LOOK OUT!  If parents opt their children out, the Malloy administration will cut funding for poor children

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Wait, What?

Just when it seemed that Governor Dannel Malloy’s arrogance and bullying couldn’t get any worse, Connecticut school officials have been told to instruct parents that they may not opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Consortium Assessment (SBAC) or NEW SAT testing schemes.  The Malloy administration has said that if students aren’t forced to take these tests, local school districts will lose their Title 1 education funding.

Despite the fact that there is no law, regulation or legal policy that prevents parents from opting their children out of the destructive testing mania,  school superintendents and principals have been directed to do everything they can to prevent parents from standing up to protect their children.

The latest example of the Malloy administration’s campaign of intimidation and abuse comes from North Haven, where the superintendent of schools wrote to parents telling them that their children must take the Common Core tests.

Covering the development, the North Haven Citizen newspaper wrote;

Opting out of standardized tests is a popular experience for public school students and many North Haven students did just that when it came time to take the new SBAC test last year.

But North Haven Superintendent of Schools Robert Cronin encouraged parents to direct their children to take the test this year, making it the subject of his December letter to parents.

“In the past we honored opt outs because the test was in its infancy and still being developed. But it is developed now and we’re administering it this year and my job is to carry out state statutes.”

The key statute Cronin is following is the agreement to test 95 percent of students in affiliation with the federal No Child Left Behind law. While there are no state or federal laws that direct a student to take a standardized test, the town may lose state funding if students opt out.

[…]

“Our participation is monitored closely by the state Department of Education,” Cronin said. “There will be consequences for districts that don’t meet the participation rates and we could lose Title I funding that is currently over $300,000.”

North Haven’s Superintendent, Dr. Cronin, is correct about the approach that Governor Malloy’s administration is taking.

In an effort prevent parents from opting their children out of the Common Core tests, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education sent a memo to all school superintendents informing them that their school districts would loss some or all of their Title I money if they did not force 95 percent of their students to take the SBAC and SAT tests.

Title 1 is a federal grant that provides state governments with extra funds to give to local school districts to help pay for programs targeted at helping poor children do better in school.  The funding system was initially passed as part of President Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

Title I, Part A (Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended (ESEA) provides financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.

According to the most recent data available, the United States Department of Education adds;

“…more than 56,000 public schools across the country used Title I funds to provide additional academic support and learning opportunities to help low-achieving children master challenging curricula and meet state standards in core academic subjects. For example, funds support extra instruction in reading and mathematics, as well as special preschool, after-school, and summer programs to extend and reinforce the regular school curriculum.

That same year Title I served more than 21 million children. Of these students, approximately 59 percent were in kindergarten through fifth grade, 21 percent in grades 6-8, 17 percent in grades 9-12…”

Faced with the growing opposition to the Common Core testing scam that unfairly labels children as failures and is to be used to inappropriately assess teachers as part of Malloy’s teacher evaluation system, many parents are rightfully refusing to allow their children to participate in the Common Core testing farce.

In response, Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and their administration are ordering school districts to force students to take the tests or else…

Or else?

Or else Malloy’s Commissioner and his political appointees of the State Board of Education will cut the funding that school districts are required to use for, “additional academic support and learning opportunities to help low-achieving children master challenging curricula and meet state standards in core academic subjects. For example, their could be cuts to funds that support extra instruction in reading and mathematics, as well as special preschool, after-school, and summer programs to extend and reinforce the regular school curriculum.

It is unbelievable, but true!

Add this one to the growing list of reasons that more and more Americans have lost faith in their government officials…

Meanwhile, as the North Haven Citizen reports, school officials in the North Haven schools will be doing all they can to push students to take the Common Core SBAC and SAT tests.  As one North Haven principal explains;

“We’ll also offer incentives for completing the test, such as classroom awards or extended lunch times. We’re changing the overall environment for the test”

As for me up here in northeastern, Connecticut – “My daughter will not be taking the “state mandated” NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016.”

For more on the opt-out issue see the following Wait, What? blog posts;

Common Core testing frenzy leads to taxpayer funded SBAC Test Prep

ALERT – Lobbyists for the “Education Reformers” spend $1.9 million more in Connecticut.

CT Regional School District #7 succumbs to Common Core testing frenzy, throws their children under the bus.

Yet another warning about taking the state “mandated” NEW SAT on March 2, 2016

Malloy and Wyman – Montclair, N.J. public officials respect parents – why won’t you?

Malloy/Wyman moving forward with threats to punish schools districts that respect parents’ “opt-out” rights

ALERT – Malloy/Wyman attack on parents, students, teachers, public schools (and the “out-out” movement) is a national disgrace

Democrats Malloy and Wyman stab state employees in the back – again – and again.

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When they were running for re-election, Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman were all smiles as they accepted the political endorsements from Connecticut’s state employee unions and the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

When Malloy and Wyman wanted the unions to fork over money to help pay for their re-election campaign, union leaders stepped up big time.

Using hard-earned money collected from their members, AFSCME dumped $1.2 million into the Super PAC that was set up to support Malloy and Wyman’s effort to spend four more years in office.  The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) added $600,000 and SEIU donated $550,000 to the same political committee.

In addition, when Malloy and Wyman wanted campaign donations funneled into a special account run by the Democratic State Central Committee, the various unions came up with over $160,000.

And not a complaint was heard when unions’ political operation kicked into high gear, providing the votes that Malloy and Wyman needed to get the second term in office that they so desperately wanted.

Even after the 2014 election, Team Malloy/Wyman kept their proverbial hand out, looking to the unions to cough up even more of their members’ money.  According to the latest campaign finance reports, the state employee unions have donated in excess of $42,000 to the Malloy/Wyman political operation in 2015.

However, as Connecticut’s public employees are learning, yet again, the Malloy administration is fond of turning on state employees with a vengeance.

While refusing to demand that Connecticut’s wealthiest residents pay their fair share, Dannel Malloy’s new state budget plan cuts vital programs, lays off state employees and seeks to privatize public government functions.  The budget proposal is more in line with something that would be coming from the likes of right-wing Republican Governor Scott Walker.  (See also – Malloy Administration ushering in a “Wisconsin Moment” at UConn and CSU Wait, What? 11/6/2015)

In addition to proposing a state budget balanced through state employee layoffs, concessions and major budget cuts, each news cycle reveals additional attacks by the Malloy administration on state employees and the services they provide.

As CT Newsjunkie is reporting in an article entitled, Malloy Proposes Bill To Outsource Some DMV Services, in an incredible and deceitful move, Malloy is expanding his effort to shift the blame for the massive problems associated with the Department of Motor Vehicles’ recent computer upgrade onto the backs of the state employees who work at DMV.

