Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Malloy, State Budget, State Debt Malloy, State Budget, State Debt
[Or perhaps a better title would be: Didn’t that sign back there say… “Bridge Out” to which the elected official responded…what sign?]
Earlier this week, the CT Mirror ran a story entitled “Debate intensifies over CT’s credit card,“ while CT Newsjunkie’s story was State On Pace to Exceed Malloy’s Self-Imposed Debt Limit.
Since the stories contained quotes from State Senator John McKinney, a potential candidate for governor and rather defensive statements from Governor Malloy’s media operation, some readers may have misinterpreted the issue as being primarily political in nature.
However, the truth is far from that.
If you skipped over the stories about the state’s bonding and tomorrow’s state Bond Commissioner meeting, go back and read them very, very carefully.
They highlight what is surely one of the most important fiscal issues facing Connecticut and the failure of our elected officials to take the matter seriously. The course they are on will literally destroy Connecticut’s economic future.
The short version of the issue is as follows;
Tomorrow morning the Connecticut state Bond Commission will meet to borrow an additional $395.5 million in general obligation bonds.
With two more Bond Commission meetings left in the year, this new borrowing will “put Gov. Dannel P. Malloy within $20 million of his self-imposed $1.8 billion bonding limit.”
As CT Newsjunkie reported, at the first Bond Commission meeting this year Malloy said, “I can’t imagine that we would exceed $1.8 [billion], but we may be substantially less than that.”
But here we are…. At $1.8 billion and counting.
The $1.78 billion number actually exceeds last year’s amount of borrowing by nearly $400 million.
As State Senator John McKinney observed, “The governor, who two years ago set the record for the largest tax increase in state history, has today set a new record for the highest amount of borrowing in state history…This level of borrowing and these broken promises show a lack of leadership, a lack of fiscal responsibility, and a lack of consideration for the taxpaying public.”
McKinney’s statement was brushed aside by the Malloy administration who went on to claim that borrowing more money is not a drag on the state’s economy.
But that attitude overlooks a far more serious issue.
The drag on the economy is not so much a concern today, but the $19 billion in bonds the state must be off over the next twenty years will have significant and far-reaching ramifications.
Across the country, the average state per capita debt burden for state funded bonds is about $1,400. In Connecticut, the state per capita debt burden is just about $5,100.
And that is just the amount owed for bonds.
According to the state of Connecticut’s own numbers, over the next few decades, Connecticut taxpayers will have to come up with nearly $64 billion in addition to the funds necessary to pay for the State’s annual expenditures.
Besides the $19 billion in existing outstanding debt, Taxpayers will have to deal with the following obligations;
State Employee Retirement System (SERS) $ 11 billion
Teachers’ Retirement System $ 11 billion
State Post Employment Health and Life Benefits $18 billion
Teachers’ Post Employment Health Benefits $3.0
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles Deficit $1.5 billion (a major portion of which the state intends to borrow)
Like having to use a bigger and bigger portion of one’s salary to pay off the minimum balance on their credit cards, the state’s extraordinary debt is requiring more and more of the state budget to be diverted from services to debt payment.
Ten years ago, about 8.5 percent of the state budget went for debt service. Today that figure is over 10 percent and growing. In this year’s state budget, about $2.2 billion is going for debt service.
Compare that $2.2 billion to Governor Malloy’s claim that he improved education funding by providing about $50 million in new funds for Connecticut’s Education Cost Sharing Formula.
As Keith Phaneuf wrote in his CT Mirror article earlier this week,
“Financing for state government’s capital program basically follows a three-stage process:
- The legislature has sole authority to “authorize” bonding. Every two years lawmakers adopt a schedule of projects that may be financed with long-term borrowing.
- The bond commission — a 10-member panel of administration officials and legislators chaired by the governor — has sole authority to pick which projects will be financed.
- And when a state agency or some other entity is ready to actually carry out a project, the state treasurer’s office is empowered to issue bonds on Wall Street to raise the funds needed to cover expenses.
So while bond commission action doesn’t necessarily mean money will be spent right away, it does represent the state’s intention to move forward at some point with a project.
And given that Connecticut has one of the largest bonded debts, per capita, of any state in the nation, McKinney said Malloy should be more restrained about assigning projects to the credit card.”
To that, Malloy’s press operation shot back at McKinney saying, “The work supported by the bond commission creates jobs for Connecticut residents. It also allows the state to invest in local projects like schools, parks and senior centers. Senator McKinney should explain which important investment in job creation and quality of life improvements for residents in all of our towns and cities he does not support.”
