Among the many bad budget recommendations included in Governor Dannel Malloy state spending plan is a proposal that would leave Connecticut’s cities and towns without the resources they need to properly fund mandated programs for students who require special education services.
Now, according to documents acquired through a Freedom of Information request, Malloy’s absurd proposal, which undermines Connecticut’s special education program, was actually developed by a corporate education reform group. This in spite of the fact that the group failed to report that it had engaged in any administrative lobbying activities.
The entity in question is an off-shoot of the Connecticut Council on Education Reform (CCER), a corporate funded lobbying group that has been trying to divert scarce public resources to Connecticut’s charter schools, while lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s massive Common Core SBAC standardized testing debacle and his other corporate education reforms.
Last year, staff from CCER formed The Connecticut School Finance Project.
Following Governor Malloy’s recent proposal to create a Connecticut Special Education Cost Cooperative, a new bureaucratic structure designed to inappropriately control special education funding and services, The Connecticut School Finance Project prepared an “independent analysis examining these proposed changes and how they align with six key principles and practices all special education finance systems should follow.”
However, neither the Governor nor the lobbying group revealed that the proposal was actually developed by the Connecticut School Finance Project after months of close communication with the Malloy administration and their “independent analysis” was of a plan they actually wrote.
Worse, in an outright lie and in apparent violation of state law, the Connecticut School Finance Project reported to the State Ethics Commission that it didn’t spend any time or money engaged in communications with the Governor or his staff.
Yet documents that were recently turned over by the Office of Policy and Management tell a very different story and confirm that the Connecticut School Finance Project has been working directly with the Malloy administration on the proposal since the fall of 2016.
Connecticut School Finance Project even hired a former OPM staff person to help develop the plan, a proposal that undermines local control and sets up the new apparatus that would dramatically reduce the amount of money many towns receive for providing special education services to the children in their communities.
The newly released documents highlight a variety of communications and meetings between the Connecticut School Finance Project and Malloy officials including the activities of a School Finance Project staffer who isn’t even registered to lobby.
In November 2016, the Connecticut School Finance Project’s Senior Policy Analyst wrote to Malloy’s Undersecretary for Legal Affairs stating,
“I want to reach out to make sure that you are updated on the progress related to the SPED Co-op funding system. Kate [Connecticut School Finance Project’s Executive Director] indicated that your expertise was volunteered during a meeting with Secretary Barnes.”
The corporate education reform group’s staff person then explains,
“We are likely to set up the co-op as a sponsored captive insurance group…”
And then adds
“I am going to be following up to schedule a meeting to begin working on policy development and statutory drafting.”
Since the lobbying group’s staff person was not registered to lobby, such communication violates state law.
At another point the Connecticut School Finance Project’s Executive Director, a person who is registered to lobby, but failed to report their activities as required by law, wrote to Malloy’s budget chief saying,
“Also, maybe we could quickly talk by phone so I can tell you what we have and you can let me know if its what you need.”
And in another instance, the corporate education reform lobbyist wrote,
“I wonder if you’d like to get a status update on the calendar…we’ll have some new stuff for you…”
According to sworn statements filed with the State Ethics Commission, The Connecticut School Finance Project claimed it had no communication with anyone in the administrative branch of government during this entire time period.
Which, of course, is untrue.
Meanwhile, the proposal itself remains on the General Assembly’s legislative agenda.
Special education expert and advocate Andrew Feinstein focused on the problems with the proposal in testimony before the Insurance and Real Estate Committee saying,
“The promotional material by the Connecticut School Finance Project is flashy and appealing, but fails to answer some serious questions…let’s understand that the bill does nothing to help children with disabilities.”
And John Bestor, a retired school psychologist added,
“An Act Establishing the Connecticut Special Education Cost Cooperative represents a serious threat to over forty years of special education programming decisions which are – by law – supposed to be determined through a planning & Placement Team process that includes both parents and teachers who know the student’s educational needs best.”
The plan would be bad for Connecticut’s students, schools and taxpayers.
Furthermore, it is yet another reminder of the control the corporate education reform groups have on Malloy and his policies.
And worst of all, this group is deeply involved in developing Malloy’s agenda, all in violation of state law.