Budget Cuts, Education Reform, Malloy, Mass Insight company, State Budget, State Deficit, Stefan Pryor Commissioner's Network, Education Reform, Malloy, Mass Insight Company, State Budget, Stefan Pryor
Eighteen months ago, on January 5, 2012, Governor Malloy’s sponsored an Education Reform Workshop at Central Connecticut State University. During the first breakout session there was a panel discussion focused on the issue of “Low-Performing Schools and Districts.” The panel was moderated by Justin Cohen, President of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight Education company.
A few weeks later, Mass Insight Education’s Justin Cohen returned to Connecticut to submit testimony in support of Governor Malloy’s education reform bill, Senate Bill 24. Cohen wrote, “To dramatically and systemically improve our nation’s failing schools, comprehensive state turnaround initiatives, like the Commissioner’s Network included in Senate Bill 24, must be pursued as part of a spectrum of interventions. As the President of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight Education, I applaud the Connecticut State Senate for its consideration of Senate Bill 24 and strongly support its passage.”
Cohen added, “Senate Bill 24 creates part of the structure and authority necessary for the state to perform this work and hold districts accountable…”
Two trips to Connecticut in a matter of weeks.
Talk about a dedication to Governor Malloy’s education reform proposal!
And now it turns out that just last month, on 4/13/13, the State of Connecticut wrote out a check to Mr. Cohen’s Mass Insight Education company for $123,930.00. It was an initial payment on a much larger contract signed by the Malloy Administration’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor. Mass Insight Education was chosen, over a number of entities including Connecticut’s Regional Education Service Centers, to assist with Stefan Pryor’s Commissioner’s Network Turnaround Program. Funny…that was the very thing Cohen came to Connecticut to testify in favor of the year before!
Prior to becoming President of Mass Insight Education’s School Turnaround Group, Justin Cohen was the Director of the Office of Portfolio Management and senior advisor to Chancellor Michelle Rhee at the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS).
Rhee’s time there in Washington DC won her fame and fortune, as well as the demand for investigations into allegations about widespread cheating to inflate standardized test scores.
Before he worked as Rhee’s Director of Portfolio Management, Cohen worked as Director of Industry Support and Development for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
And before that, worked for the Edison Schools company. Finally, of course, having won a contract from Stefan Pryor, we shouldn’t be surprised that Cohen also went to Yale University.
Fellow education blogger Gary Rubinstein investigated and wrote about Mass Insight Education. Rubinstein observed that while Mass Insight claims to lead turnaround projects around the country, their track record is murky, at best. Rubinstein wrote, “On their School Turnaround Group [website] they list eight successful ‘turnarounds’ from around the country. Ironically, these eight ‘turnarounds’ were led by companies other than Mass Insight, but as Mass Insight doesn’t seem to want to put its own record up to scrutiny, they use these case studies to show the sorts of strategies that Mass Insight employs in its own turnarounds.”
Not surprising, Rubinstein discovered that the examples that Mass Insight Education relied upon are similar to what charter school companies here in Connecticut have been doing. The “improved test results” that they education reforms tout are simply the result of policy changes that allowed these schools to skim off students that are less poor, have fewer language barriers, need fewer special education services or display fewer behavioral problems. As usual, the “miracle turnaround” was a product of comparing apples to oranges, not comparing real “turnaround” in the existing population of students.
Meanwhile, Mass Insight Education has been raking in the money. According to research conducted by EduShyster, a public education blogger with extensive experience in Massachusetts, “In 2009, [Mass Insight] CEO William Guenther reported earning a cool $370,000–for 30 hours per week work. That works out to roughly $237 per hour.”
By 2011, Guenther, the Mass Insight CEO, was making $450,000.
Among its purported services, EduShyster discovered that “Mass Insight has moved into the highly lucrative consulting world, offering helpful tips to public districts and state officials around the country about how to “modify collective bargaining agreements .”
It figures that senior officials in the Malloy administration would hire a pro-charter, anti-union consulting company to advise his administration on how to undermine collective bargaining agreements.
And to further their standing, according to their IRS 990 filings, Mass Insight even engages in lobbying, although their most recent report fails to identify whether their 2012 efforts to support Governor Malloy’s education reform bill counted as lobbying.
