Common Core, Gubernatorial Election 2014, Malloy, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Stefan Pryor, Teachers Common Core, Malloy, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Stefan Pryor, Teachers, Teaching Profession
Yesterday was an especially difficult day for many public school teachers (and students) in Connecticut and across the country.
The corporate education reform industry’s war on public education and public school teachers took a major step forward with the introduction of the new Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test of a test.
Late in the day, one Connecticut teacher described the scene in her classroom as more than half of the 8 and 9-year-old students began to panic, and many started crying, when they couldn’t log onto the “test of a test.”
Even after spending hundreds of millions, the Common Core test is far from being ready to use.
In another school, a teacher reported the anger and frustration on the part of students and the teacher when the Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test suddenly crashed with 45 minutes left before the testing period was supposed to conclude.
And a third teacher wrote to say that she managed to hold back her tears and frustration until she got home last night.
Meanwhile as reported in the Washington Post and on Diane Ravitch’s blog,
“Susan Sluyter is a veteran teacher of young children in the Cambridge Public Schools who has been connected to the district for nearly 20 years and teaching for more than 25 years. Last month she sent a resignation letter ( “with deep love and a broken heart”) explaining that she could no longer align her understanding of how young children learn best in safe, developmentally appropriate environments with the testing and data collection mandates imposed on teachers today.“
Here in Connecticut, anecdotal data continues to flow in from around the state that record numbers of veteran teachers will be retiring and resigning at the end of the school years.
The devastation taking place in our public schools is a direct result of the policies being pushed by Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and their band of corporate education reform industry allies and thugs.
Instead of having the courage to face the realities of inadequate funding, growing poverty among students, an increased number of students facing English language barriers and more under-served students with special education needs, Malloy, Stefan Pryor and their ilk have turned to the snake oil salesman to institute a set of developmentally inappropriate Common Core Standards, an absurd and unfair Common Core Testing Scheme and an unfair and detrimental teacher evaluation system that relies on those faulty Common Core tests.
The chaos in our public schools is a direct result of the “education reforms” Governor Malloy pushed through the Connecticut General Assembly in 2012.
A prime directive of Malloy’s approach has not only been to destroy the teaching profession but to undermine the rights of parents. In fact, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Steven Pryor, has spent millions in taxpayer funds to mislead parents into thinking they did not even have the right to opt their children out of the detrimental Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test of a test.
Their claims are about what parents and the state could or could not do have been consistently false. As if to reiterate just how far off-base Malloy and his team have been, the Indiana Legislature recently dropped the whole Common Core program completely.
But here in Connecticut, the Malloy initiatives go forward despite a complete lack of evidence that they will have any positive impact on the quality Connecticut’s public education system.
And as a result of their arrogance and stupidity, Connecticut’s children and teachers suffer.
The sad fact is that Connecticut’s teachers, like the long-term unemployed, the working poor and the broader middle class are seeing first-hand the impact of a government that has gone amok and elected and appointed officials who have lost their ability to represent the people they swore to serve.
It is nothing short of a sad and disgusting state of affairs.
It is impossible to accurately describe the conditions in the trenches as Connecticut’s teachers fight to provide children with a safe, healthy and comprehensive educational experience.
In the face of our government’s policies, the desire to give up is understandable.
On behalf of all of us who honor teachers and the teaching profession, we hope teachers will not give up but will help us fight back against these bad public policies.
As teachers grapple with the reality of the situation, the words of a song come to mind. It was written by my favorite musical artist, Peter Gabriel, and the lyrics are as follows.
“Don’t Give Up” (By Peter Gabriel, ft. Kate Bush)
in this proud land we grew up strong
we were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail
no fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
I’ve changed my face, I’ve changed my name
but no one wants you when you lose
don’t give up
‘cos you have friends
don’t give up
you’re not beaten yet
don’t give up
I know you can make it good
though I saw it all around
never thought I could be affected
thought that we’d be the last to go
it is so strange the way things turn
drove the night toward my home
the place that I was born, on the lakeside
as daylight broke, I saw the earth
the trees had burned down to the ground
don’t give up
you still have us
don’t give up
we don’t need much of anything
don’t give up
’cause somewhere there’s a place
where we belong
rest your head
you worry too much
it’s going to be alright
when times get rough
you can fall back on us
don’t give up
please don’t give up
‘got to walk out of here
I can’t take anymore
going to stand on that bridge
keep my eyes down below
whatever may come
and whatever may go
that river’s flowing
that river’s flowing
moved on to another town
tried hard to settle down
for every job, so many men
so many men no-one needs
don’t give up
’cause you have friends
don’t give up
you’re not the only one
don’t give up
no reason to be ashamed
don’t give up
you still have us
don’t give up now
we’re proud of who you are
don’t give up
you know it’s never been easy
don’t give up
’cause I believe there’s a place
there’s a place where we belong
Here is a link to the song: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/petergabriel/dontgiveup.html
Here is a link to a video of one of his performances: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjEq-r2agqc
When it comes to our children, our teachers, our public schools and the future of our democratic society, the most important issue of the 2014 election is pushing back the corporate education reform industry and taking back control of our public schools.
