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.”

Don’t let the word Democrat confuse you…

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Connecticut Mirror, March 22, 2010;

“The state Supreme Court [ruled] that Connecticut schoolchildren are guaranteed an adequate standard of quality in their public schools — a crucial legal victory for a coalition seeking to force a dramatic increase in state spending on education.”

Connecticut Mirror, April 10, 2013:

“State moves to dismiss long-standing challenge to education funding

Calling their demands “extreme and radical” as a trial draws nearer, the Connecticut attorney general has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed by parents and educators demanding more funding for education.

In a motion to dismiss filed earlier this year, Attorney General George C. Jepsen argues that the education problems in the complaint dating back to 2003 have since been addressed by lawmakers through the changes to state law made in 2012.”

So there you have it.  Democrat Attorney General, George Jepsen, calling the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education funding (CCJEF), “extreme and radical.”

Democratic Attorney General, telling the CT Mirror’s Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, that, “’It is too late to evaluate the adequacy of the education system that existed at the time the lawsuit was filed’…By the same token, he added, ‘It is too early to adjudicate Connecticut’s newly reformed education system.’”

However, despite Jepsen’s outrageous comments, everyone associated with Connecticut public education recognizes that the State’s ECS funding formula is at least $2 billion under-funded.  Even the Malloy Administration’s own budget director, Ben Barnes, has confirmed that number.

Even more to the point, as a Connecticut State Representative, State Senator and candidate for Governor, George Jepsen, like all major Democratic leaders, pledged to increase Connecticut’s education funding up to a level in which the state paid at least 50% of the total costs of primary and secondary education, while local property tax payers were left paying the remaining amount.

In fact, the decision to adopt an income tax was driven, in no small part, by the commitment Democrats made to shift the responsibility for funding education away from local property taxpayers and onto the state.

Now, more than 20 years later, Connecticut is far where it needs to be when it comes to adequately funding its public education system.

And now, leaders like Governor Malloy and Attorney General Jepsen are conveniently forgetting the promises they made time and time again.

As Wait, What? readers read last week, Governor Malloy was not only a supporter of the CCEJF school funding lawsuit, he was one of the initial plaintiffs in the case.

In the earlier Wait, What? post entitled, “The Dan to Dannel transformation on the most important education lawsuit in Connecticut history,” we reviewed how candidate Dan Malloy approached the most important education lawsuit of our lifetime.

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

As a candidate seeking votes, Malloy’s gubernatorial campaign wrote, “Stamford Mayor and Gubernatorial Candidate Dan Malloy joined fellow members of the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding [CCJEF] today in filing a lawsuit challenging Connecticut’s existing school funding formula as inadequate. Malloy is a founding member of CCJEF coalition, which commissioned a June 2005 cost study demonstrating that 92 of Connecticut’s 166 school districts fell short of funding levels deemed to be necessary for providing children with an adequate education, as demanded under Federal and State law.”

Malloy’s press release quoted him as saying, “The bottom line is that Connecticut’s Education Cost Sharing [ECS] Formula should be scrapped and rebuilt and the State of Connecticut must finally live up to its obligation and pay its share of our education costs. The existing ECS formula has been deliberately under-funded and arbitrarily capped. This isn’t an urban versus suburban issue or a big government versus small government issue; it’s an issue of fundamental fairness. Every child in Connecticut deserves the opportunity to get an adequate education. Our constitution demands it.”

Over the years, George Jepsen claimed to be equally committed to a fairer, more equitable school funding program.  But now, as Connecticut’s Attorney General, Jepsen is asking the courts to dismiss this historic and fundamentally important lawsuit.

Instead of standing up to ensure Connecticut’s Constitution is followed, Jepsen is maneuvering to try to keep the judicial branch of government from playing the very role it was created to do.

In the recent motion to dismiss the case Jepsen wrote, “The bottom line is that plaintiffs’ extreme and radical requested relief would amount to taking the state’s funding decisions for public schools away from the citizens’ elected representatives…”

That statement is totally and absolutely untrue.

It is beyond untrue, it is an outright lie.

No one is expected the Connecticut courts to eliminate the role of the Connecticut General Assembly, and Attorney General Jepson knows that better than anyone.

The fact is that the Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that Connecticut’s children have a Constitutional right to a quality education.

A series of Connecticut governors and Legislatures have refused to provide the funding necessary to fulfill that Constitutional requirement.

