Want to know how a student is doing? Forget the SBAC or SAT test – Ask a teacher

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In a recent press release, Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman pontificated about their effort to measure every child, teacher and public school by the score students received on this year’s Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test.

Wyman said,

“These successes are valuable indicators that we are on the right track today, and they position us for a stronger tomorrow.”

However, in the real world, the results from the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scheme is hardly a valuable indicator nor does it suggest we are on the right track to anything other than forcing schools to develop better systems for teaching to the test.

As Connecticut public education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker wrote in a Stamford Advocate in August 2015, instead of looking to an unfair testing scam for guidance about student performance, If you Want to know how a student is doing? Ask a teacher.

Last year, Wendy Lecker wrote;

A friend of mine had a priceless reaction to the specious claim by education reformers that our children need standardized tests so parents can know how they are doing in school. He laughed and said that in 20 years of parent conferences no teacher ever felt the need to pull out his children’s standardized tests to provide an accurate picture of how well they were learning.

Parents have relied on teachers’ assessments to gauge their children’s progress and most have pretty much ignored their children’s standardized test scores. For decades, this approach has served parents and students well. Recent research shows that non-standardized, human assessments of student learning are superior to standardized tests of all kinds.

I have written about the voluminous evidence showing that a high school GPA is the best predictor of college success, and that the SAT and ACT, by contrast, are poor predictors. (http://bit.ly/1K7CNzG)

Even standardized college placement tests, tests ostensibly designed to measure “college readiness,” fail miserably at that task — with real and damaging consequences for students.

College remediation is often used as a weapon by education reformers. Overstating college remediation rates was one of the tactics used by Arne Duncan to foment hysteria about the supposedly sorry state of America’s public schools and justify imposing the Common Core and its accompanying tests nationwide. As retired award-winning New York principal Carol Burris has written, while Duncan and his allies claimed that the college remediation rate is 40 percent, data from the National Center on Education Statistics show that the actual percentage is 20 percent.

Exaggeration is not the only problem with college remediation. Many of the students placed in remedial classes in college do not even belong there.

Judith Scott-Clayton of Columbia’s Teachers’ College and her colleagues examined tens of thousands of college entrants and found that one-quarter to one-third of those placed in remedial courses based on standardized placement tests were mis-assigned. These students wrongly placed in remedial classes could have passed a college- level course with a B or better. Moreover, when students are mis-assigned to remedial courses, the likelihood of them dropping out of college increases by eight percentage points. These high-stakes tests produce high-cost errors.

Scott-Clayton and her colleagues found that by incorporating high school grades into the college placement decisions, misplacements were corrected by up to a third, and there was a 10-percentage point increase in the likelihood that those students placed in a college-level course would complete that course with a grade of C or better.

Once again, non-standardized, human assessments of a student’s learning are more helpful than standardized tests.

Some institutions are getting that message. After California’s Long Beach City College began incorporating high school grades into placement decisions, the rate of students who placed into and passed college English quadrupled. The rate for math tripled. Just last month, George Washington University joined the long and growing list of colleges and universities that dropped the requirement for SAT or ACT scores.

These institutions of higher education understand that standardized tests are poor predictors “college readiness” and that high school grades are superior.

Yet too many policymakers cling to the failed strategy of using standardized tests to try to tell us what teachers are much better at telling us. Congress is set to reaffirm the requirement that states administer annual standardized tests, even though the data show that a child who passes one year is very likely to pass the next. Washington, West Virginia and California announced plans to use the not-yet validated and increasingly unpopular SBAC test in its college placement decisions.

California announced this move even as it is considering ceasing the use of SBACs to judge schools. Equally hypocritical, Washington State’s Board of Education just announced that it is lowering the SBAC high school passing score below the “college-ready” level arbitrarily adopted by the SBAC consortium last year.

Amid opt-outs and outrage at the SBACs, Connecticut passed a law replacing the un-validated 11th grade SBAC with the SAT as a required high school test; even though the SAT has been proven to have little predictive value for determining college success.

The key to ensuring and determining college readiness is clearly not high-stakes error-prone standardized tests. If politicians really want to understand how to prepare our children for college, maybe they should try a new — for them- approach and consult experts with a great track record of knowing what makes kids college-ready. Maybe they should ask some teachers.

You can read Wendy Lecker’s full column on the issue at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Want-to-know-how-a-student-is-6431076.php

Is the year’s 1st post coming true? 2016 New Year’s prediction – Governor Dannel Malloy will resign in the next 385 days

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With the Hartford Courant reporting, Three Top Malloy Aides To Step Down Before Next Legislative Session, the question now becomes — Is the 1st Wait, What? post of 2016 coming true?