And as we know in Connecticut, the battle is not a partisan one. With Democratic governors like Dannel Malloy, the fight is not against Republicans or Democrats but against those who have been bought up or aligned themselves with the corporate education reform industry.
Bridgeport, Gubernatorial Election 2014, Kenneth Moales, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Teachers Bridgeport, Kenneth Moales Jr., Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Teachers
Many school teachers have already decided that they won’t be voting for Governor Malloy if he runs again…
And those who have yet to make up their minds may join their colleagues in voting against Malloy as they watch Malloy’s allies scapegoat teachers in the upcoming Bridgeport teacher contract negotiations.
As the Connecticut Post recently explained, “Talks to change what Mayor Bill Finch and school board Chairman Kenneth Moales Jr. have called the worst teacher’s contract” have begun in Bridgeport.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Bridgeport Board of Education Chairman Kenneth Moales Jr. and Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools Paul Vallas have all been leading voices for Governor Malloy, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the rest of the corporate education reform industry in Connecticut.
Outrageous, insulting and irresponsible rhetoric has been one of their primary weapons.
Every school teacher in Connecticut recalls Governor Malloy’s comment that teachers need only show up for four years to get tenure and few will forget that it was Malloy who said that he didn’t mind requiring teachers to teach to the test as long as test scores went up.
As Wait, What? readers know, Finch and Moales have had their own share of incredible statements.
Calling the present Bridgeport contract the “worst teacher’s contract” is just one more example.
Meanwhile, both Finch and Moales have ducked the fact that they are violating Connecticut state law by allowing the City of Bridgeport to fail to meet Connecticut’s minimum budget expenditure law.
And Bridgeport’s failure to allocate sufficient funds for its public schools is not only hurting the quality of education for Bridgeport’s children but will cost Bridgeport taxpayers millions unless Finch can get Malloy, Pryor and the Connecticut General Assembly to exempt them from having to follow the laws that apply to every other Connecticut community.
But instead of dealing with the financial crisis that they are creating, Finch and the other Malloy supporters in Bridgeport are going to try to create a diversion by making the teachers, the Bridgeport Education Association and the teacher’s contract the “big issue” of the year.
As the Connecticut Post article reveals, when Finch presented his budget to the newspaper, “Finch said he was planning to count on Vallas to radically change the current teacher’s union contract.”
Finch told the Connecticut Post, “I am working very closely with Vallas. He’s never seen a contract as bad as this…We need major concessions in that contract and we are prepared to go to whatever extent to get them.”
- Worst contract Vallas has ever seen?
- “We need major concessions in that contract and we are prepared to go to whatever extent to get them.”
School teachers across Connecticut recognize that this hyperbole is so absurd that it actually makes it very clear just what these education reform industry representatives are actually pushing.
As the 2014 gubernatorial election approaches, let no one fool themselves.
Governor Malloy has aligned himself with Stefan Pryor, Bill Finch, Kenneth Moales, Paul Vallas and Steven Adamowski and these individuals are engaged in an all-out war to blame teachers and undermine teacher’s collective bargaining rights.
There is simply no doubt that Governor Malloy’s education reform bill was the most anti-teacher, anti-union “reform bill” introduced by any Democratic governor in the nation.
That same mentality is driving Finch, Moales and Vallas in Bridgeport.
The political reality is that as a result of these developments, Bridgeport’s teacher contract negotiations could very well be the nail in Malloy’s political coffin, if it hasn’t already been nailed shut.
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, Gubernatorial Election 2014, Malloy, Teachers, Unions, Windham Education Reform, Gubernatorial Election 2014, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Teachers, Unions
Watching the Malloy administration at work, it almost seems that the Governor and his senior appointees are constantly working to alienate the base of the Democratic Party.
As a Democrat, it is not only disturbing to watch but their actions hurt the Democratic Party and further jeopardize the Governor’s re-election chances. An elected official has an obligation to represent everyone, but America’s democratic political system is built around a nominating and election process that requires a committed base of supporters who will work hard on behalf of their candidate.
The transformation from Dan Malloy, the candidate, to Dannel Malloy the Governor is a case study in how to leave your base behind. In his first year the target was state employees. In his second year it was teachers. Both years, those who believe in the right to collectively bargain rightfully felt under assault.
The latest example arose last night in the Town of Windham, Connecticut, when Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor’s new PowerPoint on his Commissioner’s Network was handed out.
The presentation includes a particularly insulting approach to the “Election-to-Work” process that is included in Governor Malloy’s education reform bill.
