New Jersey lawyer known for privatization effort leads UConn bargaining effort against faculty.


If there was any doubt that Governor Dannel Malloy was lying to state employees last fall when he was courting their vote, they need only look to the decision by Malloy’s political appointees on UConn’s Board of Trustees to hire a New Jersey based, corporate law firm with close ties to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to lead the contract negotiations against UConn’s faculty.

New Jersey lawyer John J. Peirano, a partner with Elroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, has been given a contract that could cost state taxpayers and UConn students $500,000 or more to serve as the lead negotiator against the American Association of University Professors – UConn Chapter.

Peirano’s firm, McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, is closely connected to Christie.  The firm’s Managing Director, Edward Deutsch, served on Christie’s gubernatorial transition team and is now a member of the Christie for President fundraising committee.  The firm’s Newark Managing Partner was recently appointed Christie’s chief legal counsel and other firm lawyers have been appointed by Christie to major New Jersey Boards and Commissions.

The news that the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees had hired a big time, out-of-state law firm to represent UConn in its negotiations with the faulty was first reported here at Wait, What? in an article entitled UConn hires Gov. Chris Christie connected law firm to negotiate contract with faculty union.

While both the Hartford Courant and CT Mirror have recently followed with their own news stories about the development, both media outlets skipped over any reference to the law firm’s connection with Governor Christie.  The Hartford Courant article is here – UConn’s Hiring Of Outside Law Firm Angers Faculty and the CT Mirror story is here – UConn begins labor contract talks with cost savings as goal.

As confirmed in the news reports, UConn will be paying the New Jersey firm $250,000 plus expenses for its work through December with an automatic contract extension into 2016.  The cost to UConn students and Connecticut taxpayers for the out-of-state “expertise” will run $310 an hour for attorney Peirano’s help.  Considering how long contract negotiations generally last, the total cost for the New Jersey law firm could easily surpass $500,000.

While UConn already spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on its own legal and labor relation staff, what makes the decision to hire outside negotiators particularly newsworthy is that this will be the first time that UConn has hired outside labor negotiators.

Considering Governor Dannel Malloy serves as the President of the UConn Board of Trustees, appoints the Chairman of the Board and directly appoints and controls the majority of the members of the board, the unprecedented decision has the Malloy administration’s fingerprints all over it.

The choice UConn made is also a strange one.  In addition to the close relationship that the New Jersey law firm has with Republican Governor Chris Christie, is the fact that controversy has often surrounded John J. Peirano, the law firm’s lawyer who will be leading the UConn negotiating operation.

A review of his track record reviles that Peirano has been associated with a series of unfair labor practice charges brought by unions, not to mention the role Peirano played in the Christie administration’s failed attempt to privatize the New Jersey Turnpike.

After taking office, Governor Christie created the New Jersey Privatization Task Force in March 2011.  Two months later, the anti-union governor’s Task Force reported that “privatization offers a variety of benefits to governments and taxpayers including lower costs, improvements in the quality of public services and access to private sector capital and professional expertise.”

A corresponding effort to privatize the New Jersey Turnpike Authority was derailed when the contract with toll collectors was extended for two years after toll collectors agreed to salary cuts of about 25 percent — from around $65,000 a year to $49,500 annually.

Attorney Peirano has been a lead labor lawyer for the Turnpike Authority.

Despite the major concessions given by toll collectors, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority issued a Request for Proposal to privatize the work of the Turnpike’s toll attendants.  The plan called for firing more than 200 full-time public employees and approximately 350 part-time employees, although the RFP did include a provision that would require any private contractor to offer positions, even if they were at a much lower salary level, to any of the public employees who would be laid off.

However, only a few weeks later, on February 25, 2011, the Turnpike Authority suspiciously eliminated the First Right of Refusal provision from the RFP.

In response to the Turnpike Authority’s decision to cut the public employees off at the knees and not even allow them an initial opportunity to remain employed, the union filed a lawsuit claiming the action was in retribution for the union’s outspoken opposition to the plan and that the Turnpike Authority’s action should not be allowed to stand.

In his brief to the court, the Turnpike Authority’s lawyer, Attorney Peirano, blasted the union and the public employees they represented in a court brief that opined,

“In an effort to undermine that decision, plaintiffs – the union representing toll collectors and seven of its members – have impermissibly sought to derail that process by manufacturing a First Amendment lawsuit in federal court.”