2016 New Year’s prediction – Governor Dannel Malloy will resign in the next 385 days. (Wait, What? 1/1/2016)

As the newly crowned head of the Democratic Governors Association, Dannel Malloy will spend 2016 crisscrossing the United States to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidates and his preferred presidential contender, Hillary Clinton.  Malloy’s recent campaign trips have already taken him to New Hampshire, Florida and Iowa.

Should Hillary Clinton become President of the United States, Malloy will be able to find a safe landing place in Washington D.C. following the January 20, 2017 Inauguration.

However, should the call to “serve” at the national level elude him, observers can still expect Governor Dannel Malloy to bail as Connecticut’s Chief Elected Official at some point in the next 385 days.

Leading the list of reasons Malloy will seek greener pastures is the harsh reality that the person sitting in the Governor’s chair in 2017 will be facing a massive two-year state budget hole of at least $3.6 billion dollar for fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

Malloy is fond of claiming that he inherited a state budget deficit in excess of $3 billion from Governor Jodi Rell.  Six years later, Connecticut’s non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis projects that Connecticut will face a budget shortfall of $1.7 billion in FY18, $1.9 billion in FY19 and a stunning $2.2 billion budget crisis in FY20,

The fact is that the man who said he’d put Connecticut’s fiscal house in order has cobbled together a series of gimmick ridden state budgets that will require Connecticut’s elected officials to confront at budget problem that will be nearly $8 billion over the three years following this year’s election cycle.

Telling the truth about Connecticut’s fiscal problems have never been one of Malloy’s strong points.

Running for Governor in 2010, Dan Malloy famously laid out his fiscal strategy in an October 26, 2010 WVIT TV Channel 30 debate when he said,

“I want to be very clear: We’re not raising taxes. That’s the last thing we will do.”

Of course, upon taking office in 2011, Malloy led the effort to adopt a new state budget that increased taxes by upwards toward $2 billion, instituted major spending cuts to a variety of critically important state programs and services and produced some labor concessions after he sought to blame state employees for Connecticut’s fiscal problems.

The only group spared from Malloy’s vision of shared sacrifice was Connecticut’s wealthiest.

Malloy’s tax plan pumped up the income tax rate on the state’s middle-income families while coddling the rich.  As Malloy explained before a joint session of the legislature, he didn’t want to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share because he didn’t want to “punish” success.

When Dannel Malloy returned to the campaign trail four year later to seek a second term in office his strategy was based on doubling down on the effort to mislead Connecticut’s voters about the state’s fiscal situation.

As the 2014 gubernatorial campaign unfolded, Malloy stuck religiously to his political talking-points claiming;

  • “We won’t have deficits. We don’t have deficits.” – Malloy – CT Mirror – Feb 4, 2014
  • “We really don’t have a deficit.” – Malloy – CT Mirror – August 4, 2014
  • “There won’t be a deficit. And there won’t be tax increases, because I’m taking that pledge when I couldn’t take it before, because this is a budget I own.” Malloy – NBC Connecticut – Sep. 30, 2014
  • “I don’t believe there will be a budget deficit and I pledge that there won’t be one. I also pledge that there will not be a tax increase.”  Malloy. – FOX CT – Sep. 30, 2014

Malloy’s “Read My Lips” moment came crashing down only days after he won re-election in November 2014 when his administration was forced to admit that Connecticut’s was facing a growing budget deficit, although at the time he tried to maintain his “no tax” rhetoric telling the CT Mirror,

 “State government will live within its means, and we will not raise taxes.” – Malloy – CT Mirror – November 24, 2014

However, even that claim was as empty as his early campaign promises.

The 2015 session of the Connecticut General Assembly came to end with Governor Dannel “No-Tax-Increase” Malloy signing into law a new state budget that contained;

“$1.8 billion in additional tax revenue, over the biennium, including the elimination or postponement of $480 million in tax cuts that, during the campaign, Malloy had promised voters would take effect following his re-election. (CT Mirror)

Malloy’s new budget also made significant cuts to a range of vital services and programs.  Hardest hit were Connecticut’s hospitals, services for those challenged by developmental and other disabilities and Connecticut’s public universities and colleges.

And was this new state budget actually balanced as Malloy claimed?

Not a chance.

As Connecticut citizens soon discovered, within weeks of signing that “balanced” budget, the Malloy administration was forced to admit that a large budget deficit was opening up for this year and next.

In response, Malloy announced budget cuts, called the Connecticut General Assembly into Special Session to adopt more budget cuts and earlier this week, when media coverage was at its lowest point for the year, the Malloy administration announced yet another round of budget cuts.

The latest being some of the most draconian budget cuts to date.