But like all good lobbying, it would appear that their government relations expenditures can really pay off.
For example, last month’s check for $123,930.00 could have been spent here in Connecticut, supporting a Connecticut school or it could have retained the services of Connecticut residents, but instead it joined the millions of dollars flowing that are flowing to the corporate education reform industry outside of our state.
In this case, Malloy’s Department of Education is using Connecticut taxpayer funds to pay corporate consultants from Massachusetts, while Connecticut towns are left laying off teachers and reducing vital services.
Let’s hear it for the success of the corporate education-industrial reform movement!
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Bridgeport, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, State Budget Ben Barnes, Bridgeport, ECS Formula, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas
Connecticut’s taxpayers cover more than 80 percent of the costs associated with running Bridgeport’s Schools.
For more than twenty-five years, Connecticut’s primary funding mechanism has been called the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. Underfunded by about $2 billion dollars, the money is distributed to towns based on a variety of factors including the number of students living in poverty and the town’s ability to come up with their own funds via their local property taxes.
Every town gets some state aid; the poorest towns get the most.
There are three criteria that towns must meet to get their state aid;
First, the entire amount of the ECS state-grant MUST be spent on education
Second, any increase in the ECS grant CAN NOT be used to supplant local funding for education.
Third, the town must invest a minimum amount of its own money, a system that is called the ECS Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR).
As the CT Post is reporting, “Mayor Bill Finch’s administration is negotiating feverishly in Hartford to shrink a state-mandated $3.3 million spike in education spending that the mayor inexplicably left out of his proposed budget.”
The story goes on to read, “Since Finch did not include the money in his 2013-14 fiscal plan, Bridgeport officials are now trying to convince the state they should not be on the hook for the $3.3 million because of all the unreimbursed “in-kind” school expenses the city covers.”
Connecticut’s entire school funding system is based on the notion of shared expenses. Bridgeport is at the very top of the list of towns that benefit from the state system.
Although the ECS fails to allocate sufficient funds to cover what the state should be paying, rather than pay their share, Bridgeport officials claim that they should be allowed to duck their responsibility to pay their required share.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that Bridgeport appears to have any ally in Ben Barnes, Malloy’s Secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management.
Barnes worked for Malloy when Malloy was the Mayor of Stamford. When Malloy left the Mayor’s office in Stamford to run for governor, Barnes landed in an administrative position in Bridgeport. Soon after, he transferred over to become the chief financial officer for Bridgeport schools.
Barnes knows very well that Bridgeport’s schools are underfunded and he knows the requirements of the local Minimum Budget Requirement law.
However, instead of demanding the Bridgeport, like every other Connecticut city, meet its MBR Requirement, Barnes is quoted in the CT Post article as saying, “If a city takes over some $1 million activity for the (school) board, they get a credit, or vice versa…So we’ve agreed to look for some additional information from them. (And) we’ll provide them with some additional clarification of how we’re interpreting the statute.”
But Barnes knows that history and intent of the law and there was never the notion that a city’s “in-kind” support for its schools was meant to take the place of the city’s fundamental requirement to meet its Minimum Budget Requirement.
Last month, the school budget proposed by the Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s “Superintendent of Schools,” counted on the additional $3.3 million the law requires Bridgeport to spend.
Now Vallas is changing his tune. According to the CT Post article, at a recent Bridgeport Board of Alderman meeting, Vallas said, “Do we need $3.3 million more? Yeah…Can we live without it? If we have to, we will find a way to do that.”
So here is the person heading up Bridgeport’s schools backing off his own budget proposal and the need for the state and the city to properly fund Bridgeport’s schools.
Meanwhile, the CT Post reports that, “Finch and his office have refused to discuss the matter publicly, instead issuing the same terse statements that the administration is focused on a resolution.”
This isn’t the first time the Bridgeport has attempted to duck their local funding requirement. A major Connecticut State Department of Education Audit in 2003-2004 and 2005-2006 raised extremely serious problems with Bridgeport’s unwillingness to fulfill its legal obligations when it comes to properly funding education.
Here we are, almost ten years later…
And we are left with the realization that the more things change, the more the stay the same.