As the Star-Ledger reported at the time in an article entitled,

Wednesday in federal court, a lawyer for the toll collectors said that after they spoke out against plans this summer to privatize their jobs, the authority on Feb. 25 vindictively removed a “right of first refusal” provision that would have given the toll takers first dibs on jobs with the new company handling toll collection.

The clause was removed two days after union members picketed and protested at an authority meeting, and Simpson told reporters after the meeting he was “not happy” with the way toll collectors were behaving.

“The timing here could not be any clearer,” said lawyer Steven Weissman, representing International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local No. 194.

But John J. Peirano, a lawyer representing the authority, said toll collector protests did not lead to the removal of the right of first refusal provision.


The provision was removed because it was causing some prospective bidders to drop out, he said. Even though 23 prospective bidders initially expressed interest, only four bids were received.”

Whether the move was an immoral attempt to silence the unions or an unethical attempt to appease private contractors, the net effect was the same.

Attorney Peirano and his client, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, was intent on privatizing a public activity and refused to even give the displaced workers a first right of refusal to keep their jobs.

Inherently, despite the Christie administration’s best efforts, the ill-conceived privatization effort later collapsed.

Now that same lawyer is part of Governor Dannel Malloy’s team.

And as for Malloy and his record on higher education…

The CT Mirror reported yesterday that as a result of Governor Malloy’s utter failure to propose sufficient funding for the University of Connecticut and the state’s other public institutions of higher education,

The university in June reported is was facing a $52.7 million deficit for the fiscal year that begins in July 2016 — a 4 percent hole in the $1.36 billion needed to continue providing existing programs, services and salary levels. That projection was made before the final two-year state budget was adopted, providing UConn $4.5 million less than its leaders were anticipating.

University officials declined Wednesday to provide updated budget projections for the fiscal year that starts in nine months.

Seattle – What happens when teacher union leaders step up to support teachers, students, parents and public schools


For those union members, education advocates and parents who are consistently frustrated by the fact that some union leaders spend more time maintaining their close relationship with the power elite than fighting for their members and public education, the recent teacher strike in Seattle, Washington is proof that real champions have been stepping up in Seattle, Chicago, at the state level in New York and Massachusetts, and elsewhere.  These teacher union leaders are making a fundamental difference in the fight to improve public schools and provide greater support for teachers, students and parents.

For an update on the Seattle Teacher Strike check out, The surprising things Seattle teachers won for students by striking.

The post appears on Valerie Strauss’s blog, The Answer Sheet.  Strauss is a reporter with the Washington Post and her bog is one of the most important resources in the nation for information about education policy and the unprecedented assault on public schools and public school teachers by the Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry.

If you don’t read Strauss’ blog you should book mark it and sign up for her regulator updates at:

In The surprising things Seattle teachers won for students by striking, Strauss writes;

Seattle teachers went on strike for a week this month with a list of goals for a new contract. By the time the strike officially ended this week, teachers had won some of the usual stuff of contract negotiations — for example, the first cost-of-living raises in six years — but also some less standard objectives.

For one thing, teachers demanded, and won, guaranteed daily recess for all elementary school students — 30 minutes each day. In an era when recess for many students has become limited or even non-existent despite the known benefits of physical activity for children, this is a big deal, and something parents had sought.

What’s more, the union and school officials agreed to create committees at 30 schools to look at equity issues, including disciplinary measures that disproportionately affect minorities. Several days after the end of the strike, the Seattle School Board voted for a one-year ban on end suspensions of elementary students who commit specific nonviolent offenses, and called for a plan that could eliminate all elementary school suspensions.

Other wins for students in Seattle’s nearly 100 traditional public schools include:

Teachers won an end to the use of student standardized test scores to evaluate them — and now, teachers will be included in decisions on the amount of standardized testing for students. This evaluation practice has been slammed by assessment experts as invalid and unreliable, and has led to the narrowing of curriculum, with emphasis on the two subjects for which there are standardized tests, math and English Language arts.

Special education teachers will have fewer students to work with at a time. What’s more there will be caseload limits for other specialists, including psychologists and occupational therapists.

Seattle teachers had said they were not only fighting for pay raises but to make the system better for students. It sounds like they did.

Every teacher union leader in the country should be looking to Seattle for guidance on how to fight back against the forces seeking to destroy public education in the United States.

Malloy must come clean on his attempt to repeal collective bargaining rights


In defense of its endorsement of Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, the Connecticut Education Association is using its EXAMINE THE FACTS campaign to tell teachers that Malloy, “Supports teachers’ rights to collectively bargain and negotiate contracts, benefits, and working conditions.”