As one advocate for those with disabilities noted earlier this year, “More than 2,100 people with intellectual or developmental disabilities have been seeking residential services – such as a spot in a group home – but have not received them because of a lack of funding.”

In response to that shocking assessment, Malloy’s budget chief announced this past Wednesday that Governor Malloy had ordered even deeper cuts to Community Residential Services, Employment Opportunities and Day Services for those facing developmental challenges.

At the same time, other vulnerable populations were hit with devastating cuts including early childhood programs, child care services, school readiness, Temporary Assistance to Families – TANF, Grants for Mental Health Services, Young Adult Services mental health services and programs for the homeless.

The candidate who once claimed to be a social liberal and a fiscal conservative has proven that he is neither.

If Connecticut’s annual budget problems don’t speak loudly enough, as a result of Malloy’s spending spree with Connecticut’s state credit card, including more than $1 billion dollars for his corporate welfare giveaway programs, Connecticut’s debt service payments will increase by $61.1 million in FY17, $62.3 million in FY18, $64.8 million in FY19 and $67.6 million in FY20.

Malloy’s irresponsible borrowing will mean that vital services will go unfunded while scarce public funds are syphoned off to pay for the state’s credit card frenzy.

And perhaps worst of all, the most serious fiscal problems facing Connecticut remain unaddressed.

Connecticut’s long term fiscal problems go well beyond the record breaking $22.8 billion in outstanding state debt.

The unfunded State Employee Retirement System (SERS) is short $14.9 billion; the Teachers’ Retirement System is short $10.8 billion, Connecticut’s State Employee Post Employment Health and Life costs will require an additional $19.5 billion and the Teachers’ Post Employment Health costs will need an extra $2.4 billion and that doesn’t even count the remaining obligation associated with actually shift Connecticut to a budget system that meets Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (Something Malloy promised he would do in his first year in office.)

Adding salt to the wound, Malloy most substantive proposal to address Connecticut’s unfunded State Pension debacle fell apart before it even got out of the starting gate.  As the CT Mirror reported, S&P warns Malloy’s pension plan could cause bond rating cut

“…Wall Street rating agency warned it might lower Connecticut’s bond rating – pushing up interest costs on capital projects – if the state adopts Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plan to restructure contributions to the employee pension fund.

Standard & Poor’s also wrote in its recent bond outlook pension system is a key “indicator of budget stress” that — along with a largely unfunded retiree health care system — raises the prospect of more state tax hikes in years to come.

“In our opinion, the pension proposal would represent a significant deferral of unfunded pension liabilities after fiscal 2018,” the S&P report states. “And if implemented in a way that led us to conclude that actuarial unfunded pension liabilities were likely to grow substantially over time, could prompt us to lower the state (general obligation bond) rating one notch.”

Of course, then there is also Malloy’s big plans for a massive road and bridge rebuilding program that he proposed this year, while, at the same time, refusing to identify how we should actually pay for the transportation infrastructure renewal plan.

Again, the CT Mirror points out the problem recently reporting that,

“Connecticut’s transportation program could be in deficit by mid-2018, according to nonpartisan analysts.”

The writing is on the wall for all to see.

Having failed to get Connecticut’s fiscal house in order, failing to adequately fund Connecticut’s public schools, pushing through the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education and failing to provide for Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens has caught up with Dannel Malloy

The full impact of Dannel Malloy’s failed policies will come into full force when the Connecticut General Assembly reconvenes in January 2017, just two months after this November’s Presidential, Congressional and Legislative elections.

With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Malloy hands the baton of leadership over to his dutiful and loyal partner, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, before the next state budget plan must be presented for legislative action.

Malloy says NO oversight of his administration is allowed – Comptroller Kevin Lembo says what the ____!

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Yesterday – June 9, 2016 – Governor Dannel Malloy, who once pledged to run the most transparent administration in history, vetoed an extremely important piece of legislation that would have ensured that there was proper oversight over Malloy’s outrageous corporate welfare and economic development programs.

As the CT Mirror Reported,

“State Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo called the veto “deeply troubling” and a blow against transparency. “

According to the news story;

“Malloy also wrote that transferring the analysis of tax credits from DECD to Program Review was “unnecessary and unwarranted.”

That drew a rebuke from Lembo, a fellow Democrat who testified at a public hearing in March favor of giving the job to Program Review, a bipartisan committee with a staff of non-partisan researchers and analysts.

“If objectivity really matters, we always want an independent third party to evaluate our work,” Lembo said Thursday in an emailed statement. “This is why teachers grade tests and students don’t just assign their own grades. Furthermore, this is a terrible loss of transparency where we need it most.”