Election-to-Work and Right-to-Work are two very different concepts on the collective bargaining continuum.
Right-to-Work provisions prohibit, as a matter of law, collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join unions, pay union dues or fees or participate in union activities in any way. Right-to-Work laws exist in 24 states and are seen as one of the most serious attacks that anti-union forces are mustering in their anti-collective bargaining efforts.
Election-to-Work is a very different concept. Election-to-Work agreements provide a mechanism for a group of employees to work under a different or special set of rules from those provided for in the basic collective bargaining agreement.
Election-to-Work agreements have been used in a variety of school districts around the nation, including in New Haven, to promote pilot projects that lengthen the school day or year or outline duties and obligations that administrators and teachers have beyond those in the standard contract.
Election-to-Work agreements are a product of the school district and the teacher unions coming together to develop and agree upon the key elements that will be implemented in an effort to introduce new strategies and techniques in some schools and districts. It is the way to include, not exclude teachers and their unions from the process.
One of the things that made Governor Malloy’s education reform bill the most anti-teacher, anti-union initiatives of any Democratic governor in the nation was his proposal that collective bargaining be completely prohibited in schools that became part of the Commissioner’s Network (also called turnaround schools).
Instead of sticking with that concept, Democrats in the legislature removed the anti-collective bargaining language and replaced it with a system that allows schools and unions to develop Election-to-Work agreements.
By the end of the process, the actual new law read;
“Nothing in this section shall alter the collective bargaining agreements applicable to the administrators and teachers employed by the local or regional board of education, subject to the provisions of sections 10-153a to 10-153n, inclusive, of the general statutes, and such collective bargaining agreements shall be considered to be in operation at schools participating in the commissioner’s network of schools, except to the extent the provisions are modified by any memorandum of understanding between the local or regional board of education and the representatives of the exclusive bargaining units for certified employees, chosen pursuant to section 10-153b of the general statutes, or are modified by a turnaround plan, including, but not limited to, any election to work agreement pursuant to such turnaround plan for such schools and negotiated in accordance with the provisions of section 20 of this act.”
While the language is a little verbose, it is actually pretty simple.
If a school becomes part of the Commissioner’s Network, collective bargaining agreements CONTINUE, but a Memorandum of Understanding can be negotiated between the board of education and the union that allows for an Election-to-Work alternative agreement to created.
It was a compromise that recognized the important role teachers and their unions need to play in the development of turnaround plans for schools that become part of the Commissioner’s Network.
So now we turn to the new presentation created by Malloy’s Education Commissioner and presented last night in Windham.
The Presentation includes a page that reads, in part, “Turnaround plans may include proposals for…Hiring and reassigning teachers and administrators, including, but not limited to, approaches such as election to work.”
A footnote note adds, “Modifications to collective bargaining agreements must be negotiated on an expedited basis that concludes, if necessary, in binding arbitration that places the highest priority on the educational interest of the state. In some instances, only the financial impact of such modifications may be bargained.”
While the Commissioner’s language is not completely wrong, it is misleading and, even more importantly, the concept is presented in a way that undermines the fundamental spirit that legislative Democrats insisted upon — turnaround school plans must be based on communication and cooperation between the state, the local boards of education and the teachers.
The Education Commissioner’s presentation is making the rounds in communities that might become part of the Commissioner’s Network. Most, if not all of these cities and towns are Democratic communities, with Democratic boards of education and audiences of teachers and citizens who are primarily Democrats.
These communities are also represented by state senators and state representatives who are Democrats and who worked to insert the compromise language that recognized the important role teachers and unions play in the turnaround process.
The compromise language was very clear – Election-to-Work provisions must be negotiated by the board of education AND the unions.
However, the implication of the Education Commissioner’s phraseology is that any negotiations are almost secondary in nature.
While he admits that modifications must be negotiated, he adds that the process occurs on an expedited basis, that the arbitration process is slanted in the state’s favor and “In some instances, only the financial impact of such modifications may be bargained.”
But that is hardly the case when it comes to the key notion of the previous bullet in his Presentation which is about Election-to-Work provisions.
As a nationally recognized corporate education reformer, Commissioner Pryor’s language is designed to play to his corporate education reform allies, not teachers or those who believe in the important of unions and collective bargaining.
I suppose that it is his right, as Commissioner, to play to whatever audience he deems important, but the cost of that arrogance is that it reiterates the notion that Governor Malloy is failing to take the legislature’s education reform changes seriously and, when given the opportunity, the Malloy administration continues to belittle the role of teachers and unions – EVEN WHEN THE LAW REQUIRES THAT TEACHERS AND UNIONS PLAY A VITAL ROLE IN THE TURNAROUND PROCESS.