Although it was the Malloy administration that contracted with the out-of-sate, for-profit company to revamp DMV’s computers, a move that has led to longer wait times and a variety of problems, Malloy is now proposing to privatize even more of the DMV’s activities.

As CT Newsjunkie reports;

AFT Connecticut First Vice President Jean Morningstar said the outsourcing of the information technology was just the most recent in a “long line of outsourcing failures that could and should have been avoided.”

However, “the administration appears ready to double-down on another risky contracting scheme. If it fails — like so many previous privatization bungles — state residents will be left with the tab and suffering from degraded services,” Morningstar said.

Morningstar serves on the State Contracting Standards Board, which has been unable to meet to go over contracts because the governor has yet to fill the vacancies on the board and it doesn’t have a quorum.

This week Malloy and Wyman will begin a new round of their – my way or no way — budget tours, and while the spin will be coming fast and furious, their fundamental approach to the Connecticut state budget will be clear for all to see.  Target the most vulnerable for budget cuts, expand funding for charter schools, shift costs to local property taxpayers, college students and others … and most importantly … blame state employees.

Malloy’s approach has certainly changed considerably since he took the stage  at the AFL-CIO convention in June 2014 where he proclaimed;

“A Connecticut moment is when you stand up for your fellow citizens,” Malloy told about 450 union leaders and supporters gathered in the unionized Omni Hotel. “When you understand that they too have rights; that we can move forward together, and in fact when we don’t move forward together, we move backward.”

If this all sounds a bit familiar… 

 Union Members Not Interested in ‘Wisconsin Moment’ (AFSCME + AFT IN CT Newsjunkie)

No Wisconsin Moment in CT (AFSCME)

Conn. Members Say No to a ‘Wisconsin Moment (IBEW)

Wyman: We’re All In This Together, Offers To Buy Foley A Ticket To Wisconsin Moment (OIB Blog)

NOTE: For those who want to be lectured to, the Malloy/Wyman style of leadership will be on full display at their first Town Hall Budget Forum February 11, 2016.

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman today announced that they will hold a town hall forum in Stamford on the evening of Thursday, February 11, 2016, to discuss his budget principles, his proposals for adapting state government to a changing economy, and other issues concerning the future of the state.

The forum will be held from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the UConn Stamford Campus in the Gen Re Auditorium (1 University Place, Stamford).  Residents who would like an opportunity to ask the Governor a question should arrive about 30 minutes prior to the start of the event to submit their name on a sign-up sheet.  The forum is open to the public.

The Stamford event will be the first stop in a series of town hall forums that the Governor and Lt. Governor will be holding throughout the 2016 legislative session.  The event will be similar to those they have held in previous years, where they answered hundreds of questions on a range of state issues at numerous forums.

Dates and locations for additional town hall forums in the series will be announced during the coming weeks.

Cha-Ching! Wealthy Charter School backers give big to Malloy – Malloy gives big to charter schools

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Call it the new American Way.  The billionaires, millionaires and corporate elite who fund charter schools give generously to Democratic and Republican politicians and the politicians return the favor by shifting public funds into the coffers of the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.

Here in Connecticut the system was clearly on display last week when Governor Dannel Malloy and his sidekick, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, rolled out their new “austerity budget” for 2016-2017.

In classic fashion, their plan slashes a full array of vital services while giving the wealthy yet another tax break.  Their plan makes absolutely no effort, whatsoever, to require Connecticut’s richest resident to pay their fair share in taxes.

But their budget certainly targets the middle class and all of Connecticut’s working families, along with those who rely on state services to lead more fulfilling lives.

Failing to even identify where 40 percent of the budget cuts would actually come from, Malloy proposed a spending plan that would provide $720 million less than what would be necessary simply to maintain the current level of state services.

Malloy targeted some of his deepest cuts to programs that help children in crisis, the developmentally disabled, those with mental illness, Connecticut’s public schools, the state’s public colleges and universities, and municipal aid.

Of course, the Governor promised – yet again – that he would not raise taxes … overlooking the fact that his budget would force cities and towns across Connecticut to raise property taxes.

But while everyone else loses under Malloy’s budget, charter schools win!

In the midst of their budget slashing frenzy, Malloy and Wyman are actually increasing the amount of taxpayer funds going to Connecticut’s privately owned charter schools.

The CT Mirror explained the situation in a story entitled, Malloy: Increase charter school, cut neighborhood school funding;

“Charter schools have escaped Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget knife and are slated for a $9.3 million boost in his newly proposed state budget.

But the Democratic governor also wants a $52.9 million cut in funding for special education, after-school programs, reading tutors and other services in low-performing public schools across the state.

Malloy also wants to rescind an $11.5 million funding increase in the Education Cost Sharing grants for the next school year. It is the state’s principal education grant to municipal public schools, and the idea of a reduction is not sitting well with some of the lawmakers who helped approve the ECS money last year.

The Democratic governor and Lt. Governor who used to decry the lack of adequate funding for the state’s public schools are now proposing the deepest cuts to public education in Connecticut history.

At the same time, their “generosity” toward charter schools only grows.

The reason seems pretty obvious.  Connecticut’s charter schools and their supporters have become a “golden egg” for Malloy’s political aspirations.

In the months leading up to and through his re-election campaign, corporate education reform proponents and the charter school industry poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Malloy’s various campaign entities and organizations.

Take, for example, Greenwich millionaire Jonathan Sackler.

Sackler, whose company brought the world OxyContin, likes charter schools … a lot.

Sackler serves on the Board of Directors of Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island and the Board of Directors of ConnCAN, the Connecticut charter school advocacy front group.  Sackler helped bankroll the formation of Achievement First Inc. and was the founder of ConnCAN.  He is also a major player in the national charter school movement.

During Malloy’s re-election campaign, Sackler and his immediate family donated well in excess of $100,000 to Malloy’s campaign operation and the spigot didn’t stop when Malloy won a second term as governor.  Since the 2014 election, the Sacklers have donated an additional $50,000 to Malloy’s political activities.

According to reports filed with the Federal Election Committee and the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission, over the past few years, Dannel Malloy’s fundraising operatives have collected more than $330,000 from the people who serve on the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors, the ConnCAN Board of Directors or play a leadership role in Connecticut’s charter school and corporate education reform organizations.

The truth is that the corporate elite behind the Pro-Common Core, Pro-Common Core testing, Pro-Charter School and Anti-teacher agenda that Dannel Malloy has been pushing have become Malloy’s most important sources of campaign cash.

During the very same time, Malloy and Wyman have turned their backs on the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers that actually support and fund Connecticut’s public school system.