While investment in “shovel” ready projects to create jobs is undoubtedly an important priority, the rather flippant response from the Malloy administration reveals the same lack of appreciation that previous governors have shown – Democrat, Republican and Independent – all of whom have pushed up the state’s indebtedness and undermined the long-term health of Connecticut’s economy.
The underlining problem is that many of today’s politicians will be long gone when the children of today’s taxpayers are given a bill that they can’t possibly pay.
For more about this issue, start by reading the CT Mirror story here: http://www.ctmirror.org/story/2013/09/23/debate-intensifies-over-cts-credit-card and then the CT Newsjunkie story here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/state_on_pace_to_exceed_malloys_self-imposed_debt_limit/#more.
Then when you have your courage, go check the General Assembly’s Fiscal Accountability Report which you can find here: (Especially look at pages 26-32): http://www.cga.ct.gov/ofa/Documents/year/FF/2013FF-20121115_Fiscal%20Accountability%20Report%20FY%2013%20-%20FY%2016.pdf
Malloy, New London, State Budget, State Representative Susan Johnson, State Senator Don Williams, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Teach for America, Windham Malloy, New London, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham
Since the Malloy administration gave Steven Adamowski his no-bid contract to serve as “Special Master” for Windham and New London, Adamowski has collected a salary of about $450,000 for himself and another $168,000 for his staff. Add in over $140,000 more for health and insurance benefits, $17,000 for travel and $29,000 for equipment and it starts to become clear just how much Connecticut’s taxpayers are “investing” in Adamowski and his “management style.”
Equally troublesome is Adamowski’s free hand with the state’s check book.
According to documents collected from a series of recent Freedom of Information requests, over the past two years, Adamowski has been on a massive spending spree of public funds in his capacity as “Special Master.”
In addition to ordering local officials in Windham and New London about how they should be spending their funds, Adamowski has his own stash of state funds to play with.
Over the past two years Adamowski has spent $132,000 on engineering projects and studies with a company called Friar Associations (There was no competitive bidding conducted related to those projects). Another engineering company, Gale Associates out of Weymouth, Massachusetts picked up another $15,250 courtesy of Adamowski.
The Center for Reform of School Systems, a consulting group out of Houston, Texas was given $39,000 in a no-bid contract to “provide 6 additional days of service for New London Special Master Grant Program.”
And the National SAM Innovation Project, a consulting operation out of the Jefferson County Public School System in Louisville, Kentucky collected $12,700 in another no-bid contract for services.
The law firm of Shipman & Goodwin received $34,000 (no-bid contract) and Adamowski dropped $12,370 on a company called Telogis for some refurbished computers, which came on top of his $29,000 equipment budget.
The organization called Leadership Greater Hartford was paid $34,000 to train Windham’s local school governance councils which is particularly ironic since Adamowski has consistently refused to include the school governance councils in key decision making, despite a Connecticut law that requires these local councils of parents, teachers and citizens to be consulted.
Another direct beneficiary of Adamowski’s spending has been CompassLearning, the Dallas based corporate entity that owns the rights to sell site licenses for the so-called Renzulli Academy. Despite very strong opposition to Adamowski’s push to open Renzulli Gifted and Talented schools in Windham and New London, CompassLearning was paid $22,500 in public funds for Renzulli Annual Site Licenses for ALL Windham schools.
The Connecticut Science Center, the publicly funded science museum in Hartford, which was supposed to “partner” with Windham’s new STEM Magnet School, was paid more than $90,000.
And Teach for America collected a finder’s fee of at least $35,000 from Adamowski, on top of the $33,000 that Teach for America received from the Windham School System. Wait, What? readers may recall that while TFA charges most cities $2,500 to $3,000 for each TFA recruit they place in a local school, Adamowski signed a deal with Teach for America that guaranteed them $4,000 per TFA recruit.
Add in another $72,000 for computer based “MAP Assessment testing” and tens of thousands of dollars that are simply listed as “teacher stipends” or “professional development” and we start to get a clearer picture of how the “Special Master” is spending taxpayer funds in a “special way.”
Perhaps the oddest expense of all are two checks totaling $125,000 that were written as part of Adamowski’s on-going effort to “persuade” the Town of Windham to purchase the propriety municipal finance software called MUNIS. Adamowski has been engaged in a similar effort to force New London to choose MUNIS as their software vendor.
It all bring us back to the key question of why Connecticut’s legislators or Connecticut’s auditors haven’t stepped in to put a stop to Adamowski and his no-bid, no-rules spending spree of our scarce public funds.