Will the majority of voters notice the nuance of this issue? NO
Will teachers and union members notice the unnecessary and misleading nature of Pryor’s language? YES
It is, when all is said and done, yet another example of Governor Malloy’s unwillingness or inability to recognize the importance of the Democratic base to the electoral process.
Note: Commissioner Pryor’s Powerpoint presentation was handed out in the Windham Board of Education packet last night. If you’d like to see it, drop me a line. It is a big file.
Newtown, Teachers Newtown, Teachers
It is so hard to come to grips with the events of Friday, especially for those of us who have school aged children and live in Connecticut. The evil and inhumanity, alongside the stories of courage. And overarching all is the sense of shared sadness and compassion for those who have lost a loved one.
There are so many questions, and so few answers.
But inaction is not one of the solutions. Demanding appropriate gun control laws, honoring, enhancing and protecting our schools and our teachers, and making better use of resources to create a more justice and caring society are all parts of a broader effort to stand up to the evil and problems that seek to tear us down.
I haven’t written since Friday since it was hard to know what to say. Below is my latest post. It falls far short of what I wanted to get across, but it is a start. I’d be honored if you took the time to read it. As always, please send me your thoughts and suggestions as collectively seek to find our way forward.
Thank you, Jonathan
Teachers are True First Responders… (While State’s fiscal problems remain all too real)
As our state and nation work to process the incomprehensible, the first thing that stands out when we look back on the Newtown tragedy, and the many other school shootings that have plagued our nation over the fourteen years since Columbine, is that time after time, faced with unimaginable horror and fear, teachers and other school personnel have inevitably stepped forward to protect their students.
We may never fully know the details about the events that took place in Newtown on Friday, but one thing is absolutely clear and that is that teachers and school personnel gave their lives to save their children.
At times of great tragedy, our elected officials lose their partisan standing and become a voice for the People. As President Obama shed tears and spoke of his personal heartbreak, he spoke for every single American.
And Governor Dannel Malloy has echoed our collective despair and sadness in the face of this unspeakable horror.
Both the President and the Governor spoke eloquently of the courage and dedication of the teachers and the other adults in the Newtown Elementary School, as well as the first responders.
Praising each is certainly the right thing to do, and nothing should dim the light of honor that shines on the courage and dedication of the police officers, fire fighters and emergency services personnel who rose to the challenge on Friday. As a result of their training, their character and their honor, we know that first responders run into buildings when everyone else is running out.
But to limit the definition of first responders to just those uniformed people is a mistake, for it must be said that in every sense of the word, teachers are truly first responders as well.
Every single day, thanks to their training, their character and their honor, teachers throughout this country, get up and go into their schools, dedicated to helping their children.
On most days the challenges teachers confront are related to teaching and creating an atmosphere where children can learn and grow. But while a “regular” school day is the norm, teachers are always engaged in taking whatever steps are necessary to protect their students.
Whether it is simply the day-to-day education process, stepping up to help a child in need, seeking to instill appropriate behavior, smoothing out an argument, breaking up a fight or stepping into the line of fire, teachers are the ones there who are truly first in line to respond to the conditions around them.
Far too often we take that for granted.
The teachers and school personnel in Newtown, those who gave up their lives and the rest who worked to ensure the safety of their students, are an incredible reminder that teachers deserve praise and respect.
As a result of Friday’s horrors, all of our leaders, regardless of party affiliation or political ideology, correctly speak of the courage of the first responders and the teachers.
But, of course, in truth, we’ve seen a growing trend in which politicians have used teachers as pawns or even scapegoats in a terrible game of political pandering and maneuvering. Unfair, inappropriate and mean-spirited verbal attacks on teachers and their unions have become commonplace.
It wasn’t long ago that a Democratic state legislator in Rhode Island called teachers, “pigs at the public trough” during a hearing on public employee pension reform, despite the fact that it is federal law that requires that states have public teacher pension programs, and it is federal law that prohibits teachers from participating in social security, meaning those mandated state pensions are their only direct mechanism for retirement payments.
Meanwhile, Republican Governor Chris Christie’s mean-spirited attacks on New Jersey’s teachers have become legendary.
Sadly, earlier this year, as a way to build support for his education reform proposal, even our own Governor, Dannel Malloy, claimed that all a teacher need do is “show up for four years” to be given tenure, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Malloy’s comment was not unlike the one made by Republican wing-nut, Governor Bobby Jindal, who said – during the very same month, when Jindal introduced his own education reform bill – that getting tenure was nothing more than a “reward” for a teacher based on “the length of time they have been breathing.”
These types of comments are not only untrue and idiotic, but they demean teachers and the teacher profession.
All you have to do is show up for four years and you get tenure?
Tenure is nothing more than simply showing up and breathing?
On Friday, 27-year-old Victoria Soto, the smart, wonderful, beautiful, young teacher who gave up her life to save her children must have been pretty close to that four-year mark.
