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.

TFA Leaders and Education Reform commentators make Diane Ravitch even more relevant

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Teach for America (TFA) provides some outstanding young people with a unique, short-term opportunity to teach in some of America’s poorest schools.  Some of these dedicated individuals even use that opportunity as an alternative route to a longer-term career in the teaching profession.

But the founders and leaders of TFA have a very different agenda.  First and foremost, they make a lot of money.  TFA’s founder and CEO pulls in just under $400,000 in salary and benefits.  Over a dozen of the top TFA executives make more than a quarter of a million dollars each.

In addition to making huge amount of money, TFA is about advocating and lobbying for “education reforms” that include a variety of anti-teacher positions including the excessive use of standardized testing, the expansion of charter schools and efforts to end tenure and seniority.

But most notably, like so many of the corporate education reformers, the top leaders and supporters of TFA are is viciously anti-union.

Take for their reaction to a recent blog post by Diane Ravitch.

Ravitch’ s post was a tribute to the teachers and staff of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, with special attention to heroic teachers and staff who died protecting the children.

After highlighting each hero, Ravitch noted that;

“Oh, and one other thing, all these dedicated teachers belonged to a union. The senior teachers had tenure, despite the fact that “reformers” (led by ConnCAN, StudentsFirst, and hedge fund managers) did their best last spring to diminish their tenure and to tie their evaluations to test scores. Governor Malloy said, memorably, to his shame, that teachers get tenure just for showing up. No one at Sandy Hook was just “showing up.”

Governor Dannel Malloy has led the effort in his state to expand charter schools and high-stakes testing. He appointed a state commissioner of education who co-founded a charter chain. He said, memorably, that he didn’t care how much test prep there was so long as scores go up. Sandy Hook is not that kind of school.

Let us hope Governor Malloy learned something these past few days about the role of public schools in their communities.

Newtown does not need a charter school. What it needs now is healing. Not competition, not division, but a community coming together to help one another. Together. Not competing.”

Diane’s observation was 100 percent accurate.  It was not only a perfectly appropriate thing to say, but others have said the same thing.  Certainly Wait What? readers have read very similar sentiments here, albeit put less eloquently.

But what is so interesting is that over the last 48 hours, dozens of veteran education reformers and TFA advocates have been on the war-path, purposely misleading people about the post, while condemning Dr. Ravitch and through her the rest of us who have been speaking out and paying tribute to the extraordinary teachers of Newtown Elementary School.

David Rosenberg, of Teach for America tweeted, “The latest post by @DianeRavitch on #Newtown is truly reprehensible.  She should retract it”

And “education reform” champion, RiShawn Biddle, who has listed himself as a consultant to at least one education reform group here in Connecticut, wrote, “Over the past few years, Dropout Nation has had plenty to say about once-respectable education historian Diane Ravitch… she discredits herself with every tweet and blog post, there has been more than enough evidence to show that the Camille Paglia wannabe doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously by anyone. So it isn’t shocking that Ravitch debases herself further with a piece on her eponymous site on last week’s massacre of 26 teachers and children in Newtown, Conn., that shows her to be the kind of intellectual opportunist that would take advantage of tragedy to score points.

“Ravitch decided to spend much of the piece defending traditionalist thinking, as well as arguing against Nutmeg State Gov. Dan Malloy’s school reform efforts (including the expansion of charter schools, Ravitch’ s bogeyman of late).”

“As your editor, I’m not even going to dissect her arguments or her insinuations because it is not the right time for all that at all. Nor am I going to do some pearl-clutching, or call for Ravitch to be banished to some imaginary hinterland. I’m not even happy to be commenting on this piece at all. What I will say is that Ravitch is engaging in pure intellectual demagoguery in obituary form. This is absolutely, positively inappropriate to do. Not even Fleet Street writers, whose tradition of skewering the deceased in obituaries is legendary (and often admirable in a way), would defend this. Certainly Ravitch could have found a more-appropriate topic through which she could argue for her positions. She could have even devoted her piece to discussing how the Newtown massacre is an opportunity for all of us to build caring cultures for our children. Yet Ravitch has proven incapable of such decency or logical thinking. And this fact speaks loudly about Ravitch’s capacity for thoughtfulness, sensitivity, and decency.”

Wait, What?

So let’s get this right.  Diane Ravitch correctly points out that these teachers were career professionals that all belonged to a union, some of them had tenure, while others were working toward tenure…AND THAT ALL OF THEM were negatively impacted by legislation proposed by Governor Malloy.  In return she is described as someone who is incapable of decency or logical thinking.

Diane Ravitch’s comments were absolutely and totally correct.  These teachers were career professionals, they did belong to a union, some did have tenure and some were working toward tenure AND ALL OF THEM WERE negatively impacted by Governor Malloy’s “education reform” plan.

You can defend Malloy’s plan if you want, but you can’t say Connecticut’s new “education reform” bill didn’t impact these heroes and all the other teachers and school professionals in Connecticut!

Mr. Biddle, it is you who should take a look in the mirror.  Then you’ll see what someone unable to engage in telling the truth or logical thinking looks like.  Your politics of hate is not welcome in Connecticut.  It wasn’t welcome when you supported Governor Malloy’s anti-teacher, anti-union proposal last spring and it certainly isn’t welcome here as we grapple with the unimaginable horror of December 14, 2012.