Since taking office, Team Malloy/Wyman have dumped over $450 million in scarce taxpayer funds into charter schools in Connecticut, although these schools consistently discriminate against children who require special services, children who aren’t fluent in the English language and children who won’t adhere to the charter school’s abusive “no-excuses” disciplinary policies designed to push out children with behavioral issues.

While public schools in every town will suffer from Malloy’s budget cuts, and local taxpayers will be forced to pick up some of the lost state funding, the charter schools will continue to wallow in more state support.

The CT Mirror noted;

In Stamford, the governor’s proposal means the public schools will not get the $225,000 increase they would have received, but the new charter school in town will get about $3 million more so enrollment can increase. That charter school and another in Bridgeport are to expand by about 650 seats.

Other towns in line not to receive previously scheduled increases include Danbury ($1 million), Rocky Hill ($450,000), Shelton ($500,000), Southbury ($600,000), West Hartford ($1.6 million) and Wethersfield ($530,000).

Of course, the charter school supporters who donated and worked for Malloy are overjoyed by the news that Malloy was coming through, yet again, for the charter school industry.

“Jeremiah Grace, Connecticut state director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network, applauded the governor’s proposed budget.”  (CT Mirror 2/5/16)

Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public school advocate pointed out the harsh reality in her blog yesterday, Connecticut Governor Malloy Increases Funding for Charters, Cuts Funding for Public Schools;

Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy is faithful to his state’s hedge fund managers, who supported his campaigns. But he is not faithful to the children, parents, and educators of his state.

Malloy is offering a nice increase for charter schools, but budget cuts for the public schools that educate the vast majority of students.

The truth is that the charter school industry has put an unprecedented amount of money on the political table.  Dannel Malloy and Nancy Wyman happily took that money and continue to produce for their favored donors.

It may be the new American Way, but it is a disgusting style of politics that shouldn’t be tolerated here in Connecticut.

Common Core testing frenzy leads to taxpayer funded SBAC Test Prep

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In many places across the country, the effort to undermine public education is alive and well.

In Connecticut, thanks to Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration, the corporate education reform industry is successfully turning public schools into little more than testing factories.  These days Malloy also serves as the  head of the Democratic Governors Association.

Between the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the new “mandate” that all high school juniors must take the new,Common Core-aligned,  SAT, public schools are being forced to revamp their instructional programs so that they can fulfill their duties by teaching to the test.

Not only is the “high stakes” testing scheme being used to unfairly label children and evaluate teachers, but school administrators are manic about the possibility that their schools and district may not “look good” in the eyes of the testing industry and its disciples like Governor Malloy who famously said, in 2012, that he “didn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up.”

Just last month the Westport School System sent out a letter to parents urging them not to opt their children out of the inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing program.  The letter read;

We are requesting that all students complete the full SBAC assessment this year. The state of Connecticut has set out a list of consequences for districts that do not have 95% of their students take the test in 2016.  Prior to 2015 we have always had 99-100% participation. Last year we were the only district in our District Reference Group (DRG A) who did not achieve this requirement. We have linked an article from the Connecticut Mirror with more information.

Westport’s educational programs benefit from some state funding, as well as a positive rating from the state, which we do not wish to jeopardize as a result of low participation rates in the standardized assessment program.

Wait what?

Westport schools want parents to force their children to take an unfair test that is designed to fail many of those students because the school district doesn’t want to jeopardize the “positive rating” it has from the state?

Meanwhile, other school districts are simply following the Connecticut State Department of Education’s directives and misleading or lying to parents about their fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC testing scam.

Of course, most school districts recognize that “high” participation rates aren’t enough to win accolades from the education reformers so students HAVE to be taught how to score better on the SBAC and SAT tests.

As a result, Connecticut public school students are losing hundreds of hours of instructional time so that they can prepare for the testing by taking practice tests and engaging in test prep.

With that as the backdrop, a “special” achievement award should go to Danbury Connecticut’s school system.

Not only is Danbury using the school day to teach to the test, they have actually hired SBAC TUTORS to try and make sure that some of the more  “academically challenged” children get the extra help they need to get higher SBAC scores so that they won’t do too much damage by pulling down the school and district’s average test scores.

Late last year, in preparation for the all-important 2016 SBAC testing window, Danbury posted a want ad for SBAC TUTORS.

According to the job posting, SBAC Tutors were need by the Danbury Public Schools to work in all “Elementary and Middle Schools.”

Tutors would work two hours a day, 2-3 days per week (TBD by School Principal) and would “provide additional tutoring support to identified students in advance of standardized testing.”  The posted pay rate, $33.12 per hour.

This month, the state of Connecticut is in state court facing a lawsuit for failing to provide the financial support cities and towns need to ensure that all students have access to their constitutionally guaranteed right to a quality public school education.

Yet at the same time, the state is forcing schools to devote more and more time, money and resources to destructive testing programs…all in an effort to improve standardized test scores.

Oh, and for those parents who live in school districts that aren’t providing extra tutoring outside of the school day, don’t worry.

There are plenty of for-profit companies out there that will be happy to take your money and tutor your child so that he or she won’t be labeled losers when it comes to the SBAC test.

As one online website proclaims; Get Your Child Ready for the SBAC

SchoolTutoring Academy’s SBAC Tutoring Programs start with a free academic assessment with an Academic Director. Our SBAC Tutoring Program includes:

  • One-on-one Tutoring Sessions– Private tutoring sessions with a certified tutor.
  • Bi-monthly Progress Reports– Reports on your child’s progress and parental conference calls.
  • Customized Program– Academic Directors build a customized learning plan to achieve success.
  • Free Consultation– All programs include free academic consultation from a SchoolTutoring Academy Academic Director.

All of this is available for $199.99/month. Call 1-877-789-9565 to talk with our Academic Directors about your SBAC tutoring questions. They can also explain how a SBAC tutor can help your child improve their skills and test-taking abilities.

Malloy Budget Plan – Coddle the rich while cutting vital state services

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On Wednesday, February 3, 2016, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy, flanked by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the rest of his administration will submit his latest budget plan to a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly.

Malloy’s approach, one that borrows directly from the disgraced trickle-down economic strategies of the Neo-Conservative/Neo Liberal philosophy, will be to balance Connecticut’s state budget by continuing to coddle Connecticut’s wealthiest citizens while cutting critically important health, human service and education programs for those who are struggling the most in today’s troubled economy.

The sad reality is that Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens will be those who suffer most from Malloy’s proposals.

Governor “There Is No Budget Deficit – I Will Not Raise Taxes” Malloy will also propose shifting more of the burden for paying for government services onto Connecticut’s local property taxpayers, despite the fact that Connecticut’s property tax system is regressive and unfairly burdens middle-income and working families in Connecticut.