I don’t know if she already had reached it and had received the evaluations needed to become a tenured teacher of if that challenge was still ahead of her, but no one on this earth can say that Victoria Soto simply showed up for work or thought her job as a teacher was simply to be there and breathe.
No, teachers more than simply show up.
And December 14, 2012 will always be remembered, and one of the things that it will be remembered for is that the real truth about teachers and teaching is very different from the made up fictions concocted by the politicians.
Heroes come in many forms.
Heroes are people who dedicate their lives to helping others.
The teachers in Newtown like the police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel who arrived at Sandy Hook Elementary were heroes.
The fact is, most teachers, like most firefighters, most police officers and most emergency personnel are heroes. They all up every day and take whatever steps are necessary to protect and enhance the lives of the people they are so dedicated to serve.
So next time we talk about first responders, let us not forget that teachers are truly first responders as well.
Meanwhile, here in Connecticut, despite the fact that the grieving process has barely begun, our state’s fiscal crisis remains very real and the Connecticut General Assembly is still scheduled to go into special session on Wednesday to deal with the projected $415 million budget deficit.
The decisions the Governor and legislators make will directly impact tens of thousands of Connecticut residents.
There are some reports that an agreement has been reached, and if so, it probably means significant cuts to vital social and health services, at the very moment we should all understand the importance of these types of services, and redouble our efforts to cut them.
The vast majority of those cuts would be unnecessary if legislators would simply stand up and require that those making more than $1 million pay their fair share in taxes. The $1.5 billion dollar tax increase proposed by Governor Malloy, and passed by the Connecticut General Assembly, last year, shielded those who make more than $1 million from having to pay a higher tax rate.
Now, by requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share starting in January, Connecticut can put a fairer tax system in place and avert the disastrous cuts that have been proposed.
We have heard wonderful, caring words these last few days from our elected officials. Those efforts are deeply appreciated. But now the time for action has come and the question is whether they will use their powers to turn their words into actions.
Check back here at Wait, What? later for updates about the fiscal situation unfolding in Hartford.
Bridgeport, Education Reform, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Standardized Testing, Teachers Bridgeport, Education Reform, Paul Vallas
File this one under, How do these school administrators keep their jobs?
Team Vallas watchers will recall that earlier this year, Bridgeport purchased more than $10 million in new textbooks.
And over the last six weeks, Bridgeport teachers have spent literally hundreds of hours putting barcodes on those books so that they could finally be provided to Bridgeport’s students.
But the huge question remains – What happened to the contract between Follett Software and the Bridgeport Board of Education, a contract that retained Follett Software to do this work?
On July 19, 2012, in one of Paul Vallas’ now famous no-bid contracts, the Follett Software Company, of McHenry, Illinois, provided Team Vallas’ Marlene Siegel, the Chief Financial Officer for Bridgeport’s Public Schools, an agreement for the “Custom On-Site Textbook Barcoding Project in your district.”
The agreement included (a) Data Services, (b) Barcodes and Labels, and (c) Custom Onsite Services that included processing 90,000 textbooks, using three teams, 10 workers per team, and a total work schedule of seven days.
Follett Software’s contract included a detailed list of its obligations. Those services included the “placement of barcode on back of textbook,” and the “placement of eye readable identity strip on inside of back cover.”
The Follett Software contract with the Bridgeport School System even includes the following language;
“Based on discussions with your district, your implementation is scheduled to be completed no later than September 21, 2012. Follett staff will work with your district to begin planning to reach that implementation date. Because Follett plans our resource allocation based on projected installation requirements, we appreciate your collaboration in meeting this mutually agreed upon timeline.”
And the contract’s payment schedule required a total payment of $82,612.84, due in two payments. The first payment was due upon signing the contract; the second was due by July 15, 2013.
A quick review of the Board of Education’s Operating Budget (linked on the BOE’s website) shows that Team Vallas and the Board of Education allocated $294,908 for, “District-wide reserve – essential services (includes scanners and bar codes for the Destiny Textbook Manager) and $70,550 for “DESTINY TEXTBOOK MANAGER: On-site inventory of HMH books/Materials by Follett Educational Services, plus two additional site licenses – Skane, BLC
But here it is, almost three months later, and Bridgeport teachers continue to spend valuable time putting barcodes on the textbooks rather than teaching.
In fact, many students didn’t get their textbooks until well after school started and others still haven’t received the text books they need for this semester’s classes.
Yet Vallas’ new round of standardized testing is taking place this week and mid-term grades are due at the end of this week.
This level of administrative incompetence would never be allowed to existing in any other school district in Connecticut.
Once again, Paul Vallas and his Team of Keystone Cops reveal that all their talk of giving teachers the time and tools to teach is nothing more than empty rhetoric and outright lies.
