Important – Massive Common Core opt-out movement continues to grow in New York State

With just under two-thirds of New York State’s school districts counted, the New York State Allies for Public Education, a pro opt-out group of parents and teachers that are counting opt-out students district by district, announced yesterday that 177,249 students had already been opted out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme.

It now looks certain that New York State will not reach the minimum 95 percent level that Common Core test proponents claim is “mandated” by federal and state law.

The unprecedented anti-Common Core test uprising by New York parents has the full support of NYSUT (New York State’s teachers union) and more than 120 local New York teacher union chapters, as well as the New York Working Families Party and a variety of groups on both the left and the right of the political spectrum.

Sadly, while the opt out numbers are growing in Connecticut, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter (AFT-CT) and the Connecticut Chapter of the Working Families Party (WFP) have all gone missing on this critically important citizen movement, leaving Connecticut parents, students and teachers without the support and help they need and deserve.

But such isn’t the case in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island where opt out efforts continue to grow exponentially, all with the support of teacher unions and progressive organizations.

In New Jersey, at least 15 percent of all high school juniors opted out of that state’s Common Core test and the opt out rate in Montclair, New Jersey exceeded 40 percent.

Back in New York, the Journal News of the lower Hudson Valley reported that, “roughly 20 percent of students on average opted out of the exams in 41 of 54 districts…”

The newspaper reported that in Mahopac, New York 50 percent of eligible students were opted out of the Common Core tests.

Long Island based media reported added that, 40 percent of all Long Island [grade] 3-8 students refused to take last week’s ELA Common Core state tests.”

And that, “Numbers in some districts reached well over 70 percent, with at least one district exceeding 80 percent….”

Today, Juan Gonzalez, the liberal columnist for the New York Daily News and co-host of Democracy Now!, wrote,

Remember the number 999.

It’s the computer code that keeps track of what will go down as a historic grass-roots movement in public education in New York State.

Tens of thousands of parents rebelled this week against years of standardized testing from the politicians in Albany. They joined the national opt-out movement by refusing to allow their children to take the annual state-mandated English Language Arts exam.

Whatever the final number, it was a startling act of mass civil disobedience, given that each parent had to write a letter to the local school demanding an opt out for their child.

The movement has grown so rapidly in recent years that the state instructed teachers beforehand to bubble in “999” as the final score for any child refusing the exam — the code for opt out.

[…]

Whatever the final number, it was a startling act of mass civil disobedience, given that each parent had to write a letter to the local school demanding an opt out for their child.

It’s even more impressive because top education officials publicly warned school districts they risk losing federal funds if nonparticipation surpasses 5%.

“To react to parents who are speaking out by threatening to defund our schools is outrageous,” said Megan Diver, the mother of twin girls who refused their third-grade test at Public School 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

To Diver and other parents, the politicians like Gov. Cuomo have ignored more than a year of huge town hall meetings across the state where parents voiced frustration with the constant testing and the new Common Core curriculum the state now uses.

Back in 2009, the old state tests showed 77% of students statewide were proficient in English. The next year, the pass level was raised and the proficiency percentage dropped to 57%. A few years later, Albany introduced Common Core and the level plummeted even more — to 31% statewide.

Same children. Same teachers. Different test.

The politicians created a test that says all schools are failing, not just the ones in the big cities, then declare a crisis, so they can close more neighborhood schools, launch more charter schools, and target more teachers for firing.

Meanwhile, the private company that fashioned this new test, Pearson, insists on total secrecy over its content.

This week, test instructions even warned teachers not to “read, review, or duplicate the contents of secure test material before, during, or after test administration.”

What kind of testing company forbids a teacher from reading the test he or she administers?

Little wonder so many parents decided the only way to be heard was joining the opt-out movement. Next Tuesday begins round two — the state math tests.”

The opt-out movement will not go away.

Parents are sick and tired of the grotesque efforts of the corporate education reform industry to undermine public education, denigrate teachers and jeopardize the well-being of our children.

Here in Connecticut, the Common Core testing system is the result of Governor Malloy’s anti-teacher, anti-student, anti-parent, anti-public education initiative.

Adding to the damage caused by a so-called Democratic governor, the wounds are only made more severe by the fact that the leadership of Connecticut’s two teacher unions and other key progressive organizations refuse to step up to support Connecticut’s parents, students and teachers.