Lembo said the veto, following a decision to provide $22 million in state bond funds to a rich hedge fund over his objection, is “deeply troubling.”

“The state owes it to businesses and all taxpayers to fully analyze the return on investment that these sizable and important programs actually deliver in order to assess whether such resources are fulfilling their intended purpose or, if not, whether state funds would be better deployed to other economic development or infrastructure investment,” Lembo said.

Malloy’s latest effort to keep Connecticut’s citizens in the dark about how badly government is managed comes on the heels of an incredible move by Malloy (and the Democrats in the legislature) to literally prohibit the “Independent” Office of Fiscal Analysis from warning elected officials and the public about upcoming budget deficits.

As a May 12, 2016 Wait, What? article reported;

Meanwhile, the same outrageous implementation budget bill includes unprecedented language that allows cities and towns to simply cut their local public school budgets by the amount of any reduction in state aid to those schools.

This means that while a number of cities and towns will be getting a major pot of cash dumped on the non-education side of the budget, they won’t even have to maintain their efforts to fund their schools.

And if those two sections weren’t telling enough, any member of the Connecticut State Senate and State House of Representatives who votes in favor of this bill will be taking the truly unprecedented step of adopting a law that would literally PROHIBIT the non-partisan office of Fiscal Analysis from reporting on future budget expenditures and possible deficits that are the result of the annual increases that go with maintaining current services.

THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!

With no public hearing, no public input and no public notice, Malloy and the Democratic leaders of the General Assembly have included language in this year’s budget implementation bill that intentionally prevents the media and the public from knowing the true ongoing costs of state government.

The CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf explains this incredible development in his latest article;

Future state deficit forecasts are likely to shrink significantly under a method imposed in the new state budget plan that disregards billions of dollars in annual expenditures not fixed by contract or federal mandate.

The language, proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, is included in an omnibus policy bill to help implement the proposed $19.76 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, blasted the measure — which was released only a few hours before the Senate was expected to debate it Wednesday morning — as a means to hide Connecticut’s fiscal woes from the public.

Malloy and his budget director, Benjamin Barnes, have been critical for several years of the deficit-forecasting methodology used by the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.

OFA generally tries to assess both the current and future costs of all programs, staffing, grants and other expenditures, whether fixed by contract or federal requirement, or simply set by state law.

The new methodology would disregard cost increases in most state programs, excepting debt service, retirement benefits and federal entitlement programs.

“Moving away from ‘current services’ will help us ensure that government does not continue to increase spending on autopilot,” the governor said Wednesday.  “As part the budget agreement, the state will change how it does business, and give residents and businesses the predictability they seek as government works to live within its means.”

The language is nothing but a blatant effort by Malloy and the Democratic legislature to hide the true costs of maintaining state services and preventing voters from understanding the ramifications of taxes and spending.

Dismissing the most fundamental notions of open government and democracy, Malloy and the Democratic leaders are engaged in a new political strategy based on keeping the citizens ignorant about how their government functions and how it spends their money.

No real Democrat would vote for such a measure.

But Democrat Malloy and Democratic legislators voted for Malloy’s maneuver and now Malloy has added salt to the wound by making sure no one outside of his own administration reviews the corporate give-away-program that is costing Connecticut taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Election Year Politics – Congressional delegation to cut ribbon for Vo-Tech schools that Malloy/Wyman are destroying

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Welcome to the sad state of Connecticut politics in 2016.

The headline in of the press release screams out;

COURTNEY, BLUMENTHAL, MURPHY TO HIGHLIGHT ‘MANUFACTURING PIPELINE’ DURING ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION AND JOIN RIBBON CUTTING FOR GRASSO TECH WELDING SHOP

The news advisory goes on explain that “Welcoming remarks” will be provided by Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman.

The event, which is taking place this morning at the Grasso Vo-Tech High School, will include a roundtable discussion, followed by a celebratory “ribbon cutting” for the Connecticut Vocational Technical High School’s expanded manufacturing program that seeks to, “train or retrain employees for high-tech manufacturing careers.”

Discussing the importance of job retraining in the 21st Century economy, Congressman Courtney, along with Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, will be basking in the glory of having helped the Connecticut Vo-Tech High School’s Workforce Training Program get a $6 million federal grant last year.

But of course, the problem – which is nicely overlooked in the media announcement- is that Governor Dannel Malloy and his policy partner, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, were successful in their effort to persuade the Democratic-controlled State Senate and State House of Representatives to adopt Malloy’s strategy of instituting the deepest cuts to Connecticut’s Vo-Tech high schools in state history .

Less than a month ago, a Wait, What? post explained, Malloy and Legislative Democrats target Regional Vo-Tech high schools for devastating cuts.