Alliance Districts, Malloy, Mass Insight company, State Budget, Stefan Pryor Alliance Districts, ECS Formula, Malloy, State Budget, Stefan Pryor
Although the amount of money was relatively small, Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly made a big deal this year trying to persuade towns, schools, teachers, parents and the general public that they were increasing funding for Connecticut’s under-funded public schools.
While about $50 million was added to Connecticut’s Education Cost Sharing Formula for distribution to the state’s local public schools, the vast majority of those funds were targeted to a select group of the 30 poorest towns that are called “Alliance Districts” under Malloy’s education reform initiative. These are the towns with the greatest poverty and have the largest number of students who face language barriers or need special education services.
But there was a huge catch. Rather than give the towns flexibility to spend the money where it was needed most, in order for Alliance Districts to receive their funds, they were required to submit detailed “Year 2 Alliance District Plans” by Friday, June 28, at 5 p.m.
The promise was that the State Department of Education would quickly review those plans and release the funds so that towns could ramp-up their programs in time for the beginning of the school year.
But here we are, five weeks later, the new school year begins in just weeks and towns have not heard whether or when they will get any of the promised new money.
Without the funds, people can’t be hired, programs can’t be started and children won’t be getting the additional academic services they need.
The fundamental problem is that Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, has decimated the capabilities of the State Department of Education and has turned over much of the day to day operation of the agency to high-priced consultants who don’t know Connecticut, don’t have the expertise to do the jobs they’ve been assigned and are sucking scarce taxpayer dollars away from vital services.
Just this spring Stefan Pryor and his inner circle of advisors let go seven key experts in the State Department of Education who were helping Alliance Districts to develop and implement effective programs to improve academic performance. Then, to make matters even worse, Pryor transferred the three key people who worked on improving English as a Second Language programs, provided technical support for towns so that they could do a better job developing culturally appropriate programing and also removed the staff expert in-charge of developing programs to reduce bullying and improve school climate.
Instead of relying on the dedicated, Connecticut based experts; Pryor hired an out-of-state company for nearly a million dollars. That company, in turn, sent in five people with virtually no educational experience what-so-ever.
Now, with Year 2 Alliance District plans filed, the chickens are coming home to roost.
Thirty plans need to be reviewed and approved before the towns can get the money they were promised but Commissioner Pryor is either unwilling or unable to get the job done in a timely, efficient and effective way.
Left twisting in the wind —- the students, teachers and taxpayers of Ansonia, Bloomfield, Bridgeport, Bristol, Danbury, Derby, East Hartford, East Haven, East Windsor, Hamden, Hartford, Killingly, Manchester, Meriden, Middletown, Naugatuck, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, Norwich, Putnam, Stamford, Vernon, Waterbury, West Haven, Winchester, Windham, Windsor and Windsor Locks.
While Pryor’s operation has put together “teams” to review the plans, the majority of team members lack the experience necessary to get the job done right.
Although a few remaining Department of Education professional staff have been assigned to help with the review process, the bulk of the work is being done by the out-of-state consultants from Mass Insight.
One Mass Insight consultant’s real world experience was working with a major charter school chain and another worked for the corporate funded reform organization called New Visions for Public Schools. A third worked for yet another corporate funded education reform entity called BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life.) None of them have any experience working in Connecticut.
Of course, there is also the Mass Insight “project manager” whose experience was working in a non-classroom, management position for Commissioner Pryor’s charter school management company, Achievement First. Inc. This is not the first consultant to have direct ties to the company Pryor set up and helped manage before coming Malloy’s commissioner of education.
Perhaps the most incredible development of all is that teams reviewing the Year 2 Alliance District Plans include Pryor’s two law school interns, who despite no experience at all, are helping to play a pivotal role in allocating tens of millions in taxpayer funds.
Thirty board of educations…
Thirty school superintendents…
Hundreds of schools…
And tens of thousands of students are all waiting for the Commissioner of Education and his operation to get their act together so students can actually access the programs and services they were promised.
Such incompetence would never, ever be deemed acceptable in any other setting.
It is sad and unsettling commentary that with only weeks to go until the new school year begins, the Malloy administration can’t even tell Connecticut towns and school districts how much money they will be getting this year.
Connecticut General Assembly, CT Voices for Children, Malloy, State Budget, State Debt, State Deficit Connecticut General Assembly, CT Voice for Children, Malloy, State Budget, State Debt, State Deficit
During the last gubernatorial campaign, each side claimed that they had a deeper commitment to fiscal responsibility and government transparency.
Now more than two and a half years later we are further away from both concepts than most people could have possibly conceived of.