Finally, yet again, as if to reiterate that Malloy has to have it have it his way or no way, Governor Malloy will be proposing a dangerous and unprecedented power grab that would transfer significant budget control and oversight away from the Legislative Branch of government to the Executive Branch, giving him and his budget chief unparalleled authority over how appropriated state funds are actually spent.

Malloy Policy #1 – Coddle the Rich

According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a national non-partisan research organization that works on federal, state, and local tax policy issues,

Connecticut’s wealthiest pay 5.3 percent of their income in state and local taxes.  Connecticut’s middle income households pay 10.7 percent and Connecticut’s poorest pay 10.5 percent on state and local taxes.

Connecticut’s tax system is unfair, but rather than address this situation, Malloy has consistently refused to require that Connecticut’s wealthiest pay their fair share in taxes.

As in the past, Malloy is promising “not to raise taxes,” although that pledge does not include his upcoming proposal to raise the gas tax and re-institute tolls to pay for his transportation initiative after having diverted hundreds of millions of dollars from the Transportation Fund, over the past five years, to cover costs in the General Fund.

Malloy Policy #2 – Cut vital programs including those for Connecticut’s most vulnerable residents.

As reported by the CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf last Friday, Malloy promises ‘very austere’ state budget next week; Connecticut’s Governor will seek to balance the upcoming state budget on the backs of those who rely the most on state services.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy warned Friday that the spending plan he will offer state legislators next week will be a “very austere” budget with no tax hikes.

The Democratic governor, who needs to close a deficit projection topping $500 million in the preliminary budget for 2016-17, also all but ruled out use of the state’s modest emergency reserve.

“It’s an austere budget. I think everybody knows that,” the governor told reporters after the State Bond Commission meeting in the Legislative Office Building.

[…]

And while Malloy offered few hints on where he would cut, he did offer one big clue.

When asked whether the emergency cuts he ordered in September to close a shortfall in the current fiscal year might offer a blueprint of where he would look for savings in 2016-17, the governor responded: “It’s a start.”

Those emergency cuts fell most heavily on social services, hospitals, and public colleges and universities, though they touched most discretionary areas of spending, excluding municipal aid.

Malloy Policy #3 – Shift tax burden to the unfair local property tax

While details are scarce about where some of Malloy’s budget cuts will fall, one area that is definitely on the chopping block will be municipal aid.

Despite repeated promises not to cut aid to cities and towns, Malloy has done exactly that in recent years.  While cuts in municipal grants “reduce” the state budget, the costs are simply shifted onto local property taxpayers.  It is a  strategy that is even more unfair to middle and lower-income families in Connecticut.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy’s latest report also reveals that while Connecticut’s tax system is regressive, its property tax system is even more unfair.

Connecticut’s wealthiest pay 1.2 percent of their income in property taxes, the Middle Class 5.0 percent and the poor pay 5.3 percent of their money in local property taxes.

Malloy has already proposed cuts to the state property tax exemption for middle-income homeowners and additional cuts in municipal aid will further shift the overall tax burden onto the backs of working families in Connecticut.

Malloy Policy #4 – Seek greater executive branch control over budget

Finally, in what may be one of his most outrageous and irresponsible proposals yet, the power-hungry Governor is proposing to destroy critically important legislative oversight and control of the state budget.

As Phaneuf reports in today’s CT Mirror entitled, Malloy to seek greater executive branch control over budget

Sources familiar with the governor’s 2016-17 budget proposal say it won’t assign agency funding to many specific programs, moving instead toward the block-grant system used for state colleges and universities.

A block-grant system could tilt the balance of power away from the legislature, since lawmakers often use line items in the budget to shape executive agencies and programs and set priorities.

[…]

But the proposal still is likely to spark a battle between the branches of government over control of line-item appropriations and a debate over whether block grants would mask funding cuts for programs before a new budget is implemented…

[…].…Several sources familiar with that said it would give the Executive Branch broad new discretion to decide how budgeted funds are spent within each agency.

The legislature often directs agencies to operate programs “within available appropriations.” In other words, run the program as well as possible with the funding the legislature assigns.

But what if specific line items for programs don’t exist anymore? If a department is given one large block grant — and the authority to divvy up the funding as it sees fit — then administrators, and not the legislature, would decide which programs must get by with less.

The General Assembly’s modern role in molding state government and its policies through budgeting was shaped by a dramatic confrontation in 1969 with another Democratic governor, John N. Dempsey, and the legendary Democratic state chairman, John M. Bailey.

The Democrat-controlled General Assembly voted unanimously to defy Bailey, who then played a major role in setting the legislative agenda, and override Dempsey’s veto of the Legislative Management Act, a reform measure reflecting a desire by lawmakers to be, if not a truly equal branch of government, then at least a more assertive partner.

It led to the hiring of non-partisan professional researchers and financial analysts, who allowed legislators for the first time to make budget and policy decisions independent of the executive branch.  In 1970, a constitutional amendment further strengthened the General Assembly by authorizing it to meet annually, beginning in 1971.

Malloy’s budget plan will be made public on Wednesday.  At that point, the only thing that will stand in the way of more fiscal and political disaster will be the members of the Connecticut General Assembly…meaning that Connecticut citizens have good reason to be concerned.

The lies in the new SAT (by Wendy Lecker)

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Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and his State Department of Education are engaged in an unethical effort to spin their new “mandate” that every Connecticut High School Junior (11th grader) MUST take the NEW SAT test on March 2, 2016.

Driven by their support for the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme and their desire to use the test scores to rate students and evaluate teachers, the state is on a mission.

However, parents, students, teachers and the public should be aware that their effort is a disgrace and that their lies will not go unchallenged.

To repeat a common refrain here at Wait, What? – There is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prohibits parents from opting their children out of the unfair, discriminatory and inappropriate Common Core testing program – and that includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests for grades 3-8 and the new SAT for grade 11.

Even Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman has admitted to parents that they have the right to opt their children out of the test, although she remains silent in public about this fundamental issue.

Local school superintendents and school administrators also know the truth.  If they are telling students and parents that children must take the SBAC or SAT in order to graduate or move on to the next grade they are lying!

The SBAC test is designed to fail students, in part because it includes content that the majority of students have not be taught.  Proponents of the NEW SAT claim that it too is aligned to the Common Core, but it isn’t even being released until March 2016 so those Connecticut students who do take it on March 2, 2016 are nothing short of guinea pigs for the corporate testing industry.

It is parents – not the state – that have the inalienable right to decide whether their child should take a test that is designed to label tens of thousands of students as failures when they are not failing by any honest definition of that word.

My next Wait, What? column here will be entitled;

 “Why my daughter will not be taking the NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016.”

As a prerequisite to that piece and to better understand the under-handed action that is being taken by the Malloy administration, please take the time to read fellow education advocate Wendy Lecker’s expose entitled, The lies in the new SAT.