The lawsuit is a necessary and appropriate mechanism to ask the courts to require that governors and legislatures actually stop ducking their constitutional responsibilities

It is one thing for Attorney General Jepsen to argue that the state doesn’t want to provide sufficient funding; it would even be plausible for Attorney General Jepsen to argue that the existing funding is enough to provide a quality education, but it is beyond outrageous that any elected official, especially a Democrat, would claim that his lawsuit is radical or extreme.

By clicking the link below, you can read the full CTMIrror story, including the powerful and persuasive counter-argument to Attorney General Jepsen’ that is being put forward by State Representative Gary Holder-Winfield.  Unfortunately, a full reading of the article will drive home the appreciation that for some politicians, there is simply no limit to their willingness to say anything in their effort to stretch and twist the truth.

The complete CTMirror story is here: http://ctmirror.org/story/19681/were-education-reforms-passed-enough-derail-school-funding-lawsuit

 

The Dan to Dannel transformation on the most important education lawsuit in Connecticut history

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Wait, What? readers know about the pending lawsuit known as CCJEF vs. Rell.  It is the case in which Connecticut’s Supreme Court ruled that Connecticut’s children have a constitutionally guaranteed right to a quality education.

They also know that in what can only be described as a truly outrageous move, Governor Dannel Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen are trying to stop this education lawsuit from being heard and resolved.

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.’”

As a candidate seeking votes, Malloy’s gubernatorial campaign wrote, “Stamford Mayor and Gubernatorial Candidate Dan Malloy joined fellow members of the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding [CCJEF] today in filing a lawsuit challenging Connecticut’s existing school funding formula as inadequate. Malloy is a founding member of CCJEF coalition, which commissioned a June 2005 cost study demonstrating that 92 of Connecticut’s 166 school districts fell short of funding levels deemed to be necessary for providing children with an adequate education, as demanded under Federal and State law.”

Malloy’s press release quoted him as saying, “The bottom line is that Connecticut’s Education Cost Sharing [ECS] Formula should be scrapped and rebuilt and the State of Connecticut must finally live up to its obligation and pay its share of our education costs. The existing ECS formula has been deliberately under-funded and arbitrarily capped. This isn’t an urban versus suburban issue or a big government versus small government issue; it’s an issue of fundamental fairness. Every child in Connecticut deserves the opportunity to get an adequate education. Our constitution demands it.”

The lawsuit that candidate Malloy was so strongly supporting is based on the recognition that Connecticut’s school funding system “has resulted in constitutional violations that disproportionately impact African-American, Latino, and other minority students.”

Malloy’s press release specifically highlighted an op-ed that Malloy had published just the week before in the Hartford Courant.  In the commentary piece, Malloy wrote “The Rowland and Rell administrations have very deliberately and systemically under-funded local education in the State budget as a means of shifting costs to local government. Quite frankly, that’s why we have a property tax crisis in this State. While John Rowland bragged about tax cuts, local government picked up the burden — and the result is a combination of inadequate education and skyrocketing property tax.”

Malloy’s Hartford Courant piece went on to say, “Connecticut has a moral obligation to provide every child with an adequate education — regardless of race, income, or geography. We are saying today that Connecticut also has a Constitutional obligation. In the absence of gubernatorial leadership on this issue, the lawsuit filed today calls attention to one of the most significant problems existing in Connecticut today.”

And here we are, eight years later and more than two years into Governor Malloy’s tenure as Connecticut’s Chief Elected Official and not only has Malloy failed to lead the way on this crucial issue, but he is, in fact, leading the charge in exactly the wrong direction.

Instead of working tirelessly to resolve the lawsuit, he is working with Attorney General George Jepsen to try to get the case dismissed.

You can read more about this vital case at Fighting Children in the Courtroom and Malloy reverses earlier commitment to school funding case and here at Wait, What?  in It’s only the most important school funding case in our lives – Malloy supported it/Now he opposes it
You can also read the State’s stunningly obnoxious and insulting motion to dismiss the case at:   http://ccjef.org/wp-content/uploads/States-Memo-of-Law-re-Motion-to-Dismiss-Jan-2013.pdf

It’s only the most important school funding case in our lives – Malloy supported it/Now he opposes it

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This week, fellow public education advocate and fellow blogger Wendy Lecker’s “must read” commentary piece is entitled “Malloy reverses earlier commitment to school funding case.” 