Yes, there are people trying to capitalize on the tragedy, but it certainly isn’t those of us who are providing our readers with the truth.  It is the people like the TFA leadership and this Mr. Biddle who are the ones who should be ashamed of themselves.

Michelle “Buy Yourself An Election” Rhee returns to undermine democracy in Connecticut

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Tomorrow, the voters of Windsor and the rest of the 5th Connecticut House District will be returning to the polls to vote in the run-off primary between Democrats Leo Canty,  and Brandon McGee.

In the first primary, the two democrats tied.  Tomorrow’s re-vote will determine who will represent the Democratic Party in the November election.

Under Connecticut’s public financing system, neither candidate receives more funds, so neither one can get use money to buy themselves any last-minute advantage.

While volunteers can work as hard as they want for their candidate, campaign spending is done.

However, in typical fashion, the corporate education reformers won’t let the Spirit of the Law serve as a barrier to their desire to win at all cost.

Late last week, the Greater New England Public Schools Alliance, Michelle Rhee’s front group in Connecticut, dumped $32,000 into the race in support of Brandon McGee.

Just a month ago, Michelle Rhee and Jeb Bush were hosting a screening of the new anti-teacher, anti-union movie, “Won’t Back Down.”

So why would Rhee, a leading force in the effort to privatize America’s education system show  up in Connecticut to back a candidate that she doesn’t even know?

The answer is that Rhee and her money have appeared in Connecticut, not so much to support McGee but to defeat Leo Canty, a longtime Democratic and progressive leader.  Why Leo?  Because Leo Canty happens to work for the American Federation of Teachers.

And that is reason enough to get the “education reformers” to try to buy an election.

Oh, and whose money is behind this outrageous effort?  Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Steve Perry, the CEO of Hartford’s Capital Preparatory Magnet School.

Under Connecticut law, the two candidates faced restrictions on what they could raise and spend in the primary, but a loophole in the law allows outsiders and “independent” groups to spend whatever they want.

StudentsFirst didn’t even have the decency to honestly explain why they were actually putting in the money.  Instead, a spokesperson for the Great New England Public Schools Alliance issued a statement saying, “the organization supports McGee because he is a, “pro-education, pro-student candidate who will continue to bring meaningful reform to Connecticut.”

But no amount of lying can cover up the truth.

Michele Rhee and those who are looking to make millions by allowing certain charter schools and other corporations to re-direct million in taxpayer dollars are here to make sure that a candidate who supports teachers and Connecticut’s public schools doesn’t get elected.

Rhee’s actions are more than disgusting.

They are unethical, immoral and offensive to our nation’s democratic principles.

If you know anyone who lives in Windsor or in the rest of the 5th House District, remind them that tomorrow is primary day and make sure they know what is really at stake in tomorrow’s vote.

ALERT/UPDATE: Arbitrator rules against Malloy Administration on significant retirement issue

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Yesterday, I posted this blog about rumors spreading that the Malloy Administration has lost a massive arbitration ruling concerning the retirement incentive that was offered to some but not all state employees.  The details remain confusing.  An arbitration award or awards have certainly been made that require the state and SEBAC to negotiate and action to be taken by the State Retirement Commission.  I will update as details become available.   What is clear is that according to State employees knowledgeable  about the situation, there are employees who should have been given the opportunity to utilize retirement incentives, but were not given that opportunity and the problem must now be rectified.

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Although it hasn’t been officially confirmed, word is spreading that the Malloy Administration has lost a massive arbitration ruling today.

Last summer, the Connecticut State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) filed a grievance against the Malloy Administration with the Connecticut Board of Labor Relations.

The complaint revolved around the Malloy Administration’s unilateral decision to
offer to certain employees the ability to retire with 25 years of service regardless of age.”  According to labor unions, Malloy’s representatives made this offer without fulfilling their bargaining responsibility with SEBAC and without making it available to all state employees.

At the time, SEBAC challenged Malloy’s action because it was;

“(1) Unfair to employees who learned about them, because it forced those employees to make a critical life-changing decision without full information or the opportunity to change their minds; and

(2) Unfair to the vast majority of employees, who management never informed about the offer at all and thus were never given any opportunity to decide.”

Union leaders demanded that the offer be made available to all eligible state employees and that employees be given an adequate time frame to make a decision.

The Malloy Administration refused and filed a State Prohibitive Practice complaint.

Apparently, earlier today, an arbitrator ruled against the Malloy Administration.

If true, the state may now be forced to negotiate a process to give all employees the ability to retire, regardless of age, as long as they have at least 25 years of service.

There are also rumors that the Malloy Administration lost on a second major issue related to the fact that it gave managers longevity bonuses when unionized employees went without those payments.

Stay tuned – more to come.

Mr. President, I went ahead and upgraded the shipment to next day, priority delivery.

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“And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America. Because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.”

 - Senator Barack Obama • Spartanburg SC • November 3, 2007

 

PS, if they don’t show up by 10am, I’ve got the tracking number