This article was first published in this past weekend’s Stamford Advocate.

Wendy Lecker writes;

Connecticut’s political and educational leaders have sold us a bill of goods with the new SAT. Last spring the legislature and the State Board of Education hastily decided to replace the 11th-grade SBAC with the newly designed SAT. The move was in response to outcry about the invalidity of the SBAC and about the addition of another standardized test for juniors.

As I wrote previously (http://bit.ly/1Kv8TXk), our leaders did not wait for the SAT to be validated, nor did they validate any accommodations that English Language Learners (ELL) or students with disabilities would need.

Instead, they misrepresented the facts to parents and students.

In December, the State Department of Education (SDE) sent districts a sample letter intended for parents. In it, SDE claimed that “(b) y adopting the SAT, we are eliminating duplicate testing.”

That assertion is false for many Connecticut students and SDE knew that when it wrote this letter. In a separate document sent at the same time but addressed to district leaders, not parents, SDE acknowledged that the vast majority of ELL students taking the SAT with accommodations will be unable to report their scores to colleges, because the College Board does not accept ELL accommodations. Similarly, many students with disabilities using accommodations will not be able to report scores either, as the College Board has more stringent criteria for disability accommodations. For those students, the SAT will only count for state accountability purposes.

In other words, for thousands of students, the state-mandated SAT will not count for college applications and they will have to take another test — either the SAT or ACT without accommodations.

Our state leaders also misled us by claiming that the new SAT is appropriate as an accountability exam aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements. Connecticut law requires that, for the current graduating class until the class of 2020, students must complete three credits of mathematics. Algebra II is not required nor is trigonometry or precalculus. Beginning with the class of 2021, the law specifies that students must take Algebra I and geometry, and either Algebra II or probability and statistics. Algebra II is not a requirement and trigonometry and precalculus are not even mentioned.

Yet the new SAT has a significant amount of Algebra II, and has trigonometry and precalculus. Almost half the math SAT is composed of “advanced math” and “additional topics” both of which have these advanced subjects. By contrast, there is very little geometry.

The new SAT is not aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements. Moreover, choosing this test sets students who have not taken Algebra II before 11th grade up for failure, along with their districts.

The SAT is designed to be a test with winners and losers. It is a comparative, scaled test. As one top SAT tutor recently wrote to the Business Insider, “(i) f everyone got a 1,600, there would be no point to this test at all. This test is designed to show colleges who is better and who is worse — not who is good.” A test with this goal should not be used as an accountability test, which is supposed to confirm who has met state academic goals for high school — i.e. who is “good.”

The final lie our state leaders are selling is that the new SAT will tell us who is ready for college success. As I have written before, the evidence — something our leaders rarely examine — shows that the best predictor of college cumulative GPA and graduation, i.e. college success, is the high school GPA. This is true over time, across the entire nation, in all types of colleges and universities. By contrast neither the SAT nor the ACT is a good predictor of college success.

The same top SAT tutor notes that the College Board’s claim that the new SAT will accurately reflect the demands of the American high school curriculum has a major flaw, namely “this is exactly what they said about the last version that they launched”— the one the College Board has now abandoned. He declared that anyone who takes the new SAT is merely “a guinea pig for the College Board’s marketing machine.” He recommends that none of his students take the new SAT until other guinea pigs prove its validity.

Those other guinea pigs? Connecticut’s students, thanks to our political leaders, who served them up merely to satisfy College Board’s data needs. It is time that parents demand that leaders make education policy that is in the best interests of students, not testing companies.  

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-lies-in-the-new-SAT-6777613.php

Wendy Lecker is absolutely right!

 Parents and students;

 Do not be bullied by the Malloy administration or your local school administrators.

 If our other elected officials, state legislators and board of education members, were really committed to the well-being of the parents, students, teachers and residents of their communities they would be taking action – now – to stop this abuse of power.

For more about the NEW SAT read;

Once again Connecticut elected officials are wrong to mandate the SAT for all 11th graders

More on CT’s disastrous move to force all high school juniors to take the “NEW” SAT

Big Changes with the SAT and why juniors should take the old SAT at least once before March 2016

PSAT score delay spells more bad news for Connecticut SAT mandate

Malloy and Wyman – Montclair, N.J. public officials respect parents – why won’t you?

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A growing number of parents (and educators) understand that the Common Core standardized testing frenzy is bad for students, teachers and public schools.

Recognizing that they have a fundamental and inalienable right to protect their children from the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core tests, hundreds of thousands of parents across the country have been opting their child out of the destructive Common Core testing scheme.

In New York State last year, nearly a quarter of a million parents opted their children out of that state’s Common Core testing farce.

While Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration misleads, lies and threatens parents, teachers and school administrators in an unethical attempt to derail the opt out movement in the Constitution State; public officials in other states actually take action to respect the will of their constituents.

For example, in Montclair, New Jersey the Board of Education approved, on a vote of 6 to 0, a resolution honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of the testing program and directing the “Montclair School District to provide an alternative learning plan for children whose parents have refused for them to take the [Common Core] PARCC tests.

In response to that plan, parents in Montclair received the following letter yesterday, January 14, 2016;

Dear Parents/Guardians/Caregivers:

As you know, the New Jersey Department of Education requires all students to take state assessments. There is no provision for a student to opt-out of statewide assessments. However, last year the Montclair Board of Education passed a resolution allowing the district to create a plan for students not taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) according to their parents’ request.

The district procedures for parental refusal of standardized testing are as follows:

All parents/caregivers must notify the school principal by March 1 using the attached form or this link that his/her child will not be participating in the scheduled statewide assessment. A separate form is required for each child. The electronic PARCC Opt-Out form will automatically be submitted to the district and your school principal(s).

We are also including a form for your use in opting out if you do not have access electronically.

Please fill out a separate form for each child and return to your respective school principals by March 1.

Sincerely,

Ron Bolandi

Interim Superintendent

In Montclair, New Jersey parents can opt their children out of the Common Core testing by simply providing their child’s name, school, grade and signing a statement which reads

“I attest that I am the parent of this student and by typing my initials in this box I consent to my student opting out of all PARCC assessments during the 2015-2016 school year.”

Connecticut parents can see what they are missing by clicking on Montclair, NJ Parental Opt-out form;

Imagine, public officials who actually respect and stand up for the rights of their constituents.

But here in Connecticut, Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and their State Department of Education are not only misleading, lying and bullying Connecticut parents, but they are engaged in an orchestrated effort to punish the school districts and local taxpayers in communities in which parents refuse to allow their children to participate in the Common Core SBAC scam.