Considering that Team Vallas had a contract in hand last July 19th and apparently handed Follett Software tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds, what exactly did Bridgeport get in return for that contract….Except for another black eye?
Education Reform, Hartford, Teacher Tenure, Teachers Hartford, Superintendent Evaluations, The Hartford Courant
Last week, Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools, Christina Kishimoto, sent a letter to the Hartford Board of Education (her employer) saying,
“I will not engage in political debate with board members…My duty, my sole concern, is for the academic and career success of our Hartford school children and youth.”
Meanwhile, rather than take calls from the media, she directed that all calls about the situation be referred to her attorney.
Although the immediate debate was about whether Kishimoto was communicating sufficiently with the Hartford Board of Education, the real impetus behind the superintendent’s bizarre and incredible letter was the performance evaluation that the Board of Education’s recently concluded.
Last year, the Board of Education and the Superintendent agree to an evaluation process that was based on a variety of indicators and measures.
Of the 10 student achievement targets that Superintendent Kishimoto was to be evaluated on, she “failed to meet most of them.”
On other key measures, the Superintendent was rated on a scale of 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being unacceptable and 5 noting outstanding performance.
Her score for educational leadership was a rather dismal 3.0. When it came to engaging stakeholders, such as parents, teachers, community members, she scored a 2.4, and, as for the school board-superintendent relationship, Kishimoto got a failing 1.6 rating.
Considering the Hartford Courant has championed Governor Malloy’s effort to use “teacher evaluations” as the best vehicle to determine which teachers to keep and which to let go, one would have reasonably expected that any Courant editorial would take the Superintendent to task for her failing evaluation.
Instead the Courant called on the Hartford School Board and the Superintendent to, “mend” their relationship, and the Courant editorial went on to say, “Ms. Kishimoto knows reform. She’s top-notch at it, as her supporters point out.”
Failure to meet agreed upon achievement targets, low scores on educational leadership and engaging stakeholders, and utter failure to maintain a good relationship with her employer, and the Courant suggests her “top-notch” understanding of reform means she should keep her job?
How much clearer could it be?
Education reformers talk a good game, but refuse to walk the walk.
They demonize teachers and teacher tenure and suggest that teacher evaluation is the single greatest step we can take to turnaround the American education system. Then they turn the other cheek when one of their own falls flat on the most basic measures of performance and achievement.
And to top it off, Hartford has a superintendent of schools, a public servant, who is pulling down six figures, who has the audacity to say to the Board of Education, “I will not engage in political debate with board members…”?
Perhaps the Superintendent missed the college class when students were taught that political debate is the discussion of policy options and, in this case, the role of the Board of Education to make appropriate policy decisions as the formal legislative body of Hartford’s school system.
We’re not talking about name calling or character assassination; we are talking about the most fundamental role of the superintendent – board of education relationship.
Her claim that she is somehow above engaging in “political debate” suggests that she doesn’t know the meaning of the term, doesn’t understand the role of the Board of Education or apparently feels that the obligation of democratic governmental systems simply don’t apply to her.
Between her inappropriate letter and her scores on her recent evaluation, she certainly appears unable to successfully perform her job.
If those who believe that “evaluation” is the measure of who should stay and who should be let go, then Hartford‘s Superintendent of Schools should be packing up her office and looking for another job.
For more background see the Courant article and editorial – http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-kishimoto-eval-0928-20120927,0,4935745.story and http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-superintendent-turmoil-in-hartford-schools-20120927,0,5491532.story
Bridgeport, Excel Bridgeport Inc., Mayor Bill Finch, Michelle Rhee, Paul Vallas, Teachers ALEC, Mayor Bill Finch, Won't Back Down
Bill Finch sponsors a preview of the movie, “Won’t Back Down.”
I know Bill Finch, and once again…I’m left wondering,
Does he just not know the facts?
Is it yet another example of bad staff support?
Or worse, does he know and does it anyway?
At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, it was Jeb Bush and “education reformer” Michelle Rhee who sponsored the screening of the anti-teacher, anti-union movie “Won’t Back Down.”
In Charlotte it was Rhee and the conservative group Democrats for Education Reform.
And this coming, Tuesday, September 25, 2012, it is Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who is inviting supporters to a special VIP showing of the movie at Bridgeport’s Showcase Cinemas.
In case his staff failed to brief him, the movie is a coordinated attack on teachers and public education.
It is a dramatic portrayal of what is called the Parent Trigger,” a system that allows education reform groups to take over a public school, fire the teachers and turns the school over to a charter school management company.
The concept arose in California, but was soon adopted by two very controversial right-wing groups, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute.
Other issues that ALEC, the group funded by the ultra-conservative Koch Brothers, pushes includes Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, Florida’s “stand your ground law,” that seeks to protect people who shoot “suspicious individuals,” and the flurry of laws aimed at suppressing Latino and African-American voters. ALEC is so out of control that over the past six months, 40 major companies, such as Coca-Cola, Amazon, CVS, Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and others have withdrawn from ALEC because of their conservative orientation.