The state budget was finally passed and signed into law by Governor Malloy who slashed another $7.8 million from Connecticut’s Vocational-Technical High School system.  In conjunction with Malloy’s other budget rescissions, holdbacks, layoffs and gimmicks, Connecticut’s vo-tech high schools are reeling from what is in effect a cut of more than $15 million from what would be needed maintain the current level of services.

However, in an election year, successful politicians will find a way to turn a grant of $6 million, followed by a budget cut of $15 million, into a reason to have a ribbon cutting.

Hooray for the Orwellian politics of 2016.

Bankrupting Connecticut – Nothing to see here – Just keep moving

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The Wait, What? Blog was created in January 2011.  Since then, 2,340 articles have been posted to the site.  In turn, the commentary pieces have generated well in excess of $2 million hits.

One of the most constant refrains has been the problems and dangers associated with the excess debt that is dragging Connecticut down and the irresponsible failure of the state’s elected officials – both Democrat and Republican – to deal with that mounting crisis

Initial posts to Wait What? included More on the issues underling Connecticut’s State Employee Pension System (1/25/11) and Connecticut’s state pension fund in its worst shape since the state began saving for pension obligations in the mid-1980s. (2/1/11).

Over the years came additional posts such as;

Look-Out – He’s got our credit card and he is going nuts!  (3/24/15)

WARNING!  WARNING! The state of Connecticut’s Fiscal Health  (11/18/14)

Malloy’s “NO TAX” pledge will send Connecticut into the abyss  (5/6/14)

The State Budget Gimmick to End all Budget Gimmicks (12/1/14)

Is that your credit card? Why yes, yes it is…. (9/26/13)

Connecticut: The Republic of Debt    (6/19/13)

And many, many more….

The effort to alert, warn and educate citizens about the fact that elected officials are failing to address Connecticut’s extraordinary debt crisis highlights the words of Jonathan Kozel, the great public education advocate and award winning author, who once wrote;

“Now, I don’t expect what I write to change things. I think I write now simply as a witness. This is how it is. This is what we have done. This is what we have permitted.” – Jonathan Kozol

And as if to prove the point, the debt crisis has gotten even worse thanks to the actions and inactions of Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the Democratic controlled Generally Assembly.

As if to drive the point home, today’s CT Newsjunkie headline reads, Pew: Connecticut Has One of Highest Public Debt to Personal Income RatiosThe story reports;

Connecticut has one of the highest ratios of debt to personal income and the fifth highest ratio of state retiree health care liabilities to income, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts report released Tuesday.

The report, which measured each state’s pension, health care and debt costs as a percentage of personal income, put Connecticut’s total liabilities at $67.5 billion dollars or 30 percent of personal income.

The ratio of public debt to private income is 8.8 percent, which ties Connecticut with Massachusetts for the second highest rate of public debt. When pension, healthcare and public debt are totaled, Connecticut has the fifth highest rate of unfunded liabilities.

Connecticut’s pension woes are well documented. The state’s pension obligations are about 40 percent funded, according to the 2015 actuarial valuation of the fund. Only 7 other states have a higher rate of unfunded liabilities.

Courtesy of CT Newsjunkie

Courtesy of CT Newsjunkie

 

While the information is hardly new, it remains extremely newsworthy.

It is newsworthy, in part, because Connecticut’s politicians are making things worse, not better and because many of them won’t even tell the truth about the crisis.

Take for example, the notorious failure to properly fund Connecticut’s pension obligations.

The new technique for ducking responsibility is to talk about “structural change,” as if we could just pass a law to reduce the problem with unfunded pension obligations.

The fact is that a state employee hired today is placed in what is called Tier III of the Connecticut State Pension System.

Tier IIA was already the least generous pension in New England, Tier III provides is even stingier.

The real reason Connecticut owes so much money to its Pension Fund is that, for the past four decades, the state has FAILED to make the necessary payments into the fund and has even raided the fund to pay for annual budget expenses.

As the CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf has written over and over again, and the CT Newsjunkie explains today;

The state will have to pay more than $1.5 billion into the pension fund this year to meet the annually required contribution, of which $1.2 billion represents unfunded liability or an amortization payment toward past unfunded liability. An estimated 82 percent of that payment represents the payment for unfunded liabilities. The normal annual cost of pension benefits is less than $300 million.

Had Connecticut been making its payments all along, there wouldn’t be a pension fund problem.

If Connecticut had been funding the Pension Fund correctly, the state would now have about $1 billion available to preserve vital services and begin the process of providing adequate funding to Connecticut’s public schools, and thereby reducing the unfair property tax burden the is helping to crush the Middle Class.

