What the ______?  Debate reveals Malloy’s position on teacher tenure is even worse….

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UPDATED WITH ADDENDUM

The question for Governor Malloy should have been a simple one;

Mr. Malloy, you are the only Democratic governor in the United States who has proposed doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing (the so called turnaround schools), will you this opportunity to renounce your 2012 tenure proposal and can you tell us exactly what your position is on teacher tenure and collective bargaining?

Sadly (but not surprisingly), the moderator of tonight’s debate, the Norwich Bulletin’s Ray Hackett, DID NOT ask Malloy the pivotal question.

Instead he returned to Malloy’s absurd, insulting and idiotic statement that teachers need only show up for school for four years and they’ll get tenure.

And how did Malloy respond to the question?

The Hartford Courant explains;

“Regarding Malloy’s high-profile remark on teacher tenure in an address in the historic Hall of the House at the state Capitol in Hartford, Malloy said, ‘I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure. … I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

Wait, What?

Democratic Governor Dan Malloy is now saying his statement wasn’t meant to denigrate teachers but was meant to disparage tenure?

As if that is a better position?

Malloy’s explanation, two and a half years later is that “It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure…”

The corporate education reform industry, riding high off a successful anti-teacher tenure lawsuit in California, is targeting the single most important element of academic freedom and working conditions for public school teachers and now the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure is saying that his abusive language about teachers “Wasn’t about them.  It was about tenure…”

Is there any Democratic leader in Connecticut or anyone in the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers or the Connecticut Education Association or any other union that will stand up and condemn Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s continuing attack on teacher tenure and public school teachers?

ADDENDUM:

Almost as interesting as Malloy’s decision to reiterate his anti-teacher tenure position is the way in which the media decided to cover Malloy’s quote.  Take a “close reading” of the way the media decided to highlight Malloy’s continued verbal assault on teacher tenure.

Hartford Courant:

On Wednesday, Malloy expressed regret at his choice of words, calling it “bad language.”

“It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure,” Malloy said. “I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.”

http://www.courant.com/community/norwich/hc-ct-governors-race-debate-foley-malloy-0828-20140827,0,7507329.story

CT Newsjunkie:

Hackett also gave Malloy an opportunity to comment on a statement he made in 2012 that infuriated teachers and caused them to rally against his proposal on the steps of the state Capitol.

“I should admit that that was bad language,” Malloy said regarding his remarks. “It wasn’t actually about them, it was about tenure . . . I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying that.”

http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_turns_focus_to_foleys_business_record_during_first_debate/

CT Mirror

“I should admit that was bad language,” said Malloy, who was greeted before the debate by rallying unions members, including the president of AFT-Connecticut. “I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.”

http://ctmirror.org/in-first-debate-malloy-apologizes-to-teachers-needles-foley/

Pelto requests that teacher tenure and collective bargaining question be asked at gubernatorial debate

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The Norwich Bulletin newspaper is hosting the first gubernatorial debate tonight between Dannel “Dan” Malloy and Tom Foley.

On behalf of the more than 100,000 active and retired teachers, their families and public education advocates, I am publicly requesting that the following question be asked;

Governor Malloy:  You are the only Democratic governor in the United States who has proposed doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing (the so-called turnaround schools), will you use this opportunity to renounce your 2012 tenure proposal and can you tell us exactly what your position is on teacher tenure and collective bargaining?

Mr. Foley:  Governor Malloy earned the wrath of teachers and public school advocates when he proposed doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing schools.  Can you tell us whether you would have supported or opposed Governor Malloy’s proposal and what you would do on these two issues if you are elected governor?

Teacher “wins” appointment to State Board of Education  

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Congratulations to Erin Benham, a Meriden teacher on her appointment to the State Board of Education!

It is great news that a teacher will be added to counter-balance the cadre of corporate education reform industry advocates who have spent the last four years undermining public education.

In an apparent move to show teachers, parents and public school advocates that he is a softer, kinder and more pro-public education governor, Dannel “Dan” Malloy announced today that he has appointed educator Erin Bernham to the State Board of Education.