But we will continue to move forward on our own…

And the harsh reality is that parents who don’t opt their children out of the destructive Common Core SBAC tests will wish they had when the results are delivered next summer and they are inappropriately told that their children are failures and that the unfair label will be inappropriately added to their child’s academic record.

The opt out process is simple.  Just write an email or note to your school’s principal and say my child is not allowed to participate in the Common Core SBAC test… period!

Common Core SBAC testing – Open letter to the Connecticut Working Families Party

April 16, 2015

To the leadership of the Connecticut Working Families Party,

As a result of Governor Dannel Malloy’s anti-teacher, anti-student, anti-parent, and anti-public education Corporate Education Reform Industry Initiative, public schools across Connecticut are participating in the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scheme.

As you know, the SBAC tests are designed to label the vast majority of Connecticut’s public school students as failures.  The Common Core SBAC test is particularly unfair and discriminatory for students of color, who come from poor families, who face English language challenges or who utilize special education services.

According to the cut scores approved by the Malloy administration, more than 3 in 4 African American and Latino children will be labeled as “failing.”  The projected “failure rates” for students who utilize special education services and those who aren’t fluent in the English Language (English Language Learners) is expected to be in excess of 90 percent.

While the failure rate is not designed to promote more funding for at risk students, it will become part of their permanent academic records ensuring they face even greater barriers going forward.

The Common Core tests are nothing short of the foundation of the immoral campaign to undermine public education, denigrate teachers and privatize public education.

Not only are these destructive tests designed to label children and schools as failures, but the SBAC testing scam is the underpinning of Governor Malloy’s teacher evaluation program.

But as you know, there is an unprecedented opt-out movement building across the nation and the Working Families Party of New York, along with other progressive and community groups, have been stepping forward and speaking out in support of parents and their right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC tests. 

With Connecticut one year behind New York’s testing program, far fewer parents in this state are aware of the problems associated with the Common Core SBAC testing and the damage it is designed to do.

The lack of awareness makes it all the more important to provide parents and students with the information they need, and provide teachers with the support they require as they provide parents with the truth about their rights and the devastation these tests will cause.

Already well over one hundred thousand parents have decided to opt their children out of the Common Core tests in New York State and growing numbers of parents are taking that same action here in Connecticut.

But parents continue to be misled and harassed by the Malloy administration and a number of local school districts for stepping forward to protect their children.

Now is the very moment that parents, students and teachers need our help and support.

As the New York Working Families Party announced as part of a major media push beginning last week,

“Opting out sends a powerful message to the Governor, the legislature, and the Board of Regents: that enough is enough when it comes to overtesting our kids, demonizing teachers, and undermining public education. The parent-led movement is bringing pressure on politicians to change the teacher evaluation system to one that works for all of our kids, in high-income districts and low-income districts alike.”

The same is true here in Connecticut where the Governor, the Connecticut General Assembly and the State Board of Education need to understand that their policies are turning our schools into little more than testing factories.

The Working Families Party of New York is engaged in a an important program to inform New York residents that; 

“If you’re a parent of a 3rd to 8th grader, we encourage you to learn more about opting out…If you’re not a parent of a 3rd to 8th grader…show your solidarity with the parent-led movement against high-stakes testing — then spread the word.

This is changing the entire debate around public education…and we urge you to learn more about it.”

On behalf of Connecticut parents, students and teachers, I’m writing to request that the Working Families Party of Connecticut follow the lead of your colleagues in New York State and join us here as we fight back against the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing program.

Parents, students and teachers need and deserve your support.

Thank you,

Jonathan Pelto

The open letter is also being sent to:

Connecticut Working Families Party
30 Arbor Street, Suite 210
Hartford, CT 06106

Sal Luciano, CT Working Families Party Chairman

Kurt Westby, CT Working Families Party Treasurer

Lindsay Farrell, CT Working Families Party, Executive Director

Taylor Leake, CT Working Families Party, Communications Director

Joe Dinkin, National Working Families Party

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

Finally, an opportunity to speak to union members

After being shut out from speaking to the members of the American Federation of Teachers’ endorsing committee and the AFL-CIO delegates charged with selecting a candidate for endorsement, the Connecticut Working Families Party was kind enough to adhere to the fundamental principle of democracy and fairness and allow me to address their meeting yesterday, June 21, 2014.

I began my speech about the problems facing Connecticut and the need for new leadership with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said… “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

Here are some of the news articles about the Working Families Party event.