Instead, scarce taxpayer money is going to address the excess debt — and still the debt grows.

Over the four decades, Connecticut has had 3 Democratic governors, 2 Republican governors and an Independent/Republican governor.  Not one of them was willing to do the right thing.

A recent public opinion poll listed Dannel Malloy as the 2nd least popular governor in United States.

Malloy’s response was that his “numbers were low” because he was making the tough choices and doing the right thing.

But of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

Malloy’s legacy is not about doing the right thing.

Among Malloy’s list of failures is his refusal to properly address Connecticut’s long term debt.

You can read the important CT Newsjunkie story at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/pew_connecticut_has_one_of_highest_public_debt_to_personal_income_ratios/

Malloy/Democratic budget – Push costs onto local property taxpayers and call it structural change

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Although Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the Democratic leaders in the legislature have still not released all the details about the “Malloy/Democratic Compromise Budget,” the General Assembly is expected to vote on the spending plan as early as tomorrow – Thursday, May 12, 2016.

Clinging to his inaccurate claim that his budget doesn’t raise taxes, one of the small details associated with Malloy’s irresponsible approach to managing state government became apparent yesterday as the CT Newsjunkie and The Day newspaper of New London reported that the Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner Office will stop, “its longstanding practice of performing toxicology tests for most sudden deaths.

The Malloy/Wyman solution – just have local towns pay the costs.

As The Day reported,

Dr. James Gill told reporters Monday that an impending 5.75 percent cut to the office’s approximately 6.2 million budget, which included two layoffs and is the latest in a series of budget cuts at the state level, means that, beginning June 1, the office will stop its toxicology work in relation to homicides, motor vehicle deaths and most suicides.

The office still will make the corresponding blood samples available to police, Gill said, but it will be up to police to seek out private toxicology testing — something that can cost almost $200 per test.

In addition, the Day explained that the State’s Chief Medical Examiner announced that the office itself could lose its accreditation from the National Association of Medical Examiners this summer due to the budget cuts and layoffs that are part of the Malloy/Democratic compromise budget.

“When an official with the association visited Connecticut last year for the office’s annual review, she noted that the office’s seven autopsy pathologists were on track to perform 325 autopsies each that year — a number that, if exceeded, would cause the office to lose its full accreditation.

In the past almost two years, the office’s autopsy numbers have increased 58 percent — from 1,488 to 2,357 — stretching employees thin and leading to a projected budget shortfall of $456,000 for this fiscal year.

The official recommended adding an eighth medical examiner to the staff, noting that Gill already has taken on a full case load in addition to his administrative duties.

“Loss of accreditation means that an office cannot meet the minimal standards of practice for death investigation,” Gill explained in a March meeting with the state legislative Appropriations Committee. “Mistakes by a medical examiner put people’s lives at risk, can result in the innocent (being) imprisoned and cost millions of dollars in civil claims.”

In the fall last year, he told the committee, the office proposed reorganizational and hiring plans that “would have saved the office money,” but couldn’t be fully implemented because of the hiring freeze in place at the time.

The Team Malloy solution…

State expenses shifted to local taxpayers

Larger budget deficits due to the required use of more overtime.

Or as Malloy calls it – “structural change.”

Malloy and Legislative Democrats target Regional Vo-Tech high schools for devastating cuts

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Unable to get a budget agreement with Governor Dannel Malloy to the floor of the Connecticut House of Representative and State Senate in time, the Connecticut General Assembly crashed and burned last Wednesday night as the 2016 regular session came to the end.

Although a super-secret budget agreement had been reached between Governor “my way or no way” Malloy and the Democratic leaders of the legislature, various factors, including partisan politics and the political fallout from what is actually contained in the budget, resulted in the postponement of the debate and vote on a new state budget until a special session that will be held soon.

While some of the details about the budget agreement between Malloy and the Democratic legislative leadership have been revealed, much of it remains shrouded in secrecy.

According to budget documents that surfaced last week, the massive list of cuts to state programs and services includes an incredible $7.7 million cut to Connecticut’s Vocational-Technical high schools.

While Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and state legislators across the political spectrum brag about their commitment to preparing Connecticut’s children for the economy of the 21st Century, their actions fall far short of their rhetoric.

The state of Connecticut reports;

The Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS) is committed to providing quality and challenging academic and technical programs. Its mission is to ensure that students are successful in the workplace, take advantage of postsecondary educational opportunities, and secure advanced apprenticeship training that prepare them for the 21st century workplace. Therefore, the CTHSS has developed a challenging program of study for each of the 37 technical programs. These areas include: construction, manufacturing, electronics, information technology, culinary arts, health tech, and other service areas.