At the same time, most of Connecticut’s other unions are trying to persuade their members that if elected, Republican Tom Foley will follow Wisconsin’s right-wing, anti-union governor and destroy collective bargaining altogether.

But the fact remains that Governor Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose unilaterally eliminating collective bargaining rights for a group of public employees.

In Malloy’s case, as part of his corporate education reform industry initiative, he proposed repealing collectively bargaining rights for public school teachers working in the poorest schools.

Had the Connecticut General Assembly not stripped Malloy’s anti-union provisions, 1,000 – 1,500 public school teachers, in up to 25 schools across Connecticut, would have lost their rights to collective bargain.

In response to Malloy’s proposal, the CEA wrote to its members on March 14, 2012 telling them that Malloy’s Education Bill would have “real and dramatic consequences for teachers.”

Leading the list of negative impacts, the CEA leadership explained that,

“The bill would take away collective bargaining rights from teachers in the lowest performing schools….”

The CEA letter went on to urge teachers to contact their legislators and tell them to “Fix the governor’s bill” and “Restore collective bargaining rights.”

With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, Governor Malloy has an obligation to come clean about his position on collective bargaining. 

Malloy claims that he supports collective bargaining rights, the leaders of Connecticut’s unions are telling their members that Malloy supports collective bargaining rights…but it is worth repeating, yet again, that Dannel Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose repealing collective bargaining rights for unionized public employees.

To earn the votes of Connecticut’s teachers and other union members, Malloy needs to stand up, explain why he produced such an anti-union proposal and renounce his 2012 effort to repeal collective bargaining rights.

Working Families Party put politics before policy by endorsing Malloy – Uses endorsement to mislead voters


Here is the statement I released in response to the news that the Working Family Party has endorsed “four more years” of Governor Dannel Malloy.  You can read the WFP statement below;

Pelto: “Working Families Party put politics before policy by endorsing Malloy – Uses endorsement to mislead voters”

While it is unfortunate, the Working Families Party’s endorsement of Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy is not surprising.  Rather than hold Malloy responsible for his anti-working family policies, the group has thrown their support behind an incumbent who has squandered the opportunity to stand up and do the right thing for the real working families of Connecticut.

Worse, the WFP leadership is using their endorsement to mislead the people of the state.

In their endorsement, the Working Party falsely states;

  • We were one of the few states to balance the budget by asking the super-rich to pay their fair share instead of cutting essential services.
  • And while some states eliminated workers’ rights to collectively bargain, we expanded that right to more workers

But the truth is Governor Malloy IS THE ONLY DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR IN THE NATION to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in so-called “turnaround schools.”

Not only did Dan Malloy fail to support the fundamental rights of unionized workers but he has consistently worked to undermine the teaching profession and the rights and work of state and municipal employees. Malloy’s corporate education reform industry proposals were in opposition to everything the WFP is supposed to stand for.

And the WFP’s claim that Dannel Malloy asked the “super-rich” to pay their fair share would be funny if it wasn’t such a serious example of how Malloy has failed during his time in office.  When Connecticut’s families were asked to pay higher income tax rates, Malloy actually FAILED to increase the rate on those making more than $1 million because, as he told a  joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly, he didn’t want to “punish success.”  Malloy’s failure to promote a fair and equitable tax structure is legendary and revealing.  Coddling the rich and burdening the middle class working families with a disproportionate tax burden, such as the state’s largest gas tax increase in history, are just two examples of Malloy’s failure when it comes to his tax policies.

The Working Families Party endorsement is disappointing but not surprising.  They have proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that they put politics before policy and that is a sad commentary indeed.


Statement from Working Families Party – July 29, 2014

Governor Dan Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman have just earned the endorsement of the Connecticut Working Families Party!

Over the past four years, Governor Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Wyman have been critical to important victories for working and middle class families and the unemployed. They championed Connecticut’s historic paid sick days program. Now they’re facing a tough re-election — and they’ll need your help to win.

Thanks to the leadership of Governor Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Wyman, Connecticut is a national leader when it comes to economic justice:

  • We became the first state to guarantee paid sick time off to hundreds of thousands of service industry workers.
  • We were the first state to raise our minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
  • We were one of the few states to balance the budget by asking the super-rich to pay their fair share instead of cutting essential services.
  • And while some states eliminated workers’ rights to collectively bargain, we expanded that right to more workers.