The Heartland Institute, another major force behind the new movie, recently lost public credibility when it engaged in a billboard campaign that claimed that those who believe in the science of global warming are like the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.
Won’t Back Down has been produced by Philip Anschutz, the right-wing billionaire who funded the movie “Waiting for Superman” and is a major contributor to the effort to force schools to teach “creationism?”
And as far as the movie itself goes, Won’t Back Down is an attempt to portray these Parent Trigger laws as a simple way for parents to take over their schools.
In this case, one of the lead characters organizes a petition drive that ends with her taking control of the school and everyone living happily ever after.
Although the promoters of the movie claim it is, “inspired by true events,’ nothing could be further from the truth.
There are no actual cases where parent trigger laws have been used to improve schools. There have, to date, been two attempts to use a parent trigger law to take-over a school.
In one case, a charter school paid individuals to collect signatures, as a way to force a community to turn their school over to that company. The courts threw out the petitions
In another case, parents who signed the petition then asked to have their names removed when they discovered the real impact the plan would have on their children.
Why Mayor Bill Finch would not only support such a movie, but sponsor a screening in his community, is a mystery.
Did Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s $229,000, part-time, superintendent of schools, ask him to do this? Vallas, who ran the New Orleans school system after Hurricane Katrina, turned more than 80 percent of that City’s schools into charter schools, we he obviously is a big fan of charters.
Or was it Excel Bridgeport, or Michelle Rhee, or Jeb Bush.
Just last week, Jeb Bush was in Connecticut speaking before former Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley’s “think-tank.” Readers will recall that Bush used the opportunity to say, “I don’t think there should be public unions, period…”
So, if anyone seems Mayor Finch, do ask him…
As a Democratic and someone who is looking forward to a statewide career in Connecticut politics, what the hell was he thinking associating his name with a movie which seeks to denigrate teachers, destroy unions and undermine public control of public education?
Charter Schools, Education Reform, Hartford, Malloy, Public Employees, Stefan Pryor, Teachers Education Reform, Hartford, Jumoke, Stefan Pryor
As Wait, What? readers know, under the guise of Governor Malloy’s “education reform” law, the City of Hartford has handed the Milner School (including all of its students and the school’s publicly-funded budget) over to the Jumoke Academy.
A quarter of Milner’s student population is not fluent in English and four in ten go home to households where English is not the primary language.
On the other hand, Jumoke Academy, who is now in control of Milner’s curriculum and student environment, has absolutely NO experience in working with bilingual students. In fact, Jumoke reported on their official state school profile reports that they’ve never had a bilingual student nor have they ever had a student who went home to a household other than one that speaks English.
Considering that more than 40 percent of Hartford’s children go home to households that don’t use English as their primary language, the Jumoke data is a pretty strong statement about their total unwillingness or inability to attract and educate nearly half of all of Hartford’s students.
It begs the question why Jumoke was chosen by the City of Hartford and the State of Connecticut to take over the Milner School?
Meanwhile, late last spring, one of the key items that held up a final vote on Malloy’s “education reform” bill was the need to find an appropriate mechanism to ensure that the rights of Connecticut’s unionized teachers would be properly represented in any “turnaround” plan.
The process that was finally adopted required negotiations between the teacher unions and the cities and, if necessary, an expedited binding arbitration process, if the teachers and the municipality could not come to an agreement.
The history of binding arbitration in Connecticut goes back thirty-three years when, following the great Bridgeport teacher’s strike of 1978, Connecticut passed the Teacher Collective Bargaining Act. After the Bridgeport Teacher strike that saw more than 250 teachers sent off to jail, Connecticut adopted landmark legislation that ended teacher strikes once and for all, and, in return, instituted a binding arbitration process.
Although the Hartford Teacher’s Union and Christina Kishimoto, Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools, sought to negotiate an agreement about the impact to the teachers who were employed at the “former” Milner School (as required by the law), last week, those teachers rejected that proposed agreement by a three to one margin.
Their opposition was based on the fact that it appeared to the teachers that the Jumoke Academy and the Hartford Superintendent did not reveal all of the details of the changes that Jumoke was proposing to their working conditions.
Hartford Superintendent Kishimoto responded with a series of emails, each more confrontational and harsh than the last. Much of the story is highlighted in the Hartford blog, Real Hartford.
In one, Superintendent Kishimoto wrote that she was going to, “be holding the HFT [Hartford Federation of Teachers] accountable to the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] that they signed…We stand on strong legal ground. I will be reaching out to the Commissioner around expediting this matter since it does mean withholding of our funds until this matter is resolved. The ratification of the MOU should have been purely procedural…”
First, one would assume that Hartford’s Superintendent actually read the new law and should have known that the expedited binding arbitration process that she “threatens” is not only part of the law, but required under the law.
