Malloy’s “Final Destruction” of Connecticut’s Campaign Finance Reform Law

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s has finally succeeded in his effort to utterly destroy Connecticut’s Campaign Finance Reform Law.

In stark contrast to Malloy’s action this year, the Democratic Party has long claimed that eliminating the inappropriate influence of tainted political donations has been one of the its most important values.  Over the years, unions and progressive organizations have made campaign finance reform a cornerstone of their political agenda.

But in just one term in office, Governor Malloy and his political operatives have managed to undermine and now destroy Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance reform law of 2005.

Following the downfall of Governor Rowland, Connecticut adopted a nationally-recognized campaign finance reform law that provided political candidates with public funds, as long as they refused to take any additional money from political action committees, companies or individuals that do business with the state, large donors or any other special interests.

In his earlier campaigns, Malloy claimed to be a champion for campaign finance reform, but as a direct result of loopholes proposed by Governor Malloy and approved by the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly, Malloy has left the spirit and the letter of Connecticut’s campaign finance law in shambles.

Not only has Malloy taken the $6.2 million in public funds for his re-election campaign this year, but he has also inappropriately tapped into nearly $4 million in tainted money that has been laundered through the Democratic State Central Committee and another $3.5 million that has been funneled through a political action committee associated with Malloy’s campaign.

Malloy’s final blow to Connecticut’s commitment to “clean elections” came with the news that the Connecticut Democratic Party has sent out a “mass mailing to promote Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election with money raised for federal congressional campaigns — even though state regulators have denounced the plan and the Federal Election Commission hasn’t yet said whether it’s legal.”

The details surrounding the Malloy campaign’s latest maneuver can be found at CTNewsJunkie Democratic Party Goes Forward With Malloy Mailer and the Hartford Courant at Democrats Send Controversial Pro-Malloy Mailing Without Waiting For Feds’ Opinion

What is particularly revolting about Malloy’s action it that it allows him to use money that comes directly from people who have state contracts or who have benefited from Malloy’s corporate welfare program.  By using money from the Democratic State Central Committee’s “federal account,” Malloy is also utilizing funds that came from Federal Political Action Committees, a source of money that we never allowed even in the Rowland and pre-Rowland era of pay to play politics.

Malloy’s attitude is either that the law simply doesn’t apply to him or that “the end justifies the means,” no matter how immoral those political actions may be.

As Jon Lender notes in his article,

The SEEC [State Election Enforcement Commission] sent a 10-page letter Tuesday to the FEC saying the Democrats’ mailing would undermine state clean-election laws passed after the 2004 corruption scandal surrounding then-governor Rowland. Those clean-election laws included a ban on state contractors’ money in election campaigns, which was supposed to keep special-interest money out of state elections

But rather than do the right thing, Malloy and the Democrats sent out their mailing using money from state contractors and other organizations that were banned as a result of Connecticut’s campaign finance reform legislation.

Dannel Malloy has turned Connecticut’s once prominent position on campaign finance reform into a joke.  Proponents of clean elections, including Democrats, union members and progressives should be ashamed by Malloy’s actions.

Teachers misled with claim that Malloy deserves credit for “fully funding teacher pension”

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Meanwhile, why hasn’t Malloy announced that, if re-elected, he will de-couple the state’s teacher evaluation system from the unfair, inappropriate and ineffective standardized testing scheme

Many of Connecticut’s active and retired teachers recently received a “fact” sheet urging them to support Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s bid for re-election.

While the “EXAMINE THE FACTS” document failed to highlight the reality that Governor Malloy actually proposed CUTTING funding for teacher health care, in an attempt to persuade teachers to vote for Malloy, the “fact” sheet claimed that Malloy is the “First governor in Connecticut’s history to annually fully fund teacher pensions during his term in office and guarantee full funding in the future.”

Let’s be honest – if Governor Malloy had unilaterally taken steps to “fully fund teacher pensions” and “guarantee full funding in the future,” that would have been a powerful reason for teachers to consider voting for him, but the truth is far from what Malloy’s supporters are suggesting.

The state law mandating full funding of teacher pensions, which were made iron-clad through “bond covenants” with Wall Street was adopted in 2007, four years BEFORE Dannel Malloy became governor.

In 2007, after persuasive lobbying by the Connecticut Education Association, Republican Governor Jodi Rell and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly approved a plan to borrow $2 billion to shore up Connecticut’s underfunded teacher pension system.