One Governor, Two Challengers Make Their Pitch (CT Newsjunkie)

Given the cold shoulder this past week by the AFL-CIO, the state’s largest labor federation, Jonathan Pelto, a third-party candidate trying to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot in November was given an opportunity to address the members.

A former Democratic legislator and party official, Pelto who supported Malloy four years ago, finds himself in the unusual position of challenging a sitting governor. He said he felt it was his job to get up and start speaking about the bad policy decisions the Malloy administration was making first with his blog “Wait, What?” and then with his candidacy.

[…]

Pelto said Connecticut has already seen its first “Wisconsin moment” and it came in 2012 when Malloy released his education reform package.

“The corporate education reform industry’s bill,” Pelto said. “That bill did away with tenure for all teachers in Connecticut and it repealed collective bargaining for teacher’s in turnaround schools.”

He said those provisions were stripped by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly, but they went on to pass the rest of what he believes was “bad legislation” and “quite worthy of Scott Walker and his type in Wisconsin.”

Read the complete article at:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/one_governor_two_challengers_make_their_pitch/

 

Malloy, Pelto, McKinney Woo Working Families Party At Convention (Hartford Courant)

“Dan Malloy is, to my knowledge, the only democratic governor in the United States who has proposed doing away with tenure and proposed unilaterally repealing collective bargaining,” Pelto said.

Pelto also attacked Malloy for not significantly raising rates on the state’s wealthiest in his 2011 tax plan while giving middle-class brackets a significant bump. The third-party candidate finished by defending his run.

Read the complete article at: http://www.courant.com/news/elections/hc-working-families-convention-0622-20140620,0,1924544.story

 

Malloy and Pelto finally at same microphone, if hours apart (CT Mirror)

Pelto came to bury Malloy, not praise him.

The AFT and AFL-CIO shunned Pelto, an old ally when he was a Democratic legislator, from its endorsement process, but he was invited to attend Saturday. As the president of the AFL-CIO, Sal Luciano ignores Pelto. As the co-chairman of the WFP, he introduced him Saturday, albeit perfunctorily.

“Considering what’s happened over the past couple of weeks I just appreciate any opportunity to

Pelto talks about things that the Working Families Party loves. He decries what he calls the corporate forces behind charter schools. He favors a more progressive income tax, one that would take a bigger bite out of Fairfield County incomes.

Read the complete article at:  http://ctmirror.org/malloy-and-pelto-finally-at-same-microphone-if-hours-apart/

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

Will the Working Families Party stand up for working families in this year’s election

The Working Families Party is based in New York.  They also have a chapter here in Connecticut.

Dannel “Dan” Malloy only won by 6,000 votes in the last election.  The Working Family Party gave him the victory since the WFP line added more than 26,000 votes to his total.

Although their endorsement process for the 2014 election for governor here in Connecticut has barely begun, some claim that Work Families Party leadership has already committed their endorsement to Malloy despite the fact that he has consistently failed on a number of Working Family Party priorities.

In New York, the Working Family Party’s strategy and process has appeared far more open and up for grabs.

A recent public opinion poll showed Andrew Cuomo skating to victory unless the Working Families Party put up a candidate who offered voters a better choice, in which case much of Cuomo’s lead was projected to disappear.

The WFP issue has received significant media coverage in New York.

Two days ago, the nation’s leading education advocate, Diane Ravitch announced that she will not be a candidate for governor on behalf of the Working Families Party, due in part to her recent health issues.

Diane Ravitch, who has generously posted blogs about my possible candidacy for governor here in Connecticut, did add;

“I hope that WFP mounts a vigorous campaign, especially on the issue of education, pointing out that the Cuomo administration has tolerated highly inequitable funding, limited the ability of districts to tax themselves to meet their needs, and shown preference for charter schools–which enroll 3% of the state’s children–over public schools. Our children are our future.”

Yesterday, word spread that the potential nominee for the Working Families Party might be a Fordham Law School professor and expert on government ethics named Zephyr Teachout.

Sounding what will be a familiar message for Connecticut voters, Zephyr Teachout released the following statement about her effort to win the Working Families Party nomination in New York.