We’ll be hearing  and I’ll be writing a lot more about this incredibly pivotal law suit, but Wendy Lecker’s column really frames the issues and provides readers with a great update about where things stand.

Lecker writes, “As Stamford’s mayor, Dannel Malloy was an original plaintiff in the pending school funding case, The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell, and led the charge to win just and equitable funding for Connecticut schools. Now, Governor Malloy is trying aggressively to get the case dismissed. In doing so, he has exposed his 2012 education reforms as empty promises compared to what Connecticut’s children really need.

The plaintiffs in CCJEF v. Rell charge that the state is violating the constitutional right of Connecticut’s children to an adequate education by depriving school districts of billions of dollars. Consequently, schools, especially in Connecticut’s neediest districts, cannot afford basic educational tools such as a sufficient number of teachers, reasonable class size, adequate school facilities, services for at-risk children, electives, AP classes, even books, computers and paper.

Governor Malloy’s budget director admitted the state is shortchanging our schools by about $2 billion and even Governor Malloy conceded that the state is not currently meeting its constitutional duty to adequately fund our schools.

But that reality hasn’t stopped the state from trying to duck the lawsuit. Instead, the state claims that the 2012 education “reform” legislation will fix everything, while at the same time as much as acknowledging that they have no evidence to show that their reforms will actually work.”

You can read Lecker’s full commentary piece at the Stamford Advocate: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Malloy-reverses-earlier-commitment-4377589.php

Earlier this month, Dianne Kaplan DeVries also wrote about the pending case in a CTNewsjunkie piece entitled Fighting Children in the Courtroom.  Dianne Kaplan DeVries is the Project Director for the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, the plaintiffs in the CCJEF v. Rell education adequacy and equity lawsuit.  Her article provides additional valuable background on the case.

In Connecticut, Where There’s a Reformy Con, There’s a CAN! (a new post by Prof. Bruce Baker)

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Below is a link to a new column written by Bruce Baker on his blog School Finance 101.

Baker is a Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers.  He is also one of the nation’s leading experts on school finance policy.  No, actually I take that back, he is the nation’s leading expert on school finance policy.  He is also very knowledgeable about the strengths and weaknesses of Connecticut’s particular school financing system and has written extensively about how Connecticut’s funding formula has been corrupted over the years.

Whereas I call myself an advocate for better public school financing in Connecticut because I blog about the topic, Baker actually understands the complexities surrounding the issue at an unprecedented level.

If we could just get our state’s policymakers to read – and more importantly – understand the key points Baker raises, we’d be more than halfway toward solving the problems facing Connecticut’s public education funding system.

Until then, I urge everyone else to read and learn;

In Connecticut, Where There’s a Reformy Con, There’s a CAN!

I was intrigued a few days ago when I saw this headline in my news alerts regarding school funding.

Headline: Report: Funding helps low-performing school districts

I was particularly intrigued because the headline comes from a Connecticut newspaper where I am fully aware that the state really hasn’t done crap to substantively increase resources for low performing, or more specifically high need schools and districts.

Disclaimer: I am fully aware of this because I have been providing technical/expert assistance to local public school districts that have been persistently shortchanged by the state school finance formula (Education Cost Sharing Formula). That, and even prior to my involvement supporting these districts (and more importantly, the kids they serve) in Connecticut, I had already blogged on their plight.

So then, how can it possibly be that that a CT newspaper would print such a ridiculous headline? And where could one possibly find a “Report” that somehow validates that the state has provided funding to help low performing districts?

Well, in Connecticut, where there’s data-free drivel on education policy spewing from the headlines, there’s usually one single source for that drivel – our old friends at ConnCAN!

Yep, they’ve produced a new report! And it’s about as technically solid as many of their previous reports!

An important caveat here is that the ConnCAN report itself (the linked report) doesn’t really seem to address directly the point that is highlighted in this article – that the reforms being implemented by the Malloy administration have improved the financial conditions of districts serving high need populations.

So then where does this strange assertion come from? Did the author of the “news” (used as loosely as possible) article simply make this up – or were they fed this line by ConnCAN? I’m not sure… but the author of the article in the Middletown newspaper begins with this bold statement:

Funding made available by last year’s Public Act 12-116 has helped some of the states lowest-performing school districts, including Middletown, according to the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, an education advocacy organization based in New Haven.