But the reality is that Malloy’s record, when it comes to support for the Vo-Tech high school system, waivers between benign negligence and an outright effort to completely destroy the successful education program.

At the beginning of his first term as governor, Malloy proposed disbanding the Vo-Tech high school system altogether.  When students, parents, teachers, the business community and legislators fought back, Malloy retreated and allowed the 18 schools and their nearly 11,000 students to exist.

However, the Malloy administration has consistently used the state budget to squeeze these important and valuable schools, a system of highs schools that are successfully helping thousands of students have more successful careers.

At last count, approximately 95 percent of Vo-Tech students graduate and almost half (45 percent) of those graduates go on to pursue higher education opportunities.

Others use their Vo-Tech training in one of the 30 occupational trade programs to enter the workforce with the skills needed to get and keep a job in these difficult economic times.

Yet, as Connecticut’s economy continues to lag, rather than invest in more vocational and technical programs, or at least provide the funds needed to maintain the level of services at the state’s existing schools, the budget that the Democrats are being instructed to support includes a record-breaking budget cut to the Vo-Tech high school system.

The budget the General Assembly passed last June and was signed into law by Governor Malloy provided almost $171 million dollars to fund the costs associated with Connecticut’s Vo-Tech high schools.

Although many, if not most, of the state legislators in Hartford are unaware of the impending disaster, the Malloy/Democratic leadership compromise budget would reduce funding to $163 million – a cut of nearly $8 million.  The new budget would also grant the governor with the power to reduce funding for the Vo-Tech high schools even more through layoffs and budget rescissions.

Once the legislature adopts a new state budget, Democrat and Republic incumbents will turn their time and attention to their re-election campaigns.

When you hear them on the campaign trail saying that they support programs to provide Connecticut’s children with the knowledge and skills to be “college and career” ready … just know …. They are lying.

CT Dem Legislators – Why the silence on the layoff of state employees

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Among the most disturbing elements of the debate surrounding Connecticut’s state budget crisis is the silence on the part of most Democratic state legislators about the ill-conceived layoffs being perpetrated by Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the their administration.

A “throw them to the wolves” mentality might not be surprising from those who hate public employees and the existence of public services, but the public, the people who rely on state services, the impacted state employees and their families deserve better from those who call themselves Democrats.

Hundreds of state employees have already been laid off.  When Team Malloy/Wyman are done with round #1, the families thrown onto the unemployment line and into chaos will exceed 2,500.

The new “super-secret” compromise budget agreement developed by legislative leaders and the governor that will be voted on in the upcoming special session will lead to hundreds and hundreds of additional layoffs of state employees.

And from the vast majority of Democratic state legislators we hear nothing but silence.

Laying off these more junior public employees is not good public policy, it is not a mechanism to bring about structural change in government and it certainly doesn’t help address Connecticut’s long-term state employee pension problem.

Real structural change comes from identifying more effective ways to deliver services, eliminating services that are not needed and implementing strategies to address unfunded pension and healthcare costs.

Malloy’s helter-skelter layoffs serve none of those solutions.

The state employee layoffs are NOT related to ensuring critical state services are provided more efficiently and effectively

The state employee layoffs are NOT related to eliminating services that are not needed

And the state employee layoffs are certainly NOT the mechanism for addressing the long-term obligations the state has due to it negligent failure to properly fund its long-term pension and health care costs.  In fact, laying off employees who belong to the Tier IIA and Tier III pension programs actually makes the funding of pension and healthcare costs even worse.

State legislators know – or better know – that more than 80% of the present pension fund crisis is the result of the unfunded costs for state employees who were enrolled in the Tier I pension program.  Enrollment in Tier I ended in 1985 and about 97% of Tier I employees have already retired.

Putting aside the reality that it is illegal to change the pension program for those who have already retired, laying off state employees who are paying into the pension and health care funds actually undermine the effort to put the pension and healthcare fund on proper financial footing.

No legislator, Democrat or Republican, who actually understands how services are provided and the massive fiscal challenges that face Connecticut should be supporting Malloy’s unstructured state employee layoff effort – even those who support reducing the number of state employees and the level of services provided in Connecticut.

But the burden to speak up, to tell the truth, and to address issues related to reducing the number of state employees falls heaviest on the Democrats.  Not only are the Democrats in control of the executive and legislative branches of state government, but they have the historical and social relationship with public employees and their unions.

The failure of so many democratic legislators to publicly speak out about the Malloy/Wyman anti-public employee policies – policies that hurt Connecticut – is a sad commentary and one that voters should consider well when voting.