Once again, Bridgeport officials want us to believe that Connecticut’s education funding laws applies to everyone but them.
For the full CT Post article go to: http://m.ctpost.com/connpost/db_43463/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=hcRAd05N&full=true#display
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Malloy, Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, State Budget, Stefan Pryor Ben Barnes, Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, State Budget, Stefan Pryor
On February 6, 2013 Governor Dannel Malloy gave his Bi-annual budget address to a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly. On the issue of public education he said, “We’re turning around struggling schools by growing our Commissioner’s Network, with funding for 17 more schools…We’re continuing to broaden the range of educational opportunities by maintaining our support for magnet schools, agricultural-science schools, and other high-quality options, including funding for additional state charter schools.”
It was just two weeks earlier that ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, conducted a public opinion survey designed to show broad-based public support for Malloy and Malloy’s education reform initiatives.
Interestingly, although the poll was conducted from January 23 until January 27, ConnCAN didn’t report their $35,800 expenditure on the survey until their March State Ethics Filing. By waiting a month to report the cost of their persuasion survey, they ensured that media coverage of the survey was confined to results and not the excessive amount of money ConnCAN spent to create the impression that Malloy’s actions were politically popular.
The strategy played itself out on February 13, 2013. While Malloy’s controversial budget proposals floated out there, a week after he delivered them, the Global Strategies Group, a political and public relations company released a “polling memo” declaring that the public was strongly behind the Governor and his education proposals.
Global Strategies Group is the company that Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s former chief advisor, rejoined after leaving the Governor’s side on the first of this year.
The Global Strategies Group memo claimed that, “There is broad support for continuing education reforms. Connecticut voters are overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the education reforms passed last year… Support for reform crosses party lines… and demographic groups… Men and women… parents and non-parents… younger and older voters… and white and non-white voters… all support continuing reforms.” The memo also claimed that “86 percent say improving the quality of public education is a high priority, including 49 percent who say it is a top priority that needs to be addressed by the governor and the state legislature.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of this entire story is the pattern of communications that was taking place behind the scenes.
According to materials released as a result of a Freedom of Information request, in late December 2012, ConnCAN’s acting CEO, Jennifer Alexander, wrote to Malloy’s budget chief, Ben Barnes, asking for a meeting to discuss the state budget. Twenty minutes later Barnes wrote back accepting the request.
The meeting was originally scheduled for January 11, two weeks before the ConnCAN public opinion survey began, but had to be postponed due to the special deficit mitigation session.
When the meeting was postponed until after the date of the Governor’s budget address, ConnCAN’s CEO wrote on January 10, 2013:
I saw that our scheduled meeting for tomorrow was cancelled…I really do need to meet with you before the end of next week… Is there any chance we can meet sooner?
All the best,
On January 16, 2013 Alexander followed-up with a letter that included a statement that read, “I’m writing, therefore, to ask that your team come out as strongly as possible in the budget on the key pillars of the Governor’s reforms, most notably charter schools, the Commissioner’s Network, and educator evaluation. Specifically, we ask that you hold firm to fully fund: the charter per-pupil increases currently set in statute: 10 new state charter schools; all 25 of the legally allowed commissioner’s Network Schools; and the full statewide rollout of the educator evaluation program”
The ConnCAN CEO ended with, “To summarize, we know that some members of the General Assembly are not where the Governor and you are on reform. ConnCAN and others are here to help, and it will be easier for us to rally strong support if the administration comes out strong in your proposed budget on the key pillars of the Governor’s reforms, including charters, the Commissioner’s Network, and talent development.”
As we now know, Governor Malloy did “come out strong” in his budget address for the charter schools and the ConnCAN/OPM meeting was held on February 20 at 3 p.m., a week after ConnCAN released their poll backing the Governor and his reform proposals.
A sure indicator of the access ConnCAN has into Governor Malloy and the Office of Policy and Management was that when the meeting was held, it not only included OPM Secretary Ben Barnes, but the other participants appear to have been Paul Potamianos, OPM’s Executive Budget Officer; John Noonan, OPM’s Section Director for Education; Leah Grenier, the OPM budget analyst for education and Liz Donohue, Governor Malloy’s Policy Director.