“I’m seeking the WFP nomination because New Yorkers deserve an economy and democracy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy and well-connected. The system is rigged for the rich and powerful, and as part of that broken system, Andrew Cuomo isn’t going to fix it. People’s voices aren’t being heard, Cuomo not only failed to do anything real to prevent wealthy and corporate donors from buying our politicians, but proposed severe cuts in education funding while giving massive tax breaks to bankers and billionaires. I am strong supporter of public education, a democracy responsive to our voices, and an economy grounded in good jobs and many small businesses, not a few powerful corporations.”

But New York Governor Mario Cuomo is striking back.  As Diane Ravitch explained on her blog later in the day yesterday,

Governor Cuomo is trying to persuade other statewide candidates to refuse the Working Families Party endorsement if they choose an independent to run against him. His goal is to punish the party if it does not endorse him.

There is a battle going on for the future of the Democratic Party. Will it be a progressive party, or will it vie with Republicans to hold the line on taxes and budgets? Will it fight for public education or for privatization?

And now comes late word from a New York City blogger who reports that NYSUT and UFT President Mulgrew has pushed, twisted arms and may have practically secured the WFP nomination for governor for Governor Cuomo.  The blogger writes,

Never mind that the entire Governor Andy [Cuomo] agenda has been to bend over for the moneyed interests of the state. Never mind that upstate New York is still an economic wasteland. Never mind that the “Children’s Lobbyist” cares only about 3% of the students of New York State (those who attend charter schools)…Never mind that if the WFP does nominate Governor Andy they are contradicting all they believe in and will probably have to change their name.

Worse is the behind the scenes machination of Mulgrew, and at his behest and control NYSUT, and the manipulation and dirty dealing on behalf of Governor Andy!

Where is the consultation with the rank and file? Where is the transparency behind this decision to get Governor Andy [Cuomo] the nomination?

We all know what Mulgrew’s response will be.

“At least we will have a seat at the table.”

Big whoop! A seat at the table mean nothing if every time one goes to sit down it is pulled out from under.

If this latest rumor is true, it is certainly an interesting statement about the labor leaders who represent teachers because the UFT (United Federation of Teachers) is the New York City chapter of the AFT (American Federation of Teachers).

In Connecticut, the same union is called the AFT-Connecticut.

Considering Andrew Cuomo is either the worst Democratic governor in the nation when it comes to public education issues (or the second worst if we put Dannel Malloy in the top spot), it is sad and ironic if the New York City union that represents teachers is helping deliver the Working Families Party endorsement to an enemy of teachers and public education.

It would be like the leaders of the AFT-CT trying to help deliver the Working Families Party endorsement to Dannel Malloy…Or as we like to say, Wait, What?

We’ll just have to see what happens here in Connecticut as the Working Family Party’s endorsement process continues.

At that point we’ll know whether the Working Families Party is willing to stand up for working families.

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

Democratic State Central Committee’s legacy of using donations to fight pro-public education Democrats

One of the newer Wait, What? readers raised a question in the comment section of the blog this week.  They took offense when one of the blog’s longest standing, and most respected readers, realsaramerica pointed out that Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and the State Democrats diverted resources away from beating Republicans and, instead, used the money to try to defeat a slate of pro-public education Democrats… Democrats who had the support of the Connecticut Education Association and the Connecticut Working Families Party.

The new reader, derpdominguez, wrote:

So the great revelation of this campaign is that local Bridgeport politics is backwards and corrupt? Have you been living in this state for the past 40 years? Does it really have anything to do with the state party?

For those who don’t know about last year’s Democratic Primary in Bridgeport for the Board of Education, you can read the earlier Wait, What? posts or here is the abbreviated version;

As many readers know, it seems that every day thousands of Connecticut activists receive emails from top Democratic elected officials and the leadership of the Democratic State Central Committee asking for donations to help bolster the Democrat’s campaign fund.

Most of these emails ask existing or potential donors to “chip” in another $3 or $5.

The emails also inform recipients that ALL OF THE MONEY RAISED will go toward beating Republicans.  In fact, one recent email pledged that the funds raised will, “help us beat the Tea Party Republicans and their multimillion-dollar super PACs.”

However, despite repeated requests for an explanation, neither the Democratic State Central Committee nor Governor Malloy’s political operatives will come clean about their inappropriate involvement in last fall’s Bridgeport Democratic Primary for seats on the Bridgeport Board of Education.

On one side was the pro-charter school, pro-corporate education reform slate that was selected and endorsed by Mayor Bill Finch and his allies on the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee.  The endorsed slate was committed to keeping Paul Vallas, the internationally renowned public school privatization czar, on as the head of Bridgeport’s Schools.