Erin Benham has been a secondary school teacher for 34 years.  She presently serves as a Literacy Teacher at Lincoln Middle School.

Teacher Benham is also the President of the Meriden Federation of Teachers and the Vice President of the AFT-CT Executive Committee.

Wait, What? readers may remember that the American Federation of Teachers was the union that refused to allow me to fill out a candidate questionnaire, interview with the AFT Political Action Committee or even speak to the AFT Executive Committee before they endorsed Malloy.

Of more interest than the political connections between Malloy and the AFT leadership is the fact that Benham and the Meriden Federation of Teachers are the recipients of a major grant from the American Federation of Teacher’s national “Innovation Fund.”

The AFT Innovation Fund supports a variety of programs at the local level.  While many of those programs are undoubtedly valuable, the major donor to the American Federation of Teacher’s national Innovation fund is Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation.

In 2010, the Gates Foundation gave $4 million to the AFT Innovation Fund and another $4.4 million in 2012.  The money was targeted to pay for the union’s work to build support for the Common Core.

Hopefully Teacher Benham will use her classroom expertise to persuade Malloy and the State Board of Education that while standards are an important part of a successful educational system, the Common Core‘s unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Testing Scheme is hurting Connecticut’s students, teachers and public schools and must be suspended until it can be redesigned and appropriately implemented.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Hashtag – #ConnecticutisnotWisconsin 

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To the  unions, public employees, and the voters of Connecticut – Let’s take a moment to set the record straight…

While preventing me from even speaking to the union members responsible for endorsing candidates, the leadership of the Connecticut AFL-CIO and AFT-CT were among those claiming that voters must choose Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy or Connecticut would become another Wisconsin – a reference to the damage Wisconsin Tea-Party governor, Scott Walker, and the Republican, right-wing controlled Wisconsin Legislature have done to public employees and their right to collectively bargain in that state.

In order to drive their point home, the Connecticut union leaders brought in Stephanie Bloomingdale, the secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, to give a speech at the AFL-CIO political endorsing convention.  Bloomingdale reported, “They came for us in Wisconsin and they are coming for you in Connecticut. We were the first target. Now it is your turn to stop it…

Lee Saunders, the national president of AFSCME, was also given the microphone at the event and explained that “Connecticut’s governor’s race nationally and how the labor movement can’t afford Connecticut becoming another Wisconsin.”

 But Connecticut will not be another Wisconsin. (Regardless of what happens in November)

While one can be rightfully suspicious of Republican Tom Foley, Connecticut has and will continue to have a Democratic legislature.  Wisconsin’s governor got away with undermining collective bargaining BECAUSE he has a right-wing Republican legislature to support is anti-union, anti-public employee, anti-teacher, anti-public education initiatives.

Thanks to the way districts were drawn in the last three rounds of re-districting, Connecticut will have a Democratic legislature for decades to come.

But the #dontletCTbecomeWisconsin argument fails on a second group.

At last week’s AFL-CIO Convention, Governor Malloy took the stage and in an attempt to revise history by saying,

“I stand with labor, I always have. I always will.”

Not one union representative during this heavily scripted event challenged Malloy or even asked him to explain why he is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure and repealing the collective bargaining rights for teachers in turnaround school.

And no one confronted Malloy in order to force him to explain to state and local public employees how he intends to govern and meet our state’s obligations, including public employee salaries, healthcare and pensions when he has promised that he will not propose or accept any tax increase during his second term as governor.

Faced with a $1.3 billion projected state budget deficit next year, Malloy has promised no taxes, no cuts to vital services and no concessions from state employees.

But even putting aside salary issues, the state of Connecticut will be required to allocate more than $120 million next year just to maintain minimum funding for pension obligations and health benefits.

Furthermore, the last state employee concession agreement cut salaries by 3%, so that those dollars could be shifted to the state retirees’ healthcare fund.  As state employees know, the state of Connecticut is supposed to start matching that $125 million a year in July 2017.  But Malloy’s no tax pledge makes is virtually impossible for the state to fulfill that financial obligation. This means that state employees will learn that they took a pay cut to help fund retiree health benefits but the state walked away from its side of the bargain.