See:  Malloy/Wyman moving forward with threats to punish schools districts that respect parents’ “opt-out” rights

Malloy and Wyman’s failure to act means that the responsibility now rests with Connecticut’s legislators and local boards of education.

It is time for Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials to do the right thing and stop undermining Connecticut’s parents, students, teachers and public schools.

The first step is ensuring Connecticut’s parents have the same rights as parents in Montclair, New Jersey.

Malloy/Wyman moving forward with threats to punish schools districts that respect parents’ “opt-out” rights

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REMEMBER:  There is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prohibits Connecticut parents from opting their children out of the destructive Common Core testing scheme.

However, according to a series of letters and memos signed by Connecticut Commissioner of Education Dr. Dianna R. Wentzell, on behalf of Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman’s administration, local school districts that failed to stop parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Consortium (SBAC) testing scam will be receiving a letter by (tomorrow) January 15, 2016 informing them that their local school system will lose grant funds if they don’t force at least 90% of the children to take this year’s Common Core tests.

Education Commissioner Wentzell has informed Connecticut superintendents that there will be severe consequences for any school district that fails to stop parents from standing up to protect their children from the testing madness.

The Malloy/Wyman administration’s memo to superintendents included the following:

District Participation Rate Consequences 2014-15

For School Districts that had a participation rate “Below 80%” in any category, “funds will be withheld if, at a minimum, participation in 2015-16 fails to meet Level 2 criteria (which the state is now setting as  greater than 90%.)

The State Department of Education memo adds that any school district that failed to reach the 95% participation threshold this year must (1) attend a meeting with the State Department of Education and (2) submit a detailed corrective action plan that will be reviewed and approved by the State Department of Education.

The mandatory meetings will be held by February 5, 2016, corrective action plans must be submitted to the State Department of Education by February 16, 2016 and those plans will be “reviewed, revised as necessary, and approved by CSDE” by February 29, 2106.

The Malloy administration’s memo fails to identify what authority the State Department of Education has to force local force school districts to submit “corrective action plans,” to review and approve such plans or to withhold taxpayer funds from any district that does not achieve a 90% participation rate.  (Where the decision to mandate a 90% participation rate rather than 95% level is a complete mystery.)

Of even greater concern is the fact that the State Department of Education fails to provide local school districts with any guidance, instruction, or legal advice about how they are supposed to lie, mislead or stop parents from utilizing their fundamental right to refuse to have their children participate in the Common Core testing program.

The state also fails to explain why they consider it good public policy to withhold taxpayer funds from schools in which parents have gotten involved and opted their children out of that excessive testing system.

And yes, this attack on students, parents, teachers, public schools and our fundamental legal rights is taking place right here in Connecticut.

No word from legislators about what they are doing to protect their constituents from this incredible assault.

ALERT – Malloy/Wyman attack on parents, students, teachers, public schools (and the “out-out” movement) is a national disgrace

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Yesterday, lawyers for Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and Attorney General George Jepsen spent the day in a Connecticut courtroom arguing to a judge in the CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Lawsuit why the state should not be held accountable for failing to provide Connecticut’s children with their constitutionally guaranteed right to a quality education.

We can be sure of one thing.  If a Republican governor was engaged in such an unethical and immoral approach to Connecticut’s school funding system, Democratic officials would be leading the demonstrations demanding that the state of Connecticut settle the lawsuit and fulfill their obligation to our state’s children.

But Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen claim the “Democratic Party” label and thus there was nothing but silence yesterday from Democratic Party officials.

Meanwhile, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education is not only preparing to take the stand against Connecticut’s children in the critically important CCJEF School Funding Lawsuit, but she is leading the Malloy/Wyman administration’s inappropriate attack on students, parents and the public school administrators who were honest and truthful, last spring, about a parent’s right to opt their child out of the disastrous Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Although there is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prevents a Connecticut parent from refusing to have their child participate in the unfair and discriminatory Common Core Testing Program, that truth isn’t stopping the Malloy administration from reaching out to punish the school districts that didn’t “prevent” parents from utilizing their inalienable right to opt out of the testing.

The attack on Connecticut school districts that “allowed” children to be opted out is nothing short of reprehensible and the Malloy administration’s tactics are becoming a national disgrace.

Dr. Daniel Katz is a New Jersey-based educator, university professor, expert on preparing special education teachers for the classroom and a fellow education blogger.  From his vantage point, Daniel Katz has been watching Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration’s attack on students, parents, teachers and public education with disgust.

In his latest column entitled, Connecticut Recommends Thumbscrews, Daniel Katz writes;

Connecticut’s Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy does not always grab attention in the annals of corporate education reform.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has made battles with public unions more central to his image.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie plainly relishes getting to act “tough” and yell at teachers questioning his agenda. Democratic Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel shuttered 50 public schools, mostly serving ethnic minority children, in one go, without caring to listen at all to the residents of the impacted neighborhoods.  Neighboring governor and fellow Democrat Andrew Cuomo of New York staked a huge portion of his agenda for 2015 on ramming through controversial education reforms, and his approval rating both overall and especially on education have tanked in a highly visible manner.  Compared to headline grabbers like these, Governor Malloy does not seem to get much attention.

Which is a shame because when it comes to the Holy Trinity of education reform – common standards, standardized testing tied to punitive consequences, and preference for charter schools over district schools, Governor Malloy is the complete package. In 2012, he called for major changes to teacher tenure in Connecticut, earning praise from ConnCAN, an education reform group promoting charter schools.  Facing push back from teachers and parents about the pace and nature of education reforms, Governor Malloy was forced to call for a “slow down” in the pace of reforms, especially tying teacher evaluations to standardized test results.  $91,000 in campaign donations flowed to Connecticut Democrats from a single wealthy businessman and charter school advocate, Jonathan Sackler, and three members of his family; those donations and others from Wall Street were rewarded with proposals for over $21 million in new charter school funding while public school spending remains flat.

It is pretty clear that Governor Malloy stands shoulder to shoulder with New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel even if he prefers to draw less national attention to himself.  So it is perhaps not surprising that his education department is contemplating thumbscrews for the Opt Out movement in Connecticut.

Opt Out was not the force in Connecticut that it was in neighboring New York with only 11,200 students not taking the state exams while the state says 267,000 did.  However, a number of individual districts did not meet the 95% testing requirement of No Child Left Behind which was continued in the new Every Child Succeeds Acts, and in some districts those numbers were significant. Roughly 7 out of 10 high school juniors opted out in Stonington, and participation fell below 95% in over 30 communities.