Legislature FAILS to decouple SBAC test results from Malloy’s unfair teacher evaluation system

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Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and corporate education reformers will be crowing this morning on their successful campaign to defeat Senate Bill 380, legislation that would have forced the Malloy administration to stop using the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test results as part of Connecticut’s flawed Teacher Evaluation Program.

Given the opportunity to do the right thing and stand with Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and public schools by deemphasizing the destructive SBAC testing scam and ensuring that Connecticut’s public school teachers are evaluated using a system that actually measures their effectiveness, Connecticut’s legislators – once again – turned their backs and walked away.

For those who support public education and believe in creating better, healthier and more productive learning environments … The November Election can’t come soon enough.

Malloy and Wyman seek to turn their “Wisconsin Moment” into a Wisconsin Era

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Elected on a claim that he would stave off a “Wisconsin Moment,” Governor Dannel Malloy and his “policy partner” and side-kick Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, have not only ushered in Connecticut’s own anti-public employee, anti-government service and anti-middle class “moment,” but Malloy and Wyman are making it clear that nothing less than a Wisconsin Era.

Malloy is saying that the only budget that will get his signature is a full-fledged austerity budget; a spending plan that destroys vital state services and lays off public employees while coddling the rich and shifting even more of Connecticut’s already unfair and inequitable tax burden onto the back of Connecticut’s middle class.

In his latest diatribe, the ever smug, sanctimonious and thin-skinned bully of a governor has announced that he will veto any spending plan put forward by the General Assembly’s Democratic majority that reverses Malloy’s record-breaking, mean-spirited and draconian cuts to the critically important services that Connecticut residents need and deserve.

Pontificating that Democratic lawmakers won’t consider “enough spending cuts,” Malloy has – yet again – telegraphed that when it comes to the state’s revenue and expenditure plan it is  his way or no way.  It is a strategy that will require unprecedented state employee layoffs, will reduce the availability of critically important services for Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens, will mean less funding for Connecticut’s public schools and colleges, and will lead to higher local property taxes for Connecticut’s middle income families.

In addition to harming Connecticut residents, the Malloy-Wyman approach to governance leaves the leadership of Connecticut’s unions with egg on their faces and blood on their hands.

As many will recall, during the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, Connecticut’s union leaders were only too proud to hoist Dannel Malloy onto their shoulders with the false claim that Malloy, and Malloy alone, would protect Connecticut from following the dark and devastating tactics being implemented by Wisconsin’s right-wing, Tea Party governor and legislature.

As the media and union representatives reported in June 2014,

Preventing a “Wisconsin moment” from taking place in Connecticut was the prevailing theme of the Connecticut AFL-CIO’s 10th biennial political convention.

A union blog post at the time reported,

“AFSCME President Lee Saunders electrified the more than 300 union delegates to the convention with his keynote address on June 16” roaring, “We can’t afford Connecticut to become another Wisconsin.”

Saunders added,

“This election is in our hands. If we turn out the vote of people who share our values, who want to preserve the middle class, who care about quality public services, then we will win.”

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) leadership explained,

We have chosen to support candidates who will act to prevent a ‘Wisconsin moment’ here in Connecticut,”

And the President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO echoed the rhetoric at a press conference to announce labor’s support for Malloy saying,

“In recent weeks we’ve heard candidates talk about Connecticut having a ‘Wisconsin moment.’ Well let me say unequivocally — we are not Wisconsin.”  

In response Malloy bragged about his commitment to a Connecticut moment,” explaining that,

“A Connecticut moment is when you stand up for your fellow citizens.”

In the weeks that followed, AFSCME dumped $1.2 million into the Super PAC that was created 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.

Another $160,000 in union member funds was slid into the slush-fund that Malloy’s campaign operatives were using to get around Connecticut’s campaign finance laws.

Now, eighteen months later, Malloy and Wyman are standing up on these issues…

But rather than standing up for the People of Connecticut and doing their right thing, they are standing up, turning their backs and walking away from the very people who elected them.

To better understand the damage being wrought by Malloy, Wyman and their policies, one need only read some of the unsettling commentary pieces that have been published by many of Connecticut’s media outlets.  For example,

Connecticut must not balance budget by denying basic medical care

Looming Health Care Crisis Can Be Avoided by Restoring Funds to Community Health Centers

Connecticut position as leader in Children’s Dental Medicaid in jeopardy.

An aging Connecticut needs the Legislative Commission on Aging

Budget cuts threaten Connecticut’s progress in mental health

Governor puts low-income families at risk of losing health coverage

CJTS teachers lament ‘inhumanity’ of sudden staff layoffs

Short-sighted budget cuts undermine CT’s long-term prosperity

CSCU tuition increase no surprise, but is just as wrong

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