The level of staff attention granted ConnCAN is impressive. ConnCAN had the top four education budget officials at the Office of Policy and Management and the Governor’s policy director? Most Connecticut advocacy groups would be happy to get one fifth of that group to hear them out.
Then again, we are talking about ConnCAN.
The same ConnCAN that spearheaded the multi-million dollar lobbying campaign on behalf of Malloy’s “education reform” bill.
The same ConnCAN that helped raise more than $40,000 for Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, the political action committee associated with Governor Malloy that held a fundraiser at the home of Jonathan Sackler, last year, with national and state education reform leaders.
And the same ConnCAN that was founded by members of the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors; Achievement First being the charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and where Pryor served as a Director until he resigned to take on the role of Malloy’s Education Commissioner.
What’s that quote about it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters?
Dianne Kaplan DeVries, George Jepsen, Malloy, School Funding/ECS, State Budget, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker ECS Formula, Education Reform, Malloy, State Budget, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker
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.
Budget Cuts, Connecticut General Assembly, Malloy, Retired Teachers, State Budget Budget cuts, Malloy, Retired Teachers
Last month, in a post entitled, Define fiscally and morally irresponsible? Malloy’s plan for older, retired teachers. Wait, What? readers had a chance to learn about Governor Malloy’s budget proposal to eliminate the state’s contribution to the retired teacher’s health insurance fund.
The fund pays a portion of the health insurance premiums of retired teachers. The bulk of the cost still rests on the individual teachers.
The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee will be holding a public hearing on Malloy’s proposal tomorrow.
Malloy’s plan would force the Connecticut Teacher Retirement Board to spend the existing fund down to almost zero over the next two years.
According to an article in yesterday’s CTMirror, while Malloy’s plan would “save the state” $70.7 million in the upcoming FY14-FY15 biannual budget, but it would “put the plan’s funding at a ‘dangerous level in two years.”
Why take such a fiscally irresponsible action you ask?
Because eliminating the contribution would make the state budget look more balanced during the next gubernatorial election cycle, although the “rob Peter to pay Paul” approach would require a massive boost in the state contribution to the teacher’s retirement fund in FY 16, the year after the next election. More
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Corporate Welfare, Economic Development, Healthcare, Human Services, Malloy, Mental Health Services, State Budget, State Deficit Budget cuts, Economic Development, Malloy, State Budget, State Deficit
Pick up any newspaper and you are bound to see at least one story about the impact of budget cuts and another about how state governments are giving money away to private companies in an attempt to convince them to create or retain jobs.
It is quite a commentary about our times. A lack of adequate funding means people who work for schools, hospitals and nonprofit providers of human services are or will be losing their jobs, while taxpayer continue to provide the money that is being used to try and persuade businesses to pledge that they will create or keep private sector jobs.
True, it may not be the notoriety that we want, but you certainly can’t say that Connecticut hasn’t become the epitome of this paradox.
For example, earlier this week, Wait What? readers were provided an opportunity to read two posts, one entitled Has it come to this…? and another entitled And while cutting essential services, Malloy gives $100,000 to a Stamford Brewery.
The first post reported on a recent Hartford Courant commentary piece by a father lamenting Governor Malloy’s cut to essential programs that help Connecticut’s developmentally disabled residents while the second was about the Governor’s visit to a brew pub in Stamford to celebrate a $100,000 taxpayer-funded grant that the Malloy Administration was giving to help the brew pub expand.
The two stories served to enlighten readers about the reality of our times or the juxtaposition between an era where we are cutting vital services while providing private companies with what some would call economic development incentives and what others would refer to as corporate welfare.
What I failed to report was that, in addition to the brew pub, Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), Catherine Smith, were actually visiting three other companies around the state that day. All four of the companies were receiving funds thanks to the State’s Small Business Express Program (EXP).
Over the past eighteen months, the Small Business Express Program has given out more than $80 million. According to state officials, the program has helped “create and retain more than 7,600 jobs.” The Legislature will soon be voting to give the Governor an additional $60 million for this program.