In an announcement that will come as no surprise to Wait, What? readers, a report by the Fiscal Policy Center, which is part of Connecticut Voices for Children has determined that we should consider changing our state song from Yankee Doodle Dandy to Bob Dylan’s famous ballad, “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).”
The non-partisan Fiscal Policy Center concludes;
“By relying on borrowing and one-time fixes, we’re undermining the long-term stability of the budget and gambling with these investments in our children’s future.”
The reported on the state budget that was proposed by Governor Malloy and approved by the Connecticut General Assembly “warns that the ‘quick-fix’ budget solutions adopted in the budget will deepen the state’s long-term budget deficit and could ultimately endanger funding for child and family services.”
The report goes on to explain that the new budget uses borrowing, one-time revenues, and fund transfers to close budget deficits and cover operating expenses and reports that, “ By relying on these measures, rather than recurring revenues to close the state’s budget gap…state policymakers have opened up a larger revenue hole in future budget years.”
Key problems about Connecticut’s state budget that highlighted in the new report include:
- The new state budget “relies on almost $600 million in borrowing, over $400 million in temporary fund transfers, and $500 million in one-time revenues to pay for operating expenses. Because these funding sources will dry up at the end of the two-year budget, there is currently a projected state deficit of $712 million in Fiscal Year 2016 and comparable holes in 2017 to 2018.”
- “Reliance on debt and one-time revenues will further increase budget risks for the state if economic growth does not return quickly. The state’s budget projections assume that robust economic growth will result in increased state tax revenues. With a nearly empty Rainy Day reserve fund, if this growth does not emerge, Connecticut would have little choice but to turn immediately to deep cuts, steep tax increases, and more borrowing.”
- “The state government has transformed over $1 billion in debt it owed itself and its employees into debt it now owes to bondholders, resulting in less flexibility and control of the repayment of that debt. While the state budget plan pays down funds owed to the state employee and teacher pension systems, it does so by borrowing money from private bondholders. In addition, the state has borrowed money from the private market to meet stricter accounting requirements under the rules of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).”
You can find the full report, entitled “A Gambler’s Budget: the Fiscal Year 2014-15 State Budget,” at www.ctvoices.org.
Gas Tax, Malloy, State Budget, Transportation Gas Tax, Malloy, State Budget, Transportation
As Wait, What? readers know, despite the claim that the Connecticut state budget proposed by Governor Malloy and adopted by the Connecticut General Assembly contained “no new taxes,” the largest gas tax increase in Connecticut history went into effect last Monday (July 1st).
In addition to the traditional 25-cents-per-gallon gas tax that is added at the pumps, Connecticut has a wholesale fuel tax that is charged when the gasoline is imported into the state. On July 1, the wholesale tax was increased from an effective rate of 7.53 percent to 8.81 percent. As a result, the wholesale tax on a gallon of gas increased by about 4 cents. The wholesale tax now adds about 21-cents-per-gallon, on top of the 25-cents-per-gallon standard gas tax.
As a result of this latest gas tax increase, Connecticut drivers will pay an extra $60 million in gas taxes this year and those funds will not be going to pay for transportation programs. Instead, as has been the case for years, gas tax revenues are being “siphoned off” to pay for non-transportation general fund expenses.
As explained in a recent expose by the CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf, “Between 2005 and 2013, about $1.27 billion raised by the state’s wholesale gas tax has been spent on non-transportation programs.”
In fact, since 2005, Connecticut’s 2nd gas tax (the wholesale fuel tax) has brought in about $2.6 billion and only about half of that amount has gone to pay for transportation programs and improvements.
This bait and switch policy began when Connecticut’s elected officials rolled out a rather paltry transportation infrastructure renewal plan in 2005.
At the time, legislators were hesitant to raise the gas tax fearing voters would disapprove, especially since gasoline taxes are very regressive and are especially hard on middle-income, working families who have to drive to work.
So instead of raising the 25-cents-per-gallon gas tax, the General Assembly adopted a series of increases to Connecticut’s second gas tax, the wholesale fuel tax, a tax that is much harder to see since the impact occurs before the gasoline ever gets to the gas pumps.
But with the spike in gas prices post 2005, the wholesale gas tax increase brought in more money than expected. Rather than use the extra funds to speed up or expand the infrastructure renewal program, the extra funds were used to cover growing deficits in the General Fund budget.
The reliance on using transportation-related revenue to pay for non-transportation costs has continued over the past eight years.
While a candidate for Governor, “Dan” Malloy promised to re-dedicate transportation revenue for transportation programs, but as Governor, Dannel Malloy has actually shifted even more non-transportation costs to the gas tax revenue stream.