This Fall, roughly a dozen states got a letter from Ann Whalen at the US Department of Education, an adviser who is acting as the assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education, reminding them that their districts need to test no less than 95 percent of all students and that the state needs an action plan to deal with those who do not.  The letter opens by reminding state chief education officers of the legal requirements to test all children in grades 3-8 and once in high schools, that the examinations must be same for all students, and no student may be excluded from the examinations.  Ms. Whalen asserts that the sections of the law she cites “set out the rule that all students must be assessed.” The letter continues to remind the state officers that both their state and local authorities who receive Title I, Part A money assured that they would test all students in accordance with the law.  Ms. Whalen also offers “suggestions” for actions state education authorities can take to address participation in the assessments:

  • Lowering an LEA’s or school’s rating in the State’s accountability system or amending the system flag an LEA or school with a low participation rate.
  • Counting non-participants as non-proficient in accountability determinations.
  • Requiring an LEA or school to develop an improvement plan, or take corrective actions to ensure that all students participate in the statewide assessments in the future, and providing the SEA’s process to review and monitor such plans.
  • Requiring an LEA or school to implement additional interventions aligned with the reason for low student participation, or even if the state’s accountability system does not officially designate schools for such interventions.
  • Designating an LEA or school as “high risk,” or a comparable status under the State’s laws and regulations, with a clear explanation for the implications of such a designation.
  • Withholding or directing use of State aid and/or funding flexibility.

Ms. Whalen also reminds the states that they have “a range of other enforcement actions” including placing conditions on Title I, Part A grants or even withholding them.  For a real kicker, she goes on to say that if states with less than 95% participation in the 2014-2015 school year do not assess 95% of students this year, then the federal education department “will take one or more of the following actions: (1) withhold Title I, Part A State administration funds; (2) place the State’s Title I, Part A grant on high-risk and direct the State to use a portion of its Title I State administrative funds to address low participation rates; or (3) withhold or redirect Title VI State assessment funds.”

Short version: States with Opt Out numbers that put them or local districts below 95% test participation must bargain, cajole, plead, or threaten districts and schools into making that target.  The Federal Education Department has put in writing that not only failure to take action to address low assessment rates, but also failure to meet the 95% target this year, WILL result in some form of punitive action from Washington.  Presumably, the degree of the punishment will depend upon how vigorous the state actions are.  It is also safe to assume that the Education Department offices in Washington have a new logo:

Connecticut got its own version of this letter from Dr. Monique Chism in the office of state support, and Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education Dr. Dianna Wentzell quietly sent the state’s reply on December 4th, waiting until December 28th to release it to the public. In the letter, Dr. Wentzell assures Washington that although Connecticut met the 95% participation rate statewide, they are “not pleased” that a number of districts did not do so, and the state has devised a tiered intervention system to “ensure that districts meeting the standard are commended, those failing marginally are gently alerted, and those falling behind are strongly reminded of the potential consequences and provided support to remedy the situation in 2015-2016.”  In the next school year, Connecticut’s accountability system will “lower a school by one category for low participation rates in the 2015-2016 year.”  The system is explained in a graphic:

Districts in Connecticut are now warned: if your test participation rates were below 80% in any category, funds WILL be withheld if this year’s participation rate is not at least 90%.

SDE consequences

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This remains as problematic as it has been every time the federal government or a state entity has raised it.  Yes, it is true that federal law requires that at least 95 percent of all students in all subcategories are tested in the participating grades.  Yes, it is true that state and local officials have to do what they can to test the students in the participating grades and have almost no legal authority to exempt any of those students.  However, the statute was written to prevent states and local school authorities from hiding low performing student populations from accountability systems.  I challenge Dr. Wentzell, Dr. Chism, or Ms. Whalen to find a single line of statutory authority to compel parents to submit their children for examination or to find any legislative intent in the original NCLB legislation or its successor to punish schools and districts for not exerting 95% control of the parents in their district.  There have been schools since 2001 who have not managed to test 95% of their students, but there is not a single example of a school being punished for that.

In the end, Connecticut, at the prodding of the Federal Education Department, is setting itself up for an unpleasant confrontation with parents, often parents that elected officials find difficult to ignore, with very shaky legal footing.  North Haven High School, for example, had extremely low participation rates on the 11th grade exams.  The community also has a median home value $22,000 above the state median and median household income $16,000 above the state median.  With only 4% of its residents below the poverty line compared to the state average of over 10% it is unlikely that North Haven’s schools rely significantly upon Title I funds, so it is unclear exactly what money Dr. Wentzell would withhold.  However, the loss of any money intended to help children who are in poverty based upon actions of parents rather than upon actions of school authorities is unprecedented, contrary to the intention of any federal and state accountability laws – and far more likely to increase the parental backlash than to bottle it up.

While Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and Attorney General George Jepsen don’t face the votes this year, Connecticut’s legislators do.  In this battle between the Malloy administration and Connecticut’s public schools, state senators and state representatives would do well to be clear about whose side they are on… Are they going to stand with Malloy or with Connecticut’s students, parents and teachers?

Hey Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen – Connecticut children have a Constitutional Right to a quality education!

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Six years ago the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in the case of CCJEF v. Rell that Connecticut’s State Constitution REQUIRES that all public school students have the fundamental right to “an effective and meaningful (quality, adequate) education, the standard for which is “dynamic” and dependent on the “demands of an evolving world.”

Connecticut’s Supreme Court then sent the case to a trial judge to determine what the State of Connecticut must do to meet that standard.

However, for the past six years Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Attorney General George Jepsen and the Malloy administration have fought to derail, destroy or dismiss this incredibly important lawsuit.

Instead of stepping up to fulfill their legal duty to the children of Connecticut, these “Democratic” politicians have devoted a massive amount of taxpayer resources in an immoral attempt to prevent Connecticut’s children (and Connecticut’s local property taxpayers) from having their “day in court.”

Despite Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen’s best efforts, the CCJEF V. RELL trial begins today.  (See CT Newsjunkie Trial on Landmark Education Funding Lawsuit Begins)

As CCJEF explained in a recent press release;

(Hartford, CT)—The landmark CCJEF v. Rell education adequacy and equity case goes to trial before the Hartford Superior Court beginning Tuesday, January 12, 2016.

At issue in the case is whether the State’s public education finance system meets the adequacy and equity standards required by the Connecticut Constitution (PROPOSED STATEMENT OF FACTS, Plaintiffs’ Preliminary Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law, January 5. 2016).

“The journey on this long and winding judicial road has taken nearly 11 years, but now Connecticut’s schoolchildren will have their day in court,” said Herbert C. Rosenthal, CCJEF President.  “The outcome of this historic case will have profound impacts on how public education services are delivered and funded for generations to come.  It is time to acknowledge that the education finance system in our state is broken and needs to be fixed.” said Rosenthal.

CCJEF (www.ccjef.org) is dedicating our trial efforts to the memory of Dr. Dianne Kaplan deVries, CCJEF founder and long-time project director, who passed away on October 11, 2015.