Then, the author of the article summarizes what are characterized as “Highlights from ConnCAN’s March 2013 Progress Report.”

I find it hard to believe the author of the article crafted these summaries on his/her own. So, let’s take these fact-challenged reformy highlights one at a time (again, on the assumption that these highlights are somehow intended to support the article’s thesis – that the reforms have somehow mitigated funding problems/disparities?):
ConnCAN Con:

School Finance: P.A. 12-116 created a Common Chart of Accounts to be implemented in 2014-15, creating across the board standards aimed at enhancing transparency in education spending. To date, the Office of Policy and Management has selected the accounting firm Blum Shapiro to develop a framework for Common Chart of Accounts development and execution.

MY REPLY

Let’s start here with simple acknowledgement that creating a common chart of accounts does little or nothing – okay, NOTHING – to enhance the equity or adequacy of educational funding across districts. So, what did the state actually do to enhance that funding? Not so much really.

Figure 1 shows the effect of the $50 million dollar increase in ECS Aid for 2012-13, when added to Net Current Expenditures (NCEP) for 2011-12. The 2011-12 NCEP distribution is shown in green dots. The changes to NCEP that would result from the additional state aid are shown in orange dots. In green dots, we see that districts like Bridgeport, New Britain, Waterbury and Meriden are significantly disadvantaged by the ECS formula in 2011-12, in terms of their resultant NCEP.

AND, perhaps more importantly, we see that “increases” to funding for 12-13 really didn’t change much!

Read the rest at http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/in-connecticut-where-theres-a-reformy-con-theres-a-can/

State must take serious look at school funding (according to Wendy Lecker)

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It is time for a real, serious and honest look at Connecticut’s school funding crisis, not the cop-out  version that has been recently proposed as part of Connecticut’s budget plan.

Fellow pro-public education blogger and commentator, Wendy Lecker, has another “MUST READ” column this week in the Stamford Advocate, CT Post and the other newspapers that are part of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.

You can find her full post here; Wendy Lecker: State must take serious look at school funding

As Lecker notes, ”Connecticut is a study in contrasts. We have pockets of incredible wealth, and areas struggling with entrenched poverty. We have school districts with few needy children, and those with high concentrations of children living in poverty, English language learners and students with disabilities. There are districts with gleaming labs, large marching bands, theater, and foreign language offered in kindergarten, while in other districts, children sit in overcrowded classrooms with inadequate libraries, no electives, insufficient books and not even enough paper. This resource disparity translates into a disparity of educational opportunity, with some districts sending scores of children to elite colleges while others have alarmingly low graduation rates.

Connecticut has allowed this chasm in educational opportunity to exist for years, in part because we have never taken an honest look at what it costs to educate all children no matter what their need.”

Lecker recognizes that the process must begin with an “educational adequacy cost study.”

As she explains, “In such a study, experts first identify the basic educational resources needed to meet state standards. Then, they “cost out” those resources, taking into account the factors that affect the cost, such as student need, geographic differences, and population density. Different levels of student need, such as poverty, limited English proficiency and disability, affect the cost of resources necessary. Moreover, the severity and/or concentration of poverty and the level of disability can add to educational cost. For over 20 years states and courts have used these studies to devise rational school finance systems with a transparent relationship between state aid, student need and a district’s ability to raise revenue.”

But despite an across the board recognition that a cost study is needed, Governor Malloy failed to propose one as part of his recent changes to the State’s Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula.

Instead, as Lecker points out, Malloy “ proposed inappropriate changes to our school finance system that will render even more children invisible in the eyes of the ECS formula.”

Furthermore, she writes, “The governor’s plan to completely remove English Language Learners from ECS is a step in exactly the wrong direction. Such a move would have devastating effect on many municipalities. In a state with a growing Latino population, and others from non-English-speaking homes, this proposal is ludicrous. Moreover, Malloy’s proposal reduces the weight for poverty, providing fewer funds to educate poor children. To make matters worse, the proposal once again fails to include a weight for special education.”

Although Governor Malloy has failed to take the necessary steps towards fiscal transparency and adequacy, Connecticut’s legislators can correct that mistake.  

You can find Lecker’s full commentary piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-State-must-take-serious-look-at-4301439.php#ixzz2LjtWjttN

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