On the other side was a slate of pro-education Democrats who were committed to pushing back the corporate education reform industry, dumping Vallas and re-focusing public investments in Bridgeport’s Public Schools.

The challenge slate also had the strong support of the Connecticut Education Association and the Working Families Party.

Although the Democratic Party has consistently claimed that all the money it raises is used to beat Republicans, in an unethical, inappropriate and underhanded move, the Chair of the Democratic State Central Committee, along with the help of Malloy’s campaign operatives, used more than $50,000 in Democratic State Central funds to directly bank-roll the anti-public education slate in Bridgeport against the pro-public education Democratic challenge slate.

The move by the Connecticut’s Democratic State Central Committee to use its funds to beat Democrats in a Democratic primary was unprecedented.

The day before the Bridgeport Democratic Primary, the Democratic State Central Committee transferred $20,000 to the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee to pay for their get-out-the-vote effort and cover the costs incurred by Mayor Finch’s anti-public education slate. One of those expenses was a payment of $3,048.15 to a Portland, Maine direct mail company that produced and sent out a brochure for the anti-public education slate.

Meanwhile, in addition to transferring $20,000 in funds that were supposed to be used for beating Republicans, the Democratic State Central Committee sent its own check to that Portland, Maine company to cover additional direct mail brochures for the anti-public education slate.  Those checks were for 9,471.44 (8/26/13), $3,911.21 (8/29/13) and $4,735.72 (9/10/13).

During the same period, the Democratic State Central also paid Malloy’s political consultants, Global Strategies Group, consulting fees of $7,500 and $5,000.

As an aside, Global Strategies Group was already being paid by “A Better Connecticut PAC” to support the anti-public education slate in the Bridgeport primary.  “A Better Connecticut PAC,” which was set up by ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group that helped fund the record-breaking lobbying campaign behind Malloy’s education reform legislation.  To date, Malloy’s political consultants have collected well in excess of $2.5 million from A Better Connecticut and other corporate education reform advocacy groups.

The real problem is that the Democratic State Central Committee has never come clean about why it spent in excess of $50,000 to beat Bridgeport’s pro-public education Democratic slate, nor have they explained how they managed to circumvent the party rules to use money raised to beat Republicans in a campaign to beat Democrats.

Thankfully, the Bridgeport anti-public education slate lost, Paul Vallas was forced to ride off into the west, and the candidates endorsed and supported by the Working Families Party and the Connecticut Education Association took control of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

So, in short… to the person who wrote, does my potential candidacy have anything to do with Bridgeport, Malloy, the corporate education reform industry and the Democratic state party?

The answer is a resounding …. Yes.

Key Bridgeport activist in battle to stop education reform industry leaves Working Families Party

Maria Pereira, the former Bridgeport Board of Education member who fought Paul Vallas and his corporate education reform initiatives, helped lead the effort to strike down the Malloy administration’s illegal takeover of the Bridgeport Schools System, played a pivotal role in defeating Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s failed initiative to do away with an elected board of education and replace it with one that he would appoint, and helped run the successful campaign to strip the education reformers of their majority control of the Bridgeport Board of Education has resigned her position with the Connecticut Working Families Party State Central Committee.

Maria Pereira’s resignation is significant on a number of levels not the least of which is it highlights the problem facing some of Connecticut’s labor and progressive group leaders.

Governor Malloy’s decision to seek re-election has placed some labor leaders in an extremely difficult spot.  While Malloy has utilized a “scorched earth policy” in his attacks on public education and state employees, some labor and progressive leaders are trying to argue that their organizations should still endorse Governor Malloy despite the fact that has earned the reputation as the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic Governor in the nation.

The effort to endorse Malloy won’t fly with many activists and rank and file members who have directly suffered from Malloy’s policies

In here resignation letter to the chairs of the Working Families Party, Bridgeport’s public school advocate wrote the following,

In 2009, the Working Families Party of Connecticut gave me an opportunity which I would not have been given by either major political party.  I was a parent of public school student, who had never aspired to, or been elected to public office.  I had not been politically active.

I will always be grateful to the Working Families Party for nominating me to run for a seat on the Bridgeport Board of Education.  I was elected to the Board and completed my four (4) year term.

During the course of that term, the State Board of Education, in a conspiracy orchestrated by hedge fund billionaires, the Bridgeport business community, Mayor Finch and the Governor’s Office, illegally disbanded the democratically elected Board of Education, and installed in its place, an appointed corporate dominated Board.