CCJEF, established in 2004, is a broad-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that seeks to achieve an adequately and equitably funded PreK-12 public education system that is based on the learning needs of students and the real costs of delivering high-quality education in every community.

In 2005, CCJEF and several named school children and their parents filed suit against the State of Connecticut (CCJEF v. Rell) for its failure to meet its constitutional obligation to adequately and equitably fund the public schools. In a 2010 pretrial ruling, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the State’s constitutional obligation and remanded the case back to the trial court for full trial on the merits of Plaintiffs’ adequacy and equity claims.

As noted, additional details about CCJEF’s position can be found in the PROPOSED STATEMENT OF FACTS, while Malloy/Wyman/Jepsen’s warped version of the education funding issue can be found via State of Connecticut Position.

As the recent CCJEF press release explains, Dianne Kaplan deVries served as The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding’s Project Director until her recent death. 

Diane Kaplain deVries was a tireless advocate for Connecticut’s public school children and wrote multiple commentary pieces about the school funding issue which were published at CT Newsjunkie.

In a March 11, 2013 CT Newsjunkie column entitled, Fighting Children in the Courtroom, Diane Kaplan deVries framed the growing frustration with the way Malloy and his people sought to undermine public education in Connecticut.

A 2010 Connecticut Supreme Court pretrial ruling says that public school children have a constitutional right to a quality (adequate) education and the state must pay for it. That’s surely inconvenient for a state with a budget in the red. No wonder lawyers for both sides are bumping heads as the case inches forward to trial, currently scheduled for July 2014.

It appears from the motions filed in late January by the state in the Connecticut Coalition of Justice In Education Funding v. Rell lawsuit that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a former prosecutor, would prefer to fight schoolchildren in the courtroom than to sit down with plaintiffs and realistically consider the state’s options.

The state filed two motions with the trial court. One seeks to dismiss the case because it is either moot or not yet ripe for trial, and for a second time since the case was filed, also seeks to remove the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding as a plaintiff.  This newest challenge to the coalition’s associational standing hinges primarily on the large number of school districts and municipalities that are members—creations of the state which are not ordinarily able to bring suit against it. The second motion asks the court to modify the scheduling order that sets deadlines for steps leading to trial.

In support of its motion to dismiss, the state appended some 410 pages of documents. These primarily consist of copies of the 2012 legislation, various State Department of Education compilations, and affidavits from state Department of Education Chief Financial Officer Brian MahoneyEducation Commissioner Stefan Pryor, and a consultant from Hawaii, Richard Seder.

Arguments raised by the state relating to mootness are that the CCJEF complaint describes education deficiencies that some children may have experienced in 2005. However, thanks to the education reform legislation enacted by last year’s legislature it has “dramatically and comprehensively altered the public education system the plaintiffs ask this court to declare unconstitutional” (p. 2, Motion to Modify Scheduling) The state also claims that the funding that accompanied those reforms, laid out in the Mahoney affidavit, was substantial.

Perhaps hedging bets on which argument may resonate more with the court, the state simultaneously argues against the ripeness of plaintiffs’ claims, maintaining that it is too soon for this case to come to trial because there needs to be sufficient time for those 2012 education reforms to produce a measurable effect.

Undaunted by the state’s positions, CCJEF counsel fired back a reply brief with 329 pages of exhibits. Countering the affidavits attached to the state’s brief is the affidavit of Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker, one of the nation’s leading school finance experts. (For those with less reading time available, his recent blog posting on SchoolFinance101 makes use of some key scattergrams from his CCJEF reply brief affidavit.)

Baker’s analysis of the 2012 education reform legislation differs vastly from the views presented in the state’s filings. Highlights are as follows:

  • Changes in funding for the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant for 2012-13 are trivial, even for the Alliance Districts, which saw increases mostly less than $200 per pupil and under 2 percent.  Fiscal analyses reinforce rather than negate plaintiffs’ claims of underfunding of the ECS formula and its inequitable distribution of state aid.  Moreover, increased funding to charters that already outspend host districts (after adjusting for student need) and serve lower-need student populations exacerbates rather than moderates disparities in opportunity.
  • Nominal changes to various state policies enacted in 2012 produce no change to the distribution of educational opportunity (equity) and provide no measurable additional resources (adequacy).  Nor is it likely that they could in future years.  Moreover, the funds attached to the policy changes, aside from being trivial, are not guaranteed (as was evidenced in December by the Governor’s rescissions, followed shortly thereafter by the legislature’s deficit mitigation cuts).
  • The 2012 policy changes mainly add structures that label the successes and failures of districts, schools, and teachers — labels that come with an increased threat of state intervention and a reduction of local control that may adversely affect local property values, accelerating the downward spiral of communities already in long-term economic and educational decline.  Absent the provision of equitable and adequate resources, such policy changes may disrupt local governance and involvement in the schools and force upon local districts new costs and spending requirements.
  • The state’s claims of improvements to be gained through mandated changes to teacher evaluation as a policy lever for redistributing (positively) educational opportunities for schoolchildren are without foundation or supporting evidence.  To suggest that changes to teacher evaluation alone would improve the equity and adequacy of the teacher workforce — regardless of resources — ignores the increased job insecurity and absence of increased wages or benefits that counterbalance the risk.  New teacher evaluation schemes also come with substantial up-front costs that are not addressed with additional state aid to school districts.
  • Educational adequacy and equal educational opportunity should not be reserved for a tiny portion of schools (Commissioner’s Network) or districts (Alliance Districts).  Adequate funding should not sunset, nor should it be at the discretion of a single political appointee.

In addition to the expert opinion, legal arguments pertaining to mootness and ripeness, as well as a strong defense of CCJEF’s legitimate standing in the case,the reply brief was offered by counsel for the plaintiffs, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP (New York), with assistance from the Yale Law School Education Adequacy Clinic, both of which serve pro bono in this action.

Constitutional challenges on behalf of schoolchildren’s rights are among the most complex cases any court can hear. They are also among the most challenging cases to be brought or defended against. That said, it is difficult to fault the state for doing what defense lawyers do:  they file motions aimed at making the case go away.

However, the state’s motion to dismiss raises concerns, even incredulity, about any perception that at the 11th hour, Malloy successfully pushed through legislation that negates (or soon will) the decades of harmful neglect and deprivation of resources by the state of its public school system. Could anyone truly imagine that those 2012 reforms, together with whatever initiatives and meager funding may come out of the 2013 legislature, are sufficient for affixing the “Mission Accomplished” banner outside the Capitol complex, proclaiming that the state at long last is meeting its constitutional obligation to schoolchildren?

You can read the original piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_fighting_children_in_the_courtroom/

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