In addition to Stamford’s Half Full Brewery, Malloy was visiting Atlantic Canvas and Awning (a company that received a loan of $50,000 and a matching grant of $10,000); Automotive Core Recycling (a company that recycles and sells catalytic converters and other auto parts and received a $250,000 loan) and Katalina’s (a cup cake bakery that received a loan of $30,000 to add equipment and furnishings to their new retail shop).
According to the Department of Economic and Community Development, the $50,000 loan and $10,000 grant “support the creation of three new jobs and retained four,” the $250,000 loan translated into one new position and retained 8 jobs, while the $30,000 loan to the bakery “created one full time job and retained two full time and two part time jobs.”
The Governor’s press release that day announced that the Small Business Express Program has already created or retained more than 1400 jobs in 2013.
Meanwhile that distraught and frustrated father, along with the others who care for Connecticut’s developmentally disabled, try to cope with Governor Malloy’s $6 million cut to employment and day service programs.
Actually, that $6 million cut was part of a much bigger list of cuts Governor Malloy ordered last November 28, 2012. That day, back in November, Governor Malloy announced $170 million in budget rescissions.
The press release didn’t actually quote Governor Malloy. Instead the task of explaining the cuts was left to Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget director. Barnes wrote, “Many of these cuts are very difficult to make, especially now when so many residents continue to struggle in a tough economy, But as painful as they are, cuts are necessary to keep this year’s budget in balance. State government needs to live within its means.”
The November list included a wide variety of reductions including a $53,000 cut to the Division of Criminal Justice’s Shooting Task Force; a $200,000 cut to the Jobs First Employment Service Program, a $488,000 cut to the state’s Environmental Quality Program; a $335,000 cut to the Department of Health’s Community Health Services Program and $41,000 cut to their Genetic Diseases Program; a $433,000 cut to the state’s Community Mental Health Centers, a $2.3 million cut to home care services that keep people out of more expensive nursing homes and hospitals and the list goes on and on.
More recently, the state budget plan that Governor Malloy proposed a month ago continued those cuts. In fact, his new budget makes even deeper cuts to a variety of vital and essential services.
So how is it possible that a Governor would be instituting record budget cuts while giving away record amounts of taxpayer funds to private businesses?
Truth be told, it is the difference between how the State operating budget works compared to the way the State Capital or Bond budget functions.
Even in the desperate times, the Capital budget continues to pump out cash.
The State’s operating budget is paid for with tax dollars. The State’s Capital Budget is funded via the state’s credit card.
Because we are borrowing the money and then paying the amount (plus interest) back over twenty years, the argument is that cutting the Capital Budget won’t help to balance this year’s operating budget. This year’s operating budget is still facing a $135 million plus deficit despite the terrible cuts instituted by the Governor and the additional cuts approved by the General Assembly.
Although Connecticut already has the highest per capita debt burden in the nation, since the word “deficit” applies to the operating budget and not the Capital Budget, we end up with a situation in which vital services are cut at the same time money is being handed out.
In fact, if Governor Malloy gets his way, we’ll see more cuts to essential services and more layoffs of hospital and human service workers in the coming months, and at the same time, the General Assembly will be allocating even more money for the Governor to hand out to the private sector.
Budget Cuts, Human Services, Malloy, State Budget, Taxes Budget cuts, General Assembly, Human Services, Malloy, State Budget, Taxes
Over the weekend, there was a heart-wrenching commentary piece in the Hartford Courant that was written by the father of a 28-year-old intellectually disabled daughter.
His daughter’s name is Katie and he wrote, “She lives at home with my wife, Donna and me. She is the love of our lives and we embrace the gifts she brings to us and to all who know her.”
His piece was entitled, “Amid Stark State Cuts, A Father’s Plea: Who Will Care for Katie?”
Katie’s father reported that “Last November, the governor exercised his rescission authority and, without notice, reduced funding for people with disabilities who receive residential and day services. Making these cuts permanent, as proposed, delivers a body blow to vital assistance Katie receives from the Department of Developmental Services through organizations such as HARC. The latter is a long-respected family organization that provides critical services for people like Katie. It was founded by parents like me as a self-help group, at a time when institutionalization was the only choice for help. The splendid people at both these agencies are a blessed lifeline for my daughter and others.”
While every Connecticut resident, and especially every elected official should read the full article, it is easy to understand his core message.