As Keith Phaneuf explains in his recent article, “The Democratic governor likes to note that the new budget he signed will dedicate an extra $181 million in wholesale fuel tax receipts to transportation…But it also cancels another $151 million transfer to transportation and shifts an additional $91 million from this program into the General Fund.
Add up the pluses and minuses, and transportation loses $60 million in the new fiscal year — the value of Monday’s gasoline tax hike.”
Phaneuf adds, “The new budget dedicates $1.24 billion to the Special Transportation Fund in the new fiscal year, $34 million more than last year — but $93 million below the level necessary just to maintain current services.”
But not one to let the facts stand in the way of his rhetoric, last week, Governor Malloy told the WNPR radio show, Where We Live, “We are weaning off of the practice” of using transportation revenue for non-transportation expenses.
According to the CT Mirror article, “The governor said that by the 2014-15 fiscal year, transportation would be required to share only $15 million with the General Fund.
“Following that it should be zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,” Malloy told host John Dankosky. “That’s what we’ve planned for, so no money would be coming out.”
Phaneuf’s article is a “must read” for anyone interested in how Connecticut actually budgets its resources and the problems facing Connecticut’s transportation programs and infrastructure.
You can find the article here: https://www.ctmirror.org/story/another-bypass-%E2%80%94-latest-gas-tax-hike-wont-help-roads-rail-bridges
Connecticut General Assembly, Corporate Welfare, Economic Development, Economy, Hospitals, Layoffs, Malloy, State Budget Connecticut General Assembly, Economic Development, Hospitals, Jobs, layoffs, Malloy, State Budget
With a state-economy ranked 50th in the nation, one would think that Governor Malloy and our elected officials who drop their economic development strategy that relies on corporate welfare to lure hedge fund companies and other corporate giants to move or stay in Connecticut.
But in the legislative session that just ended, Malloy and the majority decided to stay the course and, in the process, throw Connecticut’s hospitals under the bus. Despite the rhetoric from the Malloy Administration that the massive cut to hospitals would have no impact, policymakers knew the consequences and turned a blind eye to the fact that the new state budget would lead to the loss of hundreds of Connecticut jobs.
The CT Mirror summarized the situations when they listed Connecticut’s hospitals as one of the biggest “losers” during the recent session. The CT Mirror wrote:
“Hospitals: Hospital officials decried the governor’s proposal to cut more than $500 million in funding from hospitals, saying it will lead to job cuts and hurt patient care. But their pleas went largely unanswered. The next two-year budget slashes payments hospitals receive to compensate them for treating uninsured and underinsured patients, and money they currently receive as reimbursement for a provider tax they pay. The Malloy administration says the hospitals will still receive more money because more people will have health insurance, but hospitals counter that the funds will only come from treating thousands more poor patients…”
The impact of the Malloy administration’s approach started to be seen earlier this week when, according to the Connecticut Post, St. Vincent’s Medical Center “eliminated 100 positions and laid off nearly 50 employees this week, including some nurses and doctors. The cuts are expected to save the hospital about $10 million.”
As hospital’s vice president for health services explained, “This is a case of trying to look forward and protecting the direction and mission of our organization as the ground shifts beneath us.”
There is no question that many senior hospital administrators are overpaid and are diverting scarce resources away from patient care, but rather than confront that controversy head on, Malloy and the legislature simply slashed the amount of state funds going to hospitals and left the overcompensation issue unaddressed.
According to the Connecticut Post article, “Layoffs began Monday and continued Tuesday. The cuts were across all levels of the hospital, and included some nurse and doctor positions…Of the positions cut, 48 were filled and resulted in layoffs.”
As the Connecticut Hospital Association warned during the legislative session, “A state budget that cuts hospitals by $550 million will result in job loss and the loss of programs and services…”
There is simply no question that most hospitals around the state will be laying off employees as a result of the new state budget.
And for the record, these aren’t mythical six figure jobs that companies are supposed to be creating over the next ten years; these are the very real jobs of the very real residents in communities across Connecticut.
Adding to the disaster is the fact that not only will Connecticut residents be losing their jobs, but access to quality health care in our local hospitals will be undermined.
You can read more about the St. Vincent’s Medical Center layoffs here: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/St-Vincent-s-to-eliminate-100-jobs-4593474.php
Gas Tax, Malloy, State Budget, Taxes Gas Tax, Malloy, State Budget, Taxes, Wyman
On Thursday, Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman held a press conference to address issues surrounding the newly adopted state budget. Malloy told reporters, “I think that there are no taxes in this budget that were not present previously…There are no new taxes.”