The legislation required that, “for each fiscal year in which the bonds are outstanding [up to 30 years], the act automatically appropriates the actuarially required annual state contribution to the Teacher’s Retirement Fund (TRF).”

As part of the bond covenants with the Wall Street investors, that state of Connecticut was prohibited from repealing that language.

Yes Virginia, there is a power greater than the democratically-elected government of Connecticut and it is called Wall Street.

The EXAMINE THE FACTS document makes it seem that Governor Malloy made the decision to fully-fund the Teacher Retirement Fund because he was “committed” to teachers.

That is simply not true.

Connecticut State Government made the necessary payments to fully fund the teachers retirement system because it had signed a contract with Wall Street investors in 2007 that required that those payments be made.

We know that the Democrat’s mantra is that Tom Foley is dangerous, despite the fact that he will be dealing with a Democratic General Assembly…But misleading or lying about Malloy’s record is hardly an effective way to persuade teachers to cast their vote for Malloy.

You can read the “fact” sheet here – http://www.cea.org/issues/news/2014/sep/29/pdf/Malloy-Foley-Examine-the-Facts.pdf

Meanwhile, why hasn’t Malloy announced that, if re-elected, he will de-couple the state’s teacher evaluation system from the unfair, inappropriate and ineffective standardized testing scheme.

Union Leader and Public Education Champion Karen Lewis has Surgery for Brain Tumor

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My heart goes out to my hero Karen Lewis and all who love and admire her.

Having seen, first hand, the impact of this awful disease I pray that the Spirits guard and protect her.

She is already one of the greatest leaders of our age and her work is far from done.

Karen, we send you healing thoughts and await your return to lead us forward in the great battle to take back our public education system and our government.

Karen Lewis, the truth teller, said during the recent effort to further destroy Chicago’s school system;

Closing 50 of our neighborhood schools is outrageous and no society that claims to care anything about its children can sit back and allow this to happen to them. There is no way people of conscious will stand by and allow these people to shut down nearly a third of our school district without putting up a fight. Most of these campuses are in the Black community. Since 2001 88% of students impacted by CPS School Actions are African-American. And this is by design.

Closing 50 schools is not grand or glorious. This is nothing to celebrate or marvel.”

To the Democrats and Republicans who support the Corporate Education Reform Industry, the Common Core and its unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Testing Scheme and the ongoing effort to destroy teachers and the teaching profession – we have a threat and a warning… and we repeat it as a pledge to Karen Lewis.

Remember the words of Gandhi:

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

And know, Karen remains one of our great leaders, as does Diane Ravitch and others, and we will not be stopped.

Jonathan Pelto
Advocacy Journalist and Investigative Blogger
Wait, What? at www.jonathanpelto.com
Email:  [email protected]

More on this with developing story can be found on Diane Ravitch’s blog including “Karen Lewis Had Surgery for Brain Tumor.”

CEA Tells Teachers Malloy Supports Collective Bargaining BUT that isn’t quite true: 

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As part of its ongoing effort to persuade Connecticut teachers to support Governor Malloy’s bid for re-election, the CEA has sent out information to its members including a “Fact Sheet” called EXAMINE THE FACTS.

In addition, the cover of this month’s CEA Advisor magazine reads;

EXAMINE THE FACTS;
A better direction for students, teachers and public education
A Better direction for education funding, pensions and collective bargaining.
Malloy/Wyman 

See CEA Flyer – EXAMINE THE FACTS AND CEA Advisor:

The lead article begins,

“Educators are truth tellers. They enlighten.  They inform … we like to think our Association plays a similar function for members like you.”

While it is fair to say the Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley’s position on the issue of collective bargaining is extremely troubling and worthy of opposition, it is vitally important that voters been given the truth, especially by those who support a particular candidate.

In this case, the CEA statement on behalf of Governor Malloy is as follows:

MALLOY: Supports teachers’ rights to collectively bargain and negotiate contracts, benefits, and working conditions

Actually that isn’t really the truth:

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy remains the only incumbent Democratic governor in the United States to have proposed doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the poorest school districts.

His plan was to replace the due process system called tenure with a series of certification contracts that would be renewed if teachers managed to prove their competency using an unfair and inappropriate set of standards.

While it is true that Malloy told a CEA forum last month that he did support teachers’ rights to collectively bargain and negotiate contracts, benefits, and working conditions, Malloy HAS NEVER publicly renounced his 2012 proposal to eliminate tenure for all public school teachers – the single most important working condition for teachers.