Over the past few months, we’ve been carefully considering who to endorse: scrutinizing candidate’s records, asking you, our members and activists, and hearing directly from the candidates at our Forum. When we asked you what we should do it was crystal clear: you wanted us to endorsed Governor Malloy and work to reelect him.

A vote on the Working Families Party line counts for the best candidate, and also sends a message that you want the Governor to focus on building an economy that works for everyone, not just the super wealthy.

Thanks for all you do,

Lindsay Farrell
Executive Director
Connecticut Working Families Party


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

Pelto to Union Leaders: Do the Ends Justify the Means?


Released to the media earlier today….

TheService Employees International Union has issued a press advisory that they “will make an important announcement at noon at SEIU 1199 New England Headquarters, 77 Huyshope Avenue, Hartford Malloy and Wyman are listed as attending.

Although the SEIU’s leadership informed Jonathan Pelto, the gubernatorial candidate for the Education and Democracy Party, that he would be allowed an opportunity to be heard before the SEIU endorsed a candidate, today’s presumed endorsement of Governor Malloy comes without giving Pelto an opportunity to fill out a questionnaire, be interviewed by the SEIU political action committee or address SEIU’s members.

“It is a sad testament to the state of our democracy when union leaders won’t even allow dissenting views to be heard,” Pelto said.  “The question has never been whether Malloy will get the endorsement of union leaders, but whether those leaders will show any recognition of the democratic principles and values that we claim to believe in.  I’m left wondering if these union leaders really believe that the end justifies the means?”

In response to an email from Pelto requesting an opportunity to be heard during the SEIU endorsement process, Paul Filson, Director SEIU CT State Council, wrote back on June 2, 2104 stating,

Hi Jonathan,

Happy to send you the questionnaire once you declare you are, indeed, running for Governor or any other office (I understand you are exploring a run right now.)  We are well along in our process for determining who SEIU will endorse for Governor. 

 Athough Pelto officially announced his candidacy; the SEIU is now joining the AFl-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter and other public employee unions in preventing Pelto from addressing those who are charged with deciding who these unions should support in the 2014 gubernatorial election.

In response to the union’s stance against democracy and open and fair debate, Pelto stated,

 “It is astounding and disturbing that Connecticut’s union leaders have once again denied me the opportunity to speak to their members about this important campaign for governor and remind those members that Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy is the only Democratic Governor in the nation to propose doing away with the fundamental right to due process for Connecticut’s teachers, and is also the only Democratic Governor in the nation to propose unilaterally repealing collective bargaining for teachers in turnaround school.

It appears that these union leaders have forgotten the powerful words of the great labor champion, W.E.B. Dubois, who wrote, ‘The cost of liberty is less than the cost of repression. If they can’t remember the teaching of W.E. B.Dubois, the least they could do is remember the words of Woody Guthrie, who observed, “Some men rob you with a six-gun — others rob you with a fountain pen.”

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

The attack on the fundamental rights of workers continues


Here in Connecticut we have a Democratic Governor who proposed doing away with teacher tenure, which is the basic due process protection for those who devote their lives to educating, nurturing and supporting our state’s public school children.

In the same piece of legislation, Senate Bill 24, Dannel “Dan’ Malloy also proposed completely doing away with collective bargaining for public school teachers in so-called “turnaround schools.”

No sitting Democratic governor in the United States has ever proposed such an anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education initiative.

Thankfully, the Connecticut General Assembly stripped Malloy’s anti-union proposals before passing what was still a terrible bill for Connecticut’s public schools.

Today it is the U.S. Supreme Court’s turn to attack the rights of workers.  In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court issued their opinion in the case of Harris v. Quinn.  Although the case recognized workers’ right to join unions and collectively bargain, the decision will allow some unionized workers who “enjoy the benefits negotiated by their union,” to refrain from paying the dues that helped bring about those benefits.

This latest Supreme Court ruling, along with the recent anti-tenure case in California, and Governor Malloy’s worst in-the-nation anti-teacher, anti-union initiative in 2012 should remind voters that when it comes to protecting the rights of workers few politicians truly say what they mean and mean what they say.

Unlike Governor Malloy, I will fight for – not against – the rights of teachers and others who have the right to collectively bargain.

In addition, unlike Governor Malloy, whether people are unionized or not, I will fight to reduce the tax burden on middle class and working families by requiring that the wealthiest in our state pay their fair share.

People deserve leaders who will roll up their sleeves and work to truly resolve the myriad of problems that face our state and its citizens.

Whether at the national level or here in Connecticut, we’ve learned the hard way what happens when we have elected officials put their own political aspirations ahead of the people they are sworn to represent.