That is, the Governor is suggesting that the following are not “new taxes”…
- The largest gas tax increase in Connecticut history that will take effect on July 1, 2013. At present wholesale prices, the additional gas tax will add about 4 cents per gallon. This increase will bring in about $60 million to Connecticut’s Transportation Fund. However, as the CT Mirror noted, “the new budget then shifts $91 million from that fund into non-transportation programs next fiscal year.”
- $17.5 million more from extending the $2.50 per megawatt-hour tax on power plants from July 1, 2013 to October 1, 2013 (Malloy had wanted a 2 year extension).
- $44 million more in FY14 and $74 million more in FY15 due to retaining the 20 percent surcharge on the corporation tax that was supposed to end on July 1, 2013.
- $27 million more each year as a result of keeping the cap on an insurance premium credit program for businesses.
- The state will also have an additional $21 more next year by reducing Connecticut’s Earned Income Tax Credit from 30 percent of the federal EITC to 25 percent. It would then go to 27.5 percent in the second year of the budget.
- As the CT Mirror also reported, the new budget has a huge impact by re-directing the money that was coming in as a result of a tax on hospital bills. “Hospitals have been paying $350 million a year through a provider tax since July 2011. But the state had been reimbursing hospitals for all of those dollars, using the tax as a mechanism to qualify for more federal health care assistance. This new budget reduces aid to hospitals by more than $500 million in total over the next two fiscal years, including about $400 million cut from the grants used to reimburse hospitals for the provider tax they pay.” (CT Mirror)
- And approximately $31 million in new state revenue as a result of allowing Keno in Connecticut bars and restaurants. (The $31 million is after the Compact with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes are modified to provide each tribe with 12.5 percent state’s Keno proceeds.)
In addition, the two-year budget is balanced by shifting money to the state’s General Fund that was supposed to be used for particular purposes and paid out of dedicated funds:
- $25 million from the banking fund.
- $12 million the tobacco and health trust fund.
- $35.4 million from energy efficiency programs.
- $35 million from CRRA (the quasi-public trash authority).
- $10 million from a stem cell research fund (But the state will barrow an additional $10 million for that research.
- $1 million from the probate court fund.
- And the new budget also utilizes this year’s entire $221 million projecting surplus, instead of using it to pay down outstanding debt.
Early Childhood Education, Malloy, State Budget, State Legislature Early Childhood Education, Malloy, State Budget, State Legislature
Let’s just say it wasn’t one of Connecticut Legislature’s finest moments.
As two news stories today make pretty clear, a “he said/he said” situation has put $127 million in early childhood funding in jeopardy.
The CT Mirror’s article is entitled Childcare providers worry their money held hostage by politics, while CTNewsjunkie’ s story is called Did Early Childhood Bill Fall Victim To Sunday Bow Hunting?
Here’s the PROBLEM (as reported by CTMirror):
“The state budget shifts $127 million in funding from various state agencies into a new Office of Early Childhood Education… But the office was never statutorily created because the bill that did so was never approved by the state House of Representatives or Senate.”
According to the CT Mirror, “Early childcare providers are concerned the money they currently receive from the state to care for thousands of children is going to stop flowing in three weeks –- because the state budget legislators approved transfers money to an office that doesn’t exist.”
The article goes on to report, “And officials at the State Department of Education are just as perplexed…’We are trying to figure out what it means,’ Brian Mahoney, the agency’s budget chief, said during an interview Thursday.”
Now that is a problem.
So what happened?
The President Pro Tempore of the Connecticut State Senate, Democrat Donald E. Williams Jr. explained that the Republicans held the early childhood bill “hostage” in order to force the State Senate to approve a bill allowing the bow hunting of deer on Sundays.
As William’s explained, “It was reported to me Republicans were holding it hostage for a completely unrelated and obscure issue: Sunday hunting,”
The Republican Leader of the Connecticut House of Representatives, Lawrence Cafero Jr., told the CT Mirror, “I wasn’t going to stop the early childhood bill…To fingerpoint to my side is an absolute joke.”
Meanwhile, CTNewsjunkie wrote, “Cafero claimed that, ‘you can’t boil the issue down to one bill or another. He said the Democrats wasted time on the last day by trying to sneak language into a bill that moved up the date of when undocumented immigrants could apply for their driver’s licenses. That language was eventually removed, but in the meantime Republicans slowed down debate on the floor…”
But have no fear, Malloy and legislators are already thinking about how to proceed. As the CTNewsjunkie explained, “Williams said they are currently exploring their options and determining whether they can use an executive order and appropriate the funds through one of the existing state agencies. There’s also the option of returning for a special session, or if Malloy vetoes any legislation, a veto session. But Williams said that would be a last resort.”
Good to know that our elected officials can handle the stresses associated with the last few days of the legislative session.
Here are links to the two articles: http://www.ctmirror.org/story/childcare-providers-worry-their-money-held-hostage-politics and http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/did_early_childhood_bill_fall_victim_to_sunday_bow_hunting/
Charter Schools, Malloy, Our Piece of the Pie, State Budget, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham Charter Schools, OPP, Our Piece of the Piece, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham
On Wednesday, June 5, 2013 the Connecticut’s State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on a proposed new charter school for Windham, Connecticut called The Path Academy.
The Path Academy is a project of Our Piece of the Pie, a Hartford-based “youth development agency” that seeks to “help young people access and attain a mix of the educational, employment, and personal skills that contribute to their success.”
One of their goals is to help “over-age, under-credit (OU) students” get a high school diploma. The term is a bit misleading because it doesn’t mean that the student is over 21 or even 18. In many cases it just means the student has had academic problems and isn’t at the standard grade level for that age.
A few years ago OPP partnered with the Hartford Public School System to open Opportunity High School. Students remain in the Hartford school system, Hartford teachers provide the academic training and OPP provides counseling and support services.
With a student population of nearly 5,400 Hartford students in the high school grades, OPP’s Opportunity High School serves approximately 120 students or about 2 percent of the student body. According to their website they’ve graduated 81 students since 2009.
Now, despite their fundamental lack of genuine, longer-term experience running a full-fledged school, OPP is looking to get in on the action as the Malloy Administration opens the taxpayer spigot and dramatically increases funding for the charter school industry.
Using the name Path Academy, Our Piece of the Pie has submitted a 604 page proposal to open a school in Windham for “over-age, under-credit (OU) students.” The primary difference is that OPP is claiming that it is capable of running the entire school on its own, with no participation by the Windham School System or Windham educators and administrators.
Starting with 120 students, OPPs plan is to expand to 200 students in the second year. They also claim that 75% of the slots will be reserved for Windham students, while the rest will come from neighboring towns.
With less than 650 total high school students in Windham, OPP would need to increase their “catchment” from the 2% they get as part of the Hartford School System to more like 23% of Windham’s students…a task that is hardly achievable.
Despite having trouble in school, some students don’t need or want to leave the traditional school setting, while others are already taking advantage of alternative programs for students who are facing academic problems.
To suggest that OPP could fill 75% of its seats with Windham students is simply not possible.
Furthermore, OPP claims that it will fill the remainder of its seats with students from neighboring towns, but of course, nearly all the towns in the region, including Windham, already have programs to support “under-credit” students.
However, instead of having a reasonable discussion about augmenting existing public school programs, the State Board of Education seems poised to provide OPP with a sweetheart deal that would cost taxpayers over $12 million over the first five years alone, and that is using OPP’s own figures.
In addition, while no site for this new school has been announced, OPP has said that it has been negotiating with the out-of-state owners of a boarded up old movie theater in town. Experts had previously determined the cost to renovate the old Jillson Square Movie Theater would be in the millions, Our Piece of the Pie told local officials that their architects disagreed and that costs would be manageable.
More to the point, state and local taxpayers have already invested millions into specialized programs to help academically challenged students including existing programs at EastConn, the regional’s education service center, as well as programs in the regions community colleges, high schools and adult education programs.
Another troubling aspect of this proposal is that Path Academy’s plan notes that the largest cohort of “over-age, under-credit (OU) students” are bi-lingual and English Language Learners, but the plan put forward by the Path Academy/Our Piece of the Pie®, Inc. is particularly vague on how it would successfully address the particular demographics of Willimantic.
Finally, the OPP proposal plans to, “use a number of computer and web-based tools to enhance student learning. Students will engage in content acquisition on computer-based education programs, and will practice applying these skills using web-based tools, such as Glogster or Padlet. Path Academy will use Edgenuity™ as the primary computer-based education program to support classroom learning. Student learning will be supported by a number of supplementary computer-based education programs, most prevalently, Khan Academy and Wilson Reading Trainer. ” (While it is true that some schools are turning to the use of computer-based learning, considering these are, by definition, some of the most difficult students to engage, putting these young people in front of a computer, even “when blended” with face-to-face instruction, doesn’t seem like the most appropriate solution for the Windham region).