The #dontletCTbecomeWisconsin argument is simply a way to scare union members into voting for a governor who has failed to match his actions to his rhetoric.

Perhaps even more telling, the “Don’t let us become Wisconsin” is the campaign strategy that some union leaders are utilizing in other parts of the nation.

In Illinois, for example, the argument is the same.  Don’t let Illinois become Wisconsin.

And so who are voters being told to vote for?  An incumbent Democratic governor who has pushed anti-labor bills and his running mate, Paul Vallas, one of the nation’s leading champions in the effort to destroy public school teachers, their unions and the public education system.

Voters, including union members, deserve the right to vote for a candidate who will look out for their interests, not just the option of choosing one failed politician over the other.

Just take a look at this political cartoon developed by fellow education blogger, Fred Klonsky who is one of the most important pro-union, pro-teacher, pro-public education voices in Illinois.

 

The cartoon savoring the facts of the career of Paul Vallas first appeared on Fred Klonsky’s blog on June 12, 2014. The URL for the blog is http://preaprez.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/ten-minute-drawing-vote-for-quinnvallas-or-we-will-be-like-wisconsin/#comment-63640

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Oh for crying out loud – Here comes Malloy on Teacher Appreciation Week

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Dannel “Dan” Malloy holds the title of the most (or 2nd most) anti-teacher Democratic Governor in the nation.  (New York’s Andrew Cuomo keeps trying to push Malloy out of the top spot).

But in a “have you no shame” moment, the politician who said that that all teachers had to do was show up for four years to get tenure and that he doesn’t mind having teachers teach to the test, as the long as the test scores go up, Tweeted a picture of himself holding a “#ThankaTeacher” sign while declaring it Teacher Appreciation Week in Connecticut.

 

Malloy Teacher Appreciation Week

Malloy, whose unfair, inappropriate and faulty teacher evaluation system is causing havoc in Connecticut’s public schools, along with his unending commitment to the Common Core and the absurd Common Core Testing Scheme, proclaimed May 5-9, 2014 as National Teacher Appreciation Week in the State of Connecticut.

Celebrating his commitment to more testing and less learning, Malloy said,

“An educator’s ability to nurture student potential, ignite a love of learning, and encourage critical thinking is an unbelievable gift fundamental to the success of our democracy and our economy,” said Governor Malloy. “I’m envious of teachers’ ability to impact young people and their futures. Providing learning opportunities that level the playing field and give students a leg upis an issue very dear to my heart, one that I have been committed to for most of my career in public service. I am proud of the historic step Connecticut took this month in passing legislation that will expand high-quality early education for thousands of young childrenwho would otherwise enter primary school already behind. As Governor, I will remain committed to supporting teachers who are working hard in classrooms across Connecticut to put our students on a path to success.”

The press release went on to quote Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and Malloy’s corporate education reform industry mouthpiece, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor.

And then to add insult to injury…

And to highlight the complete absurdity of Malloy’s proclamation, the Governor further undermines the credibility of the union leadership that represents Connecticut’s public school teachers by including the following breathtakingly stupid quote from Stefan Pryor,

“As we work together towards higher expectations and improved outcomes for our students, we will continue listening to teachers, inviting their ideas and incorporating their feedback as we go. I would like to specifically note that I am very grateful for our partnership with the leaders of the American Federation of Teachers-Connecticut and the Connecticut Education Association, who always ensure that teachers’ voices are heard.”

No, you actually can’t make this **** up!

Teachers: Don’t Give Up (Please Don’t Give Up)

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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.

Will Bridgeport’s teacher negotiations be another chapter in Malloy’s Waterloo?

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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.

Define fiscally and morally irresponsible? Malloy’s plan for older, retired teachers.

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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.

Irresponsible
Outrageous
Inappropriate
Incredible
Breathtaking

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

Governor Malloy: Dedicated to alienating the Democratic base?

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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.

Teachers are True First Responders… (While State’s fiscal problems remain all too real)

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Friends;

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.

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