There are useful state services, there are important state services, there are vital state services and then there are essential state services.
The services that Katie and her family receive are truly essential.
These services are essential, not only because we hold ourselves out to be a humane and caring society, but because the cost of respite and day services allow thousands of our fellow citizens to live at home rather than in far more costly institutions.
These are services that government provides because it is the right thing to do.
There are also services that when cut define the notion of being pennywise and pound foolish.
No governor, Democrat or Republican should have cut those services, but Governor Malloy did.
No Legislature, Democrat or Republican should have allowed those cuts to go forward, but Connecticut’s legislature did.
Reasonable people can have reasonable discussions and debates about appropriate levels of taxes and services, but a stunning large number of the cuts in Governor Malloy’s rescission package and the deficit mitigation package that he proposed and the legislature passed with bi-partisan support were not reasonable.
Those cuts passed because few legislators took the time to study the package and fewer still had the courage to stand up and say no to this governor.
Over the next 90 days the Connecticut General Assembly will be reviewing Malloy’s budget proposal for the next two fiscal years.
There is truly no excuse for aspects of what Malloy has proposed and even fewer excuses for the legislature to accept them.
Take a moment to read this father’s piece and know that it is just one example of budget cuts that have been made or are being contemplated that leave some of our most vulnerable fellow residents without the help and support they so deeply need and deserve.
Government officials will only respond when they know that their constituents will hold them accountable for their actions.
It is essential that our elected officials understand that that is exactly what we are going to do.
You can read the commentary piece at: http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-duffy-who-will-care-for-katie-0303-20130301,0,7996231.story
Education Reform, Malloy, School Funding/ECS, Special Education, State Budget, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker ECS Formula, Education Reform, Malloy, State Budget, Wendy Lecker
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
Budget Cuts, Connecticut General Assembly, Healthcare, Malloy, State Budget, Teachers Healthcare, Malloy, State Budget, Teachers
There are a lot of crazy, irresponsible and down-right mean things in Governor Malloy’s budget proposal, but his plan to totally eliminate Connecticut’s contribution to the retired teachers’ health insurance fund may very well take the cake.
For nearly sixty years, the State of Connecticut has been helping retired teachers acquire health insurance.
Prior to 1986, active teachers did not pay into the Federal Medicare system, so when they retired, they didn’t qualify for Medicare, the primary health insurance system for older Americans.
Furthermore, since teacher salaries were historically so low prior to the educational enhancement act of 1986, older teachers were retiring with very small pensions. With no Medicare and limited incomes, few could afford the most basic level of health insurance coverage, without some type of subsidy.
For nearly 4 decades, the State of Connecticut utilized a variety of different mechanisms to help these older, retired teachers get some health insurance. In 1991 it settled on the creation of the Retired Teachers Health Insurance Fund.
To fund the program, active teachers contribute 1.2 percent of their income into the health fund. This year that amounts to about $45 million.
The premiums that retired teachers pay for their insurance brings in about $37 million.
And state law required that the State of Connecticut contribute 33 percent of the cost of a Medicare supplement plan into the Insurance Fund.
Together these funds were used to help retired teachers get health insurance through the Teacher’s Retirement Board or through their last employing board of education. The subsidy isn’t much, only $110 per month, and despite the massive increase in health insurance premium costs, the subsidy hasn’t been increased since 2000. The Teachers Retirement Board has determined that the $110 subsidy “now covers “on average” only 14% of the monthly premium for the retiree, further eroding the value of the retiree’s pension.
But as bad as things have become, even the $110 helped a little as these retired teachers were forced to shell out of their own pockets an additional $500 to $900 a month to buy insurance through their former boards of education.
Meanwhile, some towns are engaging in a whole separate effort to change the rules and unfairly force teachers off their municipal plans, but I’ll cover that growing problem under a separate post.
In any case, for good or for bad, the present system has been functioning fairly well.
And then to balance the state budget in Fiscal year 2010 and 2011, Governor Rell and the Democrats decided to insert language that allowed the state to forgo any contribution for two years. The lack of funding created a situation that began to derail the financial stability of the Retired Teachers Health Insurance Fund.