In the end, the question, though, is not whether OPP has or has not had limited success with at-risk youth, but whether scarce resources would be better spent infusing more effective programing into existing public schools rather than create yet another charter school in the state.
With a new state budget on the horizon that fails to adequately fund existing services and appears to be in deficit the day it takes effect, now is hardly the time to throw even more funds at the charter school industry.
Few if any of the new charter school applications seem to have much merit, but the OPP plan for Windham is among the least impressive.
That said, we’ll know soon enough just where the State Board of Education’s priorities lie when it comes to the needs of Windham and eastern Connecticut.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Malloy, State Budget, Stefan Pryor Achievement First, Charter Schools, Malloy, State Budget, Stefan Pryor
In a story entitled Amistad Sends 30 To College, “Loses” 23, the New Haven Independent highlights what Wait, What? readers have known for a while; when the charter school management company, Achievement First Inc. claims that they achieve a “100 percent college acceptance rate,” it should not be considered a “statement of fact.”
Achievement First, of course, being the charter school management company founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
As the New Haven Independent explains in their story about Achievement First, “The “100 percent” figure does not give the full picture for the whole group of kids who entered Amistad four years ago. Data show that for nearly one of them who walked across the stage Wednesday, another was “lost” along the way. Students “lost” to Amistad include one senior who withdrew in March to attend adult education.”
Readers may remember the following chart, published in an earlier Wait, What? post that explains the real story of enrollment decline using 2010 data.
Enrollment Decline in New Haven High Schools
||4 year decline
|New Haven School System
|Achievement First – Amistad
|Achievement First – Elm City
|Wilbur Cross High School
|James Hillhouse High School
|Cooperative High School
|Hill Regional Career High School
|Hyde School of Health
|High School in the Community
|New Haven Academy
|Metropolitan Business High School
The most important contribution that the New Haven Independent makes in the search for the truth about the charter school propaganda machine is how charter schools hold students back students in their senior year of high school to inflate the appearance that 100% of the graduating seniors get into college.
The New Haven Independent writes, “Of the 64 students who entered Amistad High in 2009 as freshmen, plus two who joined the group after freshman year, 25 are graduating this year and heading to college; seven were retained and plan to graduate high school next year; and 34 withdrew from the school along the way, according to Achievement First spokeswoman Amanda Pinto.”
Congratulations to the twenty-five students. They, their families and the school should be proud of its achievement. But Achievement First’s decision to consistently misrepresent the facts is more than troubling.
So the fact is that 66 students started their freshman year at Achievement First’s high school and 25 are “graduating and heading to college.”
That is not a graduation rate of 100%.
In fact, it is a graduation rate of 38%.
Perhaps even more shocking, and certainly much more revealing, is Achievement First’s statement that “seven were retained and plan to graduate high school next year.”
Retained and plan to graduate?
Talk about an Orwellian concept.
These students completed four years of high school at Achievement First for four years. Did they complete their high school work but didn’t get into a college so they weren’t allowed to graduate or were they told they might not get into a college so were held back?
As a result of this decision to retain these students, Connecticut taxpayers are now going to have to come up with another $100,000 or more considering the cost of the charter school grant, transportation costs and any other costs picked up by New Haven and the State of Connecticut.
Is making those seven students re-take their senior year truly the best use of that $100,000 or would those funds be better spent in some other school. Allowing those students to graduate, take community college courses for a year and then attempt to transfer to a “more prestigious” four year college may be a far better strategy for the students, their families and taxpayers.
But instead Achievement First has somehow decided to “retain” these students despite the fact that they have completed four years of a “rigorous” education.
As for those who “left,” Achievement First, the New Haven Independent adds, “Of the 34 kids who withdrew, 11 transferred for reasons Amistad considered “acceptable,” such as moving out of state or to a competitive private school. Another 23 were considered a “loss,” meaning they transferred out for reasons the school deemed unacceptable, such as behavior problems or trouble adjusting to school culture, Pinto said.”
As each day goes by, more and more evidence surfaces that prove Achievement First is failing to provide Connecticut students with the equal access to a public education that is guaranteed under Connecticut law.
Like much of the evidence we’ve seen before, this latest news article adds more information that raises extremely serious questions about what is going on at Achievement First. They are questions that require a full and complete investigation by Connecticut’s policymakers to determine whether Achievement First should even be allowed to continue to receive public funds.
If Achievement First wants to be a private school management company, that runs schools using private school policies, that is their right, but in doing so they void their right to be funded with taxpayer funds.
To read the full New Haven Independent articles go to: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/amistad_signing_ceremony/