Along with a minority of the Board, I opposed this cabal, which was ultimately declared illegal by the Connecticut Supreme Court.  Thanks to the Rule of Law, I was returned to the Board, and completed the term to which I had been elected.  I spent my own resources on legal fees in this effort, but it was worth the effort.

Another attempt by the Mayor of Bridgeport, backed by Bridgeport’s corporate interests, sought to install an appointed Board of Education in the City of Bridgeport.  This power grab was rebuffed by the people of Bridgeport, who elected to retain their voting rights in November 2012.

As you know, the Working Families Party has never had a Bridgeport town committee with a formal organization structure, as that term is commonly understood.  Prior to the 2013 municipal election, the executive director, established, on a temporary basis a Working Families Party Committee in Bridgeport.  Following the 2013 municipal election, papers were filed dissolving that Committee.

However, notwithstanding the absence of a formal organizational structure, I was pleased when Working Families Executive Director, Lindsay Farrell, asked me to accept the ceremonial office of Chair of the Bridgeport Working Families Committee.  I deeply appreciated the gesture because I believe that the mission of the Working Families Party is to advocate for, and to speak for the people, not for the corporate and political elites.

The Working Families Party has served as a vehicle for ordinary people in the City of Bridgeport to make their voices heard and to make their votes count.  By winning seats on the Bridgeport Board of Education in two municipal elections and in a special election, the Working Families Party has served as an opposition force, which this one-party city so desperately needs.

Should you wish to establish a functioning  Working Families Party organization in the City of Bridgeport, I wish you every success.

However, because the Working Families Party has indicated its intention to support the re-election of Governor Dannel Malloy, I cannot be a part of or associated with any such effort.

I believed that with a Democrat in the Governor’s Office, for the first time in two decades, those of us who were working for better educational outcomes for public school students in our urban centers would find a supportive and encouraging governor. 

How wrong I was!

One of Governor Malloy’s first efforts was to disenfranchise the voters of Bridgeport by installing a corporate Board of Education.  By trampling upon the democratic process, Governor Malloy exhibited his disdain and contempt for the people of the City of Bridgeport and proved that he is a willing accomplice of the corporate educational establishment.

I had hoped for a governor who would work with the elected Board of Education. Instead, we were subjected to a hostile takeover, the arrogance of a corporate board, and contempt for the Rule of Law.

I believe that the hard working men and women of the City of Bridgeport are as fully capable as their counterparts in Fairfield and Stratford, of electing their own leaders.  Governor Malloy has demonstrated that he does not share this belief.

Therefore, in light of your support of the re-election of Governor Malloy, I cannot be associated with or be a part of the Working Families Party in any way.

Please consider this letter my formal resignation from the Connecticut Working Families State Committee effective immediately.

Thank you for your attention in this matter,

Maria Pereira
Bridgeport, CT

In response to Maria Pereira’s letter the Working Families Party put out a press statement saying,

Maria cites the upcoming gubernatorial election as a reason for her break with the party. The Working Families Party has a rigorous and democratic process for choosing our nominees, and there is lively debate within the Working Families Party about the best choice for us this year. But the party has not made any endorsement yet and any speculation that we have a candidate selected in advance is simply false.

The Working Families Party looks at the records of all the candidates, regardless of political party, and endorses the one who will stand up for working-class, middle-class and poor families. The process starts with an extensive questionnaire on topics ranging from the right to organize a union in the workplace, to fair wages and benefits, to protecting public education. This year, the Working Families Party will also hold a candidates’ forum for our members to hear from and publicly question candidates seeking our endorsement. Our leadership and members will also hold interviews with interested candidates. Only after all of this will the state committee officially decide whether or not to endorse a candidate for Governor, and which.

As has always been the case, the Working Families Party will endorse the candidate who will be the most effective advocate for policies that benefit hardworking families across the state. We’ve always been clear about our values. On some issues, like education, we have disagreed with the Governor. On others, like paid sick days, organizing rights, and the minimum wage, we have aligned with him. There will be extensive discussion and debate as the Working Families Party decides how to proceed with our endorsements.

The Working Families Party response is a hopeful sign that the labor and progressive oriented organization intends to take their endorsement process seriously, the truth will become apparent in the coming months when Governor Malloy tries to explain why he deserve support from those that he has trampled in his on-going effort to undermine the rights of teachers, state employees and other community based union, liberal and progressive groups and their members and supporters.

Malloy/Finch/Vallas lose in Bridgeport but questions remain about role of State Democratic Party

As reported in today’s Connecticut Post article, “City school board tips away from Finch,” thanks to broad support from Bridgeport voters, Democrats and Working Family Party members opposed to Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas, and the corporate education reforms being pushed by Governor Malloy and Mayor Finch have taken control of Bridgeport’s Board of Education.

The change will mean that Kenneth Moales, Jr., Finch’s controversial campaign treasurer, will be removed as chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education and replaced by someone opposed to the Malloy/Finch/Vallas initiatives.

The Bridgeport Board of Education race has garnered national attention and is now seen as proof that parents, teachers and public school advocates can use elections to beat back the corporate education reform industry.

The Malloy/Finch/Vallas defeat reiterates questions about what role Governor Malloy and the Democratic State Central Committee played in the Bridgeport election process.

According to reports filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, the Connecticut State Central Committee spent just under $63,000 between July 1, 2013 and October 17, 2013.

Of the money spent to support candidates, more than 95% of the State Party’s money went to fund the pro-Finch/Pro-Vallas Democratic slate that lost to the Democratic challenge slate in the September 10th Democratic Primary.

In addition to providing the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee with $20,000 to pay for canvassers the day before the Democratic Primary, the State Party paid for the three direct mail pieces that were sent out in support of the pro-Finch endorsed slate.

Due to what appear to be campaign finance violations, the amount spent on the endorsed slate might be even high.

But despite that massive financial support from the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee, the endorsed slate lost by a significant margin and the Democratic challenges have gone on to win control of the Board of Education with the help of the Working Families Party candidates.

Neither Governor Malloy nor Democratic State Chairman Nancy DiNardo has explained why they diverted tens of thousands of dollars in state party funds to support the Finch candidates in the Bridgeport Democratic Primary.

It is also not clear whether the Democratic State Central Committee even authorized the unprecedented expenditure.

One clue about the politics behind the decision to spend money to beat fellow Democrats instead of using those funds to campaign against Republicans may be the fact that of the funds raised by the Democratic State Central Committee, a large sub-group of contributions came from wealthy charter school advocates.

The Democratic State Central Committee report shows contributions totally $20,000 from Jonathan Sackler and his wife. Sackler is on the Board of Directors of Achievement First, Inc. ConnCAN, 50 CAN and has been a major donor to other corporate education reform endeavors including a $50,000 check to support Mayor Finch’s failed attempt to do away with a democratically elected board in Bridgeport and replace it with one appointed by the mayor.

Achievement First, Inc, of course, is the large charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

The Democratic State Central Committee also received $8,000 from Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad whose foundation is one of the three largest corporate education reform funders in the country.

And Richard Ferguson, who serves as Chairman of Achievement First’s Elm City School, donated $2,000 to the Democratic State Central Committee.

As if the rift behind these political developments wasn’t obvious enough, while Governor Malloy  celebrated with Toni Harp in New Haven last night, far from Bridgeport, the Connecticut Post reported that, “Conspicuously absent from the celebration at the Red Rooster Tuesday [where the challenge Democrats and Working Family Party celebrated] were Democratic Party leaders, including Finch. Via an emailed statement, he congratulated the victors.”

CT Post: “School board slips away from Finch”

Huge victory for the students, parents, teachers and citizens of Bridgeport.

Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and Mayor Finch loses control of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Kenneth Moales Jr. will  lose his position as Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education

And Bridgeport’s Faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas, will be packing up and shipping out.

Victory thanks to citizen uprising with the help of Bridgeport and Connecticut’s teachers, their union and the Working Families Party.

From the Connecticut Post:

BRIDGEPORT — The city Board of Education slipped out of the hands of Mayor Bill Finch and Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas on Tuesday despite the surprise win of a Republican school board candidate.

The majority of the nine-member school board tipped in favor of the Connecticut Working Families Party.

The winners include Democrats Howard Gardner, Dave Hennessey and Andre Baker, joined by incumbent Working Families member Sauda Baraka and Republican Joe Larcheveque.

Larcheveque won largely by the power of 593 votes he received at Black Rock school. Baker who was cross-endorsed by Democrats and the Working Families Party, was the top vote-getter by a long shot, with more than 5,200 votes, unofficially. Hennessey had an unofficial tally of 4,105 and Gardner 3,765. Larcheveque’s unofficial total was 1,751 votes; Baraka’s, 1,815.

The race pitted the Democratic party machine against the combined efforts of the Working Families Party, sympathetic Democrats and strong support from the city teacher’s union. To many, more was at stake than control of one the most troubled school districts in the state. Some had pegged it as the epicenter of a nationwide struggle over the control of public schools, a fight against efforts to cede control to corporate interest groups that seek to privatize educations.

Vallas was brought into the district in late 2011 after the local elected board was replaced by the state, a move later overturned by the state Supreme Court.

During the primary, the Democrats who won made it clear they are not fond of Vallas, and the Working Families Party has actively worked to remove him. In a statement issued early in the day Tuesday, Working Families Party Chair Lindsay Farrell made it clear replacing Vallas would be tops on their agenda.

Only the Republican candidates have stated outright they would join three incumbent Democrats on the board in supporting Vallas if he is deemed qualified by the state Supreme Court. The court is currently determining if the law was followed when Vallas, who has previously served as superintendent in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans, received a waiver of a requirement that he hold an education administrator certificate to serve as superintendent in Connecticut.

You can read the latest at http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/City-school-board-tips-away-from-Finch-4958627.php or www.ctpost.com

 

Connecticut Post editorial writers continue to pump out powerful pieces

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.” – Edward R. Murrow

 

I’ve used that quote before here at Wait, What? I believe it to be one of the most important political statements in American history.  It was uttered by the great journalist Edward R, Murrow.  As one of the greatest war correspondents, Murrow’s impact on the american people was profound.  But his greatest contribution was probably his willingness to stand up and speak the truth when it came to Senator Joseph McCarthy.  When Murrow and his team created a hard-hitting documentary on Joe McCarthy, CBS refused to pay for any publicity related to the piece or allow Murrow to use CBS’ logo.  So Murrow and colleagues purchased their own newspaper advertising.

Murrow understood that when the opposition is silenced, the demise of democracy is not far behind.

It is that very understanding that made yesterday’s Connecticut Post’s editorial entitled, “Opposition’s emergence benefits city” so noteworthy.

The Connecticut Post wrote;

“In a city like Bridgeport, where an entrenched political establishment seemingly gets its way on everything, days like Tuesday don’t come around very often.

Party-endorsed candidates lost across the city in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. The makeup of the City Council and school board will be dramatically different thanks to a combination of voter unrest and organized opposition of the sort that rarely makes a dent in city elections.

The Bridgeport electorate is overwhelmingly Democratic. Republicans seldom make any noise, and have been mostly surpassed by the Working Families Party as the Democrats’ main opposition. Still, whoever wins the Democratic nomination is considered a heavy favorite on the November ballot. That’s what made the primary vote so important.

The City Council has for years been all Democrats, but a number of longtime incumbents were beaten on Tuesday. Some of the winners look like they will be critical of the city’s entrenched powers, which would be a healthy sign. A council that agrees on everything is the cause of debacles like the $400,000 airport driveway for a connected developer, which was approved this year while the council slept.

The biggest change will be on the school board. With four incumbents not running, there would have been serious turnover anyway, but now it looks as though control of the board will shift away from party-endorsed members. If the general election goes as expected, a majority on the board will be staunch opponents of the mayor’s school-reform efforts, and dedicated skeptics of the work of Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas.

Voter turnout was a disappointment. But the conventional wisdom that low turnout favors the party machine was turned on its head. In fact, it was a blowout in favor of the school board’s challenge slate, with the three Row B candidates racking up wins across the city, often by large margins.

It would be hard to view this as anything other than a rebuke to the city’s ongoing education reforms. The endorsed candidates had each pledged support for Vallas and the changes he has wrought, and the challengers all spoke against his work. The challengers won, and it wasn’t close. District leadership will have to respond to that message.

Most promising, even given the low turnout, is the appearance in the past year or two of a viable opposition. It took hold in the defeat of a charter revision plan last year that would have removed the public’s right to elect a school board, and the momentum continued Tuesday. Anyone who chalked up last year’s charter defeat to the simultaneous presidential election, which always attracts high turnout, must face the fact that a low-turnout election has now produced the same result.

Opposition is healthy. Change is good. The city will be better because of it.”

You can read the Connecticut Post’s editorial at: http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Opposition-s-emergence-benefits-city-4806360.php