Second, and more importantly, while the high-paid Superintendent may not fully appreciate the nuance, the United States, and American unions, function in accordance with the basic rules of a democracy.
Citizens, and in this case Hartford Federation of Teacher members, have a right and obligation to vote on any contract. In this case they did, and the contract was rejected.
The fact that Hartford’s superintendent then resorted to threats is, quite simply, bizarre.
Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools works for the Hartford Board of Education.
The Democratic Party controls the majority of members on the Board of Education.
In fact, Hartford’s Democratic Mayor actually appoints that majority of members on the Board of Education.
With Chicago’s teachers striking, and the nation facing an election of profound proportions, one would have thought that the Democrats on the Hartford Board of Education, and the Democratic leadership of the City of Hartford, would have moved quickly to reject the language and confrontational approach of their employee, the superintendent of schools.
However, instead of rising to the moment, as of now, at least, Hartford’s Democratic leadership has remained especially quiet.
Quiet at the very moment that they had an obligation to speak up, loud and clear.
But it’s not too late; Hartford ‘s Democratic Leaders could still reprimand the Superintendent for her actions, and they could certainly make it clear that Democrats stand for the right of employees to collectively bargain.
As Democrats, we understand that collective bargaining is a fundamental right and a vital principle of the Democratic Party.
Furthermore, we appreciate that collective bargaining produces better public policy for all involved.
Hartford Democrats, can you please step up the microphone and make your position clear.
Bridgeport, Education Reform, Teachers Bridgeport, Teacher Strikes, Teachers
Thanks to a Wait, What? reader from Rhode Island, I’ve learned that according to press reports, Peter Horoschak, Superintendent of Schools in Warwick, RI, that state’s second largest school district, was put on administrative leave today. According to the Warwick School Committee’s Vice Chairman, the action was due to a personnel matter. Superintendent Horoschak reported that he is unaware of what the issue may be.
Few may realize that Horoschak served as the Deputy Commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Education, and Assistant Secretary of the State Board of Education, in the mid-1970s. He also served as Superintendent of Schools in Stamford, Connecticut, in the early 1990s.
Horoschak played a key role in the famous 1978 Bridgeport teacher’s school strike, which led to the passage of Connecticut’s landmark 1979 Teacher Collective Bargaining Act, a law that requires that deadlocked teacher contract negations are resolved through binding arbitration and not strikes.
With no mechanism to resolve issues, and strikes illegal, 1,250 Bridgeport teachers went on strike September 6, 1978. The Bridgeport strike garnered worldwide attention. Bridgeport Superior Court Judge James Henebry ordered that teachers be rounded up and jailed.
In the first week, at least 135 Bridgeport teachers were arrested and taken to the Connecticut National Guard’s Camp Hartell. Over the 19 day strike, a total of 274 Bridgeport teachers were sent to jail.
Despite efforts by both sides to send the unresolved issues to binding arbitration, the Connecticut court blocked the effort, claiming that binding arbitration was not allowed under Connecticut law.
Following the failure to get the issues to binding arbitration, Horoschak, who was the State Department of Education’s point person on the strike, ordered the parties back to the bargaining table. With continued pressure from the state, the strike was eventually settled.
However, twenty years later, Bridgeport’s teachers remained the lowest paid in Fairfield County and the second lowest paid public school teachers in Connecticut.
As the Bridgeport Education Association celebrated the strike’s 20th anniversary, Jack Reh, the President of the Bridgeport Education Association, at the time, noted that “16 teachers have resigned to take better-paying jobs in other districts since school opened in August.
Now, 14 years more years have passed and the famous Bridgeport teacher’s strike was 34 years ago.
However, the City of Bridgeport started this school year off with a series of layoffs, including 14 special education teachers.
At the same time, Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s interim superintendent, and “education reformer extraordinaire,” managed to find about $1 million to pay for a series of consultants who were hired on no-bid contracts. Further, many of these consultants actually work for Vallas’ private consulting firm; a company that recently signed a $1 million contract to work with schools in Illinois and an $18 million contract to work with 15 schools in Indianapolis.
Despite the publicity about these out-of-state contracts, Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education made no effort to publicly review the appropriateness of the no-bid contracts. The new, democratically elected Board of Education has, to date, also overlooked Vallas’ use of no-bid contracts.
Sadly, these issues reflect a broader concern reality about the demise of an active and independent media. The Connecticut Post, Bridgeport’s newspaper of record, hasn’t even written a story about Vallas’ $18 million dollar contract in Indianapolis, and it is hard to imagine that anyone there or at any Connecticut newspaper, have realized that the Warwick superintendent put on leave today is the same individual who played an important role in the great Bridgeport strike of 1978.