The time has come to have leaders who understand the true meaning and purpose of a representative democracy.

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

Union Leader says Pelto is anti-union?


In recent weeks, one political pundit called me a “union stooge,” while the former Democratic Party Chairman, John Droney, referred to me as a “liberal ideologue.”

But this morning, in a “What the _____” moment, the President of SEIU 1199NE, the great union that represents 19,000 Connecticut health care workers issued a press release attacking my life-long commitment to collective bargaining, unions, and the historic role 1199 has played in our state and nation.

The President of SEIU 1199NE writes,

“Running for governor is a serious endeavor and it is important to understand who has paid Jonathan Pelto in the past and not just his current rhetoric as a potential candidate.”

Here is the truth;

In 1984 I was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives via a Democratic primary in which 1199 was one of my earliest and most important supporters.  I won that primary in no small part thanks to the work of 1199 and a variety of other unions.

From my first day as a legislator I worked hand-in-hand with 1199 to ensure that state workers at the Mansfield Training School were protected as the state de-institutionalized its residents.

Ten years later, I left the legislature with what I believe was the highest AFL-CIO COPE rating of any legislator.

And my professional life has been spent fighting alongside public employees, unions and their members.

According to today’s SEIU 1199NE press release, the explanation for this unwarranted attack is as follows,

“In 2001, while workers were fighting statewide for fair wages and better staffing to care for patients Jonathan Pelto was a paid consultant to the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, the nursing home association battling workers.  Pelto devised strategies to portray workers as undeserving and greedy.

When the future of low wage health care workers was on the line Jonathan Pelto sided with the association paying him to defeat workers,” SEIU 1199NE President David Pickus said today.  “Now as a potential candidate he is seeking support from unions but he had no support for unions in 2001 when he was strategizing against Connecticut workers and aligning himself with disgraced former governor John Rowland. “

Pelto devised strategies to portray workers as undeserving and greedy????


While the event in question was more than thirteen years ago, I remember it well.

The 2001 nursing home strike was a carefully orchestrated event that ended with Rowland and the Connecticut Legislature taking emergency action to allocate over $100 million dollars in increased funding for nursing home staff.  In fact, as some older union members will recall, the legislative language that went with the increased funding included the unprecedented step of requiring nursing homes to spend that additional money to improve staffing levels and increase what everyone recognized were unfairly low wages.

Over the following years, rather than portray Connecticut’s nursing workers as underserving and greedy, 1199 and the nursing homes worked hand in hand to pressure the governor, as well as Democratic and Republican legislators, to increase funding for long term care facilities and their staff.

At the time, my company, which was called Impact Strategies, Inc., helped a variety of groups, including a number of unions, better position their issues in the public arena.

While my client in this case was one of the nursing home associations, we all worked to expand funding for nursing home care and I still have the powerful direct mail pieces that I designed that were used urge the families of nursing home residents to contact the governor and legislature and demand adequate funding for long term care.

It is hard to imagine how or why SEIU 1199NE would destroy my position and take the facts so out of context.

Having watched the quality of care that 1199NE members provided my grandfather at the Hebrew Home in Hartford, it is beyond offensive that they would suggest that I “devised strategies to portray workers as undeserving and greedy.”

The only thing I can imagine as to why they would engage in this unwarranted and unfair attack is that SEIU 1199NE is holding a “GOVERNOR’S FORUM” with Dannel “Dan” Malloy on Saturday, May 31st at Manchester Community College.

Rather than provide me with an opportunity to come an address 1199 members, someone in the union took it upon themselves to trash me and my record.

As a potential candidate for governor, it would have been far more appropriate had they invited me to come and sit down with members and talk through these issues.

The level of animosity displayed in the 1199NE press release reminds me of Gandhi’s famous quote;

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

While I wish the union would have provided me with the opportunity to set the record straight,  I assume rank and file healthcare workers will take the time to discover that I am and have always been an extraordinarily strong supporter of the hard-working people who belong to SEIU 1199NE.

As this campaign season progresses, I look forward to making my case about why rank and file members of 1199 and Connecticut’s other unions should join in my campaign as we confront the incumbency party and demand the major changes Connecticut needs if we are to become a state in which all of our citizens can lead better, more fulfilling lives.

Note:  Here is the  SEIU 1199NE event that I was not invited to attend:

And here is the news coverage from CT Newsjunkie – Union Attacks Pelto or

Governor Malloy: Dedicated to alienating the Democratic base?


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


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


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.

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