When Governor Malloy was sworn in, rather than recommit the state to the appropriate level of funding, he proposed shifting the burden onto the backs of the retired teachers. The Legislature rightfully rejected the move, but “compromised” by agreeing to only allocate 25% of the value of a Medicare supplement plan rather than the 33% required by the law.
While the state did deposit $35 million in Fiscal Year 2012 and $18 million in Fiscal Year 2013, by refusing to deposit the appropriate amount the Fund was, yet again, undermined.
And then came this year…
Malloy went for broke and proposed simply making no payments what-so-ever into the fund.
This Governor, who ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility, proposing that the state simply forgo putting $70 million into the Retired Teachers Health Insurance Fund.
Here are the facts;
In 2012 the Teacher Retirement Board health plan was serving 18,804 retired teachers
In 2012, the Teacher Retirement Board was also paying the town subsidy on behalf of 16,725 retired teachers.
The average age of the retired teacher on the Teacher Retirement Board’s plan is 75 years old.
These teachers received a $0 cost of living adjustment in their pensions in 2010 and 2011.
The Governor’s plan is simply outrageous.
Oh, and by the way, the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee is holding a public hearing today on Malloy’s Teachers Retirement Health Care proposal.
Appropriations Committee Public Hearing
Thursday, February 21
Elementary & Secondary Education (Room 2D)
2:00- 2:30 PM Teachers’ Retirement Board
2:30- 3:00 State Library
3:00- 4:30 Department of Education
Public Budget Hearings (Room 2C) 6:00 PM
Education Reform, Malloy, Standardized Testing, State Budget, Stefan Pryor Malloy, Standardized Testing, Stefan Pryor
Hooray! The U.S. Department of Education is giving away $9.2 million to help states devise better tests for 4 year olds!
According to a recent article in Education Week, “Some state officials say the money would be welcome as they revamp their early-childhood-assessment programs. But others suggest that if the Education Department wants to focus attention on just one part of early learning, an avenue other than kindergarten assessments—teacher professional development, for example—would have been more welcome.”
But I say, to Hell with “teacher professional development.”
We are Connecticut and more assessments is our motto.
For example, just this past year, Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative included not one, but two major laws creating new reading assessment programs targeting pre-k to 3rd graders.
According to Public Act 12-116, the State Department of Education was required to “develop or approve reading assessments for districts to use to identify deficient K-3 readers. The education commissioner must submit these assessments to the Education Committee by February 1, 2013. Districts must use these assessments beginning July 1, 2013.”
In addition, according to the new law, “Assessments must frequently screen and monitor students throughout the school year. Screening will measure student mastery of phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Districts can then use data from these screenings to develop individualized and whole class instruction.”
The major for profit educational testing companies have already lined up to start collecting taxpayer funds.
The noted education testing company, Pearson Education, has been selling a product called “Work Sampling System” and another company, Teaching Strategies LLC, has their own assessment product called the “Teaching Strategies Gold” program.
And it’s not like we’re starting from scratch.
According to the Education Week article, Connecticut is already well-known for its existing assessment program.
The Education Week article explains that Connecticut’s “kindergarten-entrance inventory” is administered in October. Teachers evaluate children on a variety of skills, such as counting to 10; holding a book and turning pages from front to back; and following classroom routines. An “exit inventory” also measures pupils’ skills as they prepare to leave kindergarten.”
And speaking of assessments, Connecticut’s new law also adds new rounds of testing of teachers.
According to the law, “Teachers certified in comprehensive special education or remedial reading and language arts must pass the SBE reading instruction test beginning July 1, 2013.
This reading instruction test was approved by SBE on April 1, 2009. Teachers must receive a satisfactory score on the test in order for their teaching endorsement to be valid for grades K-6 and K-12.
Additionally, K-3 teachers and local boards of education employees who hold certificates with nursery-3 or elementary endorsements must take the practice version of the SBE reading instruction test beginning July 1, 2014. Employees holding initial, provisional, or professional educator certificates must comply.
Unfortunately, the legislation was so poorly written that, “It is unclear if each affected teacher must take the above tests once or yearly.”
You can find out more about Connecticut’s new reading assessment program here http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/rpt/2012-R-0519.htm and more about the national scene via the Education Week article here: