another state charter school in Stamford. The Stamford Board of Education had passed a resolution at its March meeting not supporting the charter school application.

The SBOE approved the two charters in New Haven and Bridgeport, and then Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor magically produced a resolution for approval of another charter school in Bridgeport and Stamford. Both were unanimously approved. Indeed a sad day for democracy in Connecticut.

Some of the things that were put on the record were simply wrong and some were outright lies, and they should not go undisputed. If Stamford is going to be dragged into a fight over a charter school, we should begin with an understanding of the facts.

Pryor was adamant that the funding for charter schools is a separate stream of money and does not take funding away from the traditional public schools. In fact he proudly asserted that more money has been allocated to the Alliance Districts. Alliance Districts are the 30 lowest performing districts in the state. Stamford, New Haven and Bridgeport are Alliance Districts. For Stamford the allocated amount is less than $3 million dollars which is less than 1 percent of our budget. Is he kidding? What is there to be proud of? That money will get eaten up in additional transportation and special education costs for the new charter school.

The money that comes to cities and towns to help fund public schools is based on an Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula which is grossly underfunded to the tune of almost $700 million dollars this year.

[A Wait, What? note to readers:  According to the CCEJF school funding lawsuit and other experts, Connecticut’s school funding formula is actually $1.5 to $2 billion underfunded leaving an unfair and disproportionate burden on local property tax payers and severely limiting resource in many Connecticut school districts].

But there seems to be money to fund state charter schools. Between Fiscal Year 2013 and Fiscal Year 2015, $233 million has been set aside to fund state charter schools. That money could have been added to the ECS stream bringing it closer to what the formula requires.

The second sad occurrence that afternoon was when Charlene Reid, head of the state charter school that wants to open here, told the SBOE that in her meetings with Stamford BOE members over the past couple of months it was suggested that because she was black she was incapable of writing the application. She also said she was accused of being a racist because she wants to open a segregated school and had experienced “micro aggression” during her time in Stamford.

We have neither met Ms. Reid nor been asked to attend a meeting with her and could find only one board member who did meet with her. No one who spoke at the public hearing in Stamford maligned Ms. Reid. Our opposition to the charter school has never been personal. She also said parents were “petrified” to publicly state their support, but when parents had the opportunity to speak at the SBOE meeting, where there is obvious support for charter schools, no one spoke. No one from Stamford said they wanted this option for their children. In fact Stamford Parent Teacher Council members came to the SBOE meeting with more than 700 petition signatures in opposition to the charter school.

Ms. Reid accused unnamed Stamford officials of having no plan to address inequities and only wanting to ignore the problem. That flies in the face of our Alliance District Improvement Plan, approved by the SBOE, which directly addresses the closing of the achievement gap. In fact in the past six years the achievement gap in the Stamford Public Schools has been reduced by 13.5 percent. Ms. Reid says the Bronx Charter School for Excellence has closed the achievement gap for all subgroups. The achievement gap is the difference between the standardized test scores for White students vs. Black and Hispanic students.

Her claim that the gap has been closed at her school is meaningless when there are no white students attending. She can claim that she has boosted the achievement of her students, but she can’t claim she has closed the achievement gap. She also belittled Stamford Superintendent Winifred Hamilton’s commitment to diversity in spite of the fact that our schools are balanced to within 10 percent of the district average, 31 percent of our administrators are minorities and we are constantly working to increase our minority teaching staff. It is obvious that she hasn’t visited any of our schools. Ms. Reid told the SBOE that she is looking forward to a collaborative relationship with SPS and our superintendent! Really?

Ms. Reid acknowledged that her school in the Bronx is 100 percent minority and 85 percent economically disadvantaged and this is the model she would bring to Stamford. If for no other reasons, we oppose this charter school coming to Stamford.

We care about all public school students receiving a high quality education in a diverse setting of students of all colors and socioeconomic backgrounds. All Stamford students deserve no less.

NEWS FLASH: Kids win, Malloy/Jepsen lose as judge rules school funding trial to begin this summer

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In a stunning defeat of Governor Malloy’s political strategy to push off CCEJF v. Rell school funding debate until after the 2014 gubernatorial election, a superior court judge ruled today that the trial will begin as scheduled.

The trial date for the CCEJF .v Rell was scheduled to begin July 2014 beck in December 2011, but since then Governor Malloy, Attorney General George Jepsen, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the Malloy administration wasted thousands of hours, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to have the critical case dismissed.

And when that strategy failed, Malloy and Jepsen had the unmitigated gall to try and delay the trial for fifteen months until after the 2014 gubernatorial.

But in a move that proves some members of the judicial branch of government still believe in fulfilling their constitutionally sworn duties, Superior Court Judge Kevin Dubay rejected the state’s effort and ordered the trail to begin as scheduled this summer.

In response the attorney’s representing Attorney General Jepsen and Governor Malloy said that the plaintiffs should expect the trail to do for months.

An easy threat to make considering the state’s attorneys are paid for by the Connecticut taxpayers while the people bringing the lawsuit on behalf of Connecticut’s school children are trying to put the case together with limited resources and donated legal assistance.

How Malloy and his administration have handled the CCEFJ v. Rell school funding case should be one of the most important voting issues of the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

For those who don’t know that much about the case, here is the Wait, What? article that was posted yesterday.

Whatever you do, don’t mention school funding and the school funding lawsuit!

The Malloy administration will be back in a Connecticut courtroom tomorrow, January 16, 2014, in their unending effort to destroy, derail or delay the court case known as Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell.

CCJEF v. Rell is not only the most important school funding lawsuit in Connecticut history, it is safe to say that it is one of the most significant cases since Connecticut’s State Constitution was updated and adopted in 1965.

The case, which was filed in 2005, has already been to the Connecticut’s Supreme Court where the state’s highest court ruled that Connecticut’s State Constitution requires the state to provide every child will a quality public education.

When the Supreme Court reached its decision, it sent the case back to the trial court to determine what actions the state of Connecticut must take to fulfill that Constitutional responsibility.

Although Governor Dannel Malloy, when he was Mayor Dan Malloy, was an original plaintiff in the case and campaigned for governor on a platform of resolving the case, upon being sworn as Governor Malloy he did a “180” on the issue and with the help of Attorney General George Jepsen has been trying to get to the case dismissed.

But late last year a Connecticut Judge threw out every motion Malloy and Jepsen had submitted and ordered that the full court trial on the case begin on July 1, 2014.

But July 1, 2014 is in the middle of the 2014 gubernatorial campaign and the last thing that Governor Malloy wants in the news is coverage of his failed education policies.

So Malloy and Jepsen have taken the incredible step of trying to get the case “delayed” until after the election.

You can read more about the CCEJF case in the following Wait, What? posts.

The CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Case: The incredible transformation of Malloy and Jepsen

As the CT Mirror reported in a recent article entitled, “State seeks to delay education-funding trial until after election,” The state is asking that the trial over whether Connecticut is spending enough money on education be pushed back until after the gubernatorial election in the fall.”

Attorney General Jepsen, with Malloy’s help and support, has submitted a motion to delay the trial until October 2015.

According to their brief, the Malloy administration is arguing, “The stakes in this case are enormous…When the stakes are this high, the defendants, on behalf of the taxpayers in Connecticut, are entitled to know and understand the plaintiffs’ case, not as it existed four or more years ago, but as it will actually be presented at trial.”

This comes from the people who were responsible for delaying the case in the first place.

As the CT Mirror reports, Malloy and Jepsen want the case delayed until after the election because, “the plaintiffs -– a group of mayors, parents and leaders of teachers’ unions — need to update their complaint and experts’ reports to reflect the current educational landscape, which warrants delaying the trial.”

In response, as the CT Mirror explains;

“‘Defendants are responsible for delay,’” attorney Helen V. Cantwell writes on behalf of the plaintiffs. “’The interests of justice would be better served by a scheduling order that preserves the July 1, 2014 trial date.’”

Cantwell points out that their experts can testify about the current condition of the educational funding structure at trial, that the State Department of Education continues to reject their requests for information so they can prepare for trial, and that the state has blown through several deadlines for reporting their expert witnesses.”

The article concludes with a prepared statement from Attorney General George Jepsen’s office which reads;

“Of primary concern, the plaintiffs rely on expert witnesses whose opinions are based on the educational and funding system as it was years in the past. The state is entitled to know before trial what those experts think of the current state of education and the impacts on it of the Governor’s comprehensive education reforms. We have no interest in delaying this case for delay’s sake, but we do insist that the state’s taxpayers are entitled to receive a fair hearing.”

The CCEJF v. Rell case, perhaps more than any other issue that has developed during Malloy’s tenure, highlights Malloy’s approach to politics and policy.

And meanwhile, the children of Connecticut be damned.

Bridgeport: Where “truth” is sometimes fiction

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Paul Vallas likes to brag that he “balanced” Bridgeport’s school budget during the two years he ran Bridgeport’s schools.

Mayor Bill Finch likes to brag that he is making a huge “investment” in Bridgeport schools.

Every time Paul Vallas speaks about his budget success he fails to mention that he didn’t actually balance last year’s Bridgeport School Budget, the taxpayers of Connecticut did.

When Bridgeport’s Education budget was still facing a $3.4 million deficit, Governor Malloy proposed, and the legislature adopted special language providing Bridgeport with a $3.4 million “forgivable” loan.

And what did Connecticut taxpayer’s get in return if the loan was “forgivable”?

If Paul Vallas left his job as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools – which he is now doing – Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, would be responsible for “approving” Vallas’ successor.  The wording is actually, “As a condition of making such loan under this section, the commissioner shall require the selection of a superintendent of schools or chief financial officer of the Bridgeport school district from a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner.”

Vallas, Finch, Malloy and Pryor seem to forget that the “deal” is forever preserved in Public Act No. 12-1 of the June 12 Special Session (see complete language below).

And now, despite his bragging about his massive investment in Bridgeport’s schools, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch has now cut a secret deal with the Malloy Administration that will allow Bridgeport to take a pass on the law that requires Connecticut communities to maintain a minimum contribution to their local school budget in order to qualify for state funds.

When Mayor Finch presented this year’s Bridgeport City Budget he announced, “Thanks to the actions of my administration and the City Council, we are working more closely with the Board of Education to provide better educational opportunities for our children than ever before.”

But now, the secret deal he has cut with Governor Malloy’s operation means the City of Bridgeport DOES NOT HAVE TO PROVIDE their schools with $3,281,703 that would otherwise have been required under Connecticut law.

You can read about the new Finch/Malloy Bridgeport deal in yesterday’s Wait, What? post: Secret Deal for Malloy Political ally turns Education Funding Formula into a joke.

So Vallas didn’t balance the school budget last year, Connecticut taxpayer’s picked up the cost of the $3.4 million deficit.

And this year, a new deal between Malloy and Finch will mean that Bridgeport is excused from having to put $3.2 million into their school budget.

But hey, at least Malloy’s Commissioner of Education gets to require that the selection of a Bridgeport superintendent of schools is from “a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner.”

Here is the language of Section 289 of Public Act No. 12-1 of the June 12 Special Session.

Sec. 289. (Effective July 1, 2012) (a) The sum of $ 2,300,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for Personal Services, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(b) The sum of $ 700,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for Sheff Settlement, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(c) The sum of $ 500,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for OPEN Choice Program, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(d) The Commissioner of Education may, upon approval by the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, provide a loan of up to three million five hundred thousand dollars to the city of Bridgeport for the purposes of inclusion in the budgeted appropriation of education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, to cover education expenditures incurred during such fiscal year. As a condition of making such loan under this section, the commissioner (1) shall require the selection of a superintendent of schools or chief financial officer of the Bridgeport school district from a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner, and (2) may require additional process or outcome targets and objectives to be included in the alliance district plan submitted by the board of education pursuant to section 34 of public act 12-116. The city of Bridgeport shall repay such loan not later than June 30, 2015. The commissioner may permit the city of Bridgeport to repay such loan by reducing the equalization aid grant received pursuant to section 10-262h of the general statutes, as amended by this act, in each fiscal year of such repayment. The commissioner may, upon approval from the secretary, forgive all or a portion of such loan if the city of Bridgeport has complied with the conditions of such loan and the commissioner has approved the alliance district plan submitted by the board of education pursuant to section 34 of public act 12-116.

The CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Case: The incredible transformation of Malloy and Jepsen

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Today, as explained in a Wait, What? blog post last Friday, Attorney General George Jepsen, with the help and support of Governor Dannel Malloy, is asking a Connecticut Superior Court judge to dismiss the most important school finance lawsuit in nearly five decades.  As noted in that blog, the case, CCJEF v. Rell, may well be the most important school finance lawsuit in Connecticut history.

Friday’s post, entitled “Jepsen/Malloy move to destroy most important school funding lawsuit in modern times,” points out that once upon a time, when Governor Dannel Malloy was Mayor Dan Malloy of Stamford, he not only supported the CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit but was an original plaintiff in the historic battle to force the State of Connecticut to fulfill its constitutional obligation to the children of Connecticut.

As a candidate for governor, Malloy repeatedly proclaimed that he would implement a solution to Connecticut’s school finance crisis and end the need for the CCJEF v. Rell case.

But now with Malloy’s support, Connecticut’s attorney general is trying to dismiss this important case altogether.

Governor Malloy and Attorney General Jepsen have the opportunity of a lifetime to put Connecticut’s school funding system on track, not only for this generation, but for generations to come.   Instead of rising to the occasion, they are squandering the opportunity to make a profound difference for Connecticut and its children.

To understand the depth of their failure on this vital issue, read some of the previous Wait, What? blogs on this topic;

The Dan to Dannel transformation on the most important education lawsuit in Connecticut history  (April 5)

Despite having promised their support for the lawsuit, they are now not only trying to get the case dismissed, but are asking the court to prevent the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding [CCJEF], a broad coalition of towns, schools, parents and public school advocates, from even serving as the plaintiffs in the case.

They are taking this unholy action despite the fact that the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered the lower court to hear the case.

And perhaps worst of all, this destructive action is being perpetrated by people who not only said they supported the lawsuit, but used that support to deceive the people of Connecticut into voting for them.

Dan Malloy and the education lawsuit of our lifetime;

On November 22, 2005, Stamford Mayor and Gubernatorial Candidate Dan Malloy issued a press release entitled “Malloy Supports Lawsuit Challenging Education Funding System…says that reforming the education funding system is an issue of ‘fundamental fairness.’”

Jepsen/Malloy Continue to Squander the Opportunity of a Lifetime; (Feb 7)

Sometimes you’re just left shaking your head; wondering what on earth has happened to our “Leaders.”

A few months ago, Attorney General George Jepsen, with the direct approval of Governor Dannel Malloy, filed a legal motion in an attempt to ensure that Early Childhood Education was not included in the definition of what the Connecticut Supreme Court called the “adequate education” that is guaranteed in the Connecticut Constitution.

Now, Attorney General Jepsen has filed an unprecedented subpoena seeking tens of thousands of pages of documents belonging to ten of the school districts that brought the now-famous CCJEF vs. Rell lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to define what an “adequate education” meant. More

Mayor Bill Finch asks – Wait, What? Connecticut’s School Funding Laws Apply to Us?

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Connecticut’s Education Cost Sharing Formula:

“Three requirements apply to towns receiving state ECS grants. The first is that they spend their entire ECS grant for education. The second is that they not use an increase in their ECS grant in any year to supplant local funding for education (the nonsupplant requirement). The third is the MBR. The MBR requires towns to budget at least a minimum amount for education in each fiscal year.” (Office of Legislative Research)

According to a recent story in the CT Post, when Mayor Finch met with the Connecticut Post’s editorial board he “criticized the state’s minimum budget requirement” saying;

“Why is there an MBR? The assumption is the only way you can get my kids to have a better education is just keep pouring more money on it…Doesn’t really matter how you spend it, it’s just got to go up every year. It can never go down. That’s the craziest thing I ever heard.”

Recall Connecticut’s Education Funding Formula is approximately $2 billion under-funded and the Minimum Budget Requirement is designed to ensure that towns provide at least a minimum level of funding for local education.  At last check, Bridgeport funded the smallest percentage in the state.

Meanwhile, although “Superintendent of Schools,” Paul Vallas, has failed to fulfill the legal requirement of getting the local Board of Education to review and adopt a school budget in a timely fashion, Vallas recently provided the Bridgeport Board of Education with a $231.8 million school budget that included a $4.2 million increase in ECS funding from the state and a $3.2 million increase from the City of Bridgeport.

The $3.2 million increase is what is required under Connecticut’s Minimum Budget Requirement law.

When the concept of Alliance Districts was created in Malloy’s “education reform” bill last year, the Minimum Budget Requirement law was modified to require that an Alliance District municipality must allocate what they appropriated the previous year AND, in no case, can their contribution fail to “meet minimum local education funding percentages of 20% for FY 13, 21% for FY 14, 22% for FY 15, 23% for FY 16, and 24% for FY 17.” (PA 12-1, June 12 Special Session, §§ 287 & 288)

As confirmed by the State Department of Education, that means Mayor Bill Finch must provide an additional $3.2 million in next year’s budget.

So how did Finch respond?

See the recent blog post of CT Post reporter Brian Lockhart who wrote;

“Following his meeting with East Side community leaders Wednesday night I attempted to ask Finch to explain his administration’s position on the $3.2 million.

As usual his spokesman (and former Connecticut Post employee) Elaine Ficarra was at his side.

Finch is perfectly able to field a reporter’s questions, and he should be well-versed on this school funding issue because it’s been around for about a year.

But the mayor’s staff prefer the questions be posed to Ficarra and the answers come through her as well. It’s message-management 101.

I asked the mayor to explain his rationale for not providing the extra $3.2 million to the Board of Education.

“Well, we’re formulating an answer for you. We’ll probably get it to you tomorrow (Thursday),” Finch said.

I pressed, since it’s what I get paid to do.

“Okay,” I said. “But tell me – just give me your initial understanding…”

At which point Ficarra – as she gets paid to do – interrupted, “No, I think he gave you the answer. He gave you the answer, Brian. That’s it. He gave you the answer. C’mon.”

So would they get me a comment Thursday?

“It looks like, yeah,” Finch said.

“We’ll get back to you,”  Ficarra said.

I wasn’t reassured.

“Well, I need something tomorrow (Thursday),” I said.

“That’s good. That’s your schedule. We’ll get back to you,” Ficarra said, adding: “No. No. No. You’re not going to put him on the spot over here, Brian, to talk about it, okay?”

At which point the mayor chimed in, “Actually, we’ll get back to you when we want to.”

After our exchange I emailed Ficarra later Wednesday with my specific questions about the $3.2 million, why the mayor kept it out of his budget, whether the administration was negotiating with state officials on the matter, and what happens if any talks fail?

On Thursday Finch’s answer arrived via Ficarra in a very short email: “We are incredibly focused on this issue and we are working diligently to resolve it. In the end, we hope to be as effective as we were in 2012 in working with the state to close the Board of Education’s multimillion dollar deficit.”

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