In fact, in an earlier candidate debate with Tom Foley, Malloy was asked about his infamous statement that a teacher need only show up for four years to get tenure.

In response Malloy said,

“I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure. … I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

So while telling the CEA that he supports collective bargaining, Malloy told that public that his idiotic and insulting statement that teachers “need only show up” to get tenure, wasn’t about teachers, it was about tenure.

What the????

That is hardly a successful effort on Malloy’s part to say that he believes in the important role of tenure.

But perhaps even more important is Malloy’s failure to publicly retract his effort to repeal collective as part of his Corporate Education Reform Industry proposal in 2012 (Senate Bill 24).

Section 17 of Senate Bill 24 read,

 “(F) The provisions of sections 10-153a to 10-153n [Connecticut’s Collective Bargaining law], inclusive, shall not apply to any teacher or administrator who is assigned to a commissioner’s network school…”

The language meant that collective bargaining SHALL NOT APPLY to teachers working at turnaround schools.

Thankfully the outrageous, anti-union, anti-collective bargaining language was stripped out of the bill by the Democratic legislators…just as they would if Tom Foley tried to introduce anti-union, anti-collective bargaining legislation.

As the leadership of the CEA, AFT and other public employee unions continue to campaign for Dannel Malloy, they (or Malloy) still have not faced that fact that:

No Connecticut Governor – Democrat, Republican or Independent – has ever proposed unilaterally repealing collective bargaining for a group of public employees.

The truth is that Dan Malloy proposed unilaterally repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest schools in Connecticut and to this day he has NEVER publicly retracted that proposal or apologized for his union busting effort.

The CEA leadership is absolutely correct that teachers and all voters should EXAMINE THE FACTS.

People may want to vote against Foley for his anti-worker position, but Malloy has a long way to go before he has earned the vote of Connecticut’s teachers or state employees.

The question remains…

If Malloy really wants teachers to support him, why hasn’t he clearly endorsed the concept of teacher tenure and made a public statement that he was wrong to try and eliminate tenure and repeal collective bargaining in his 2012 Corporate Education Reform Industry legislation.

In the coming days we’ll take a look at some of the others issues presented as “facts” in the EXAMINE THE FACTS flyer teachers have been receiving.

IS THE TIDE TURNING FOR COMMON CORE? (Guest Post by Joseph Ricciotti)

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On October 6, 2014 retired educator Joseph Ricciotti had a commentary piece in the CT Mirror entitled, “Common Core takes the joy out of teaching.”

ConnCAN’s Jennifer Alexander, the paid spokesperson for Connecticut’s charter school industry, responded with a lame defense of the Common Core in yesterday’s CTMirror under the title of “Don’t let misinformation destroy the promise of Common Core.”

After reading ConnCAN’s corporate education reform rhetoric, I wrote “Connecticut – Our children are not stupid” for Wait, What?

Now Joseph Ricciotti takes on ConnCAN’s position even more directly in a thoughtful response called, “Is the tide turning for Common Core?”

Joseph Ricciotti writes;

I am pleased that my recent op-ed piece “Common Core Does Not Treat Teachers or Students with Dignity” has provoked the ire of Jennifer Alexander, CEO of ConnCAN, as I strongly believe what is needed in Connecticut is an honest debate concerning whether Common Core is appropriate for Connecticut students. It appears obvious that the corporate education reform advocates in Connecticut which includes Jennifer Alexander of ConnCAN as well as Governor Malloy and his outgoing Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, are truly dismayed and rattled with the fact that Common Core throughout the country is a slowly sinking ship ready to join the failed corporate reform programs of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT).

What Jennifer Alexander of ConnCAN has neglected to mention in her rebuttal concerning Common Core is the fact that parents have yet to be exposed to the devastating impact of numerous failures when the Common Core Smarter Balanced Consortium (SBAC) tests will be administered to Connecticut students, especially children in our urban school districts. As Jonathan Pelto cited with his insightful analysis in his op-ed commentary, “Connecticut – Our Children are not Stupid” that parents will “discover that approximately 70% of the states children are failing.” Hence, what is in store for Connecticut parents, according to Pelto, is what has already occurred in New York State where Pelto indicates “that only 31 percent of all public school students in New York State got a “passing score” on the math and English language arts Common Core tests.”

What corporate reformers such as Jennifer Alexander and Stefan Pryor apparently do not understand is what it means to a young child who fails one of the Common Core tests. What should be required reading of all corporate reformers is the recent New York Times article published this past June “ Common Core, In 9 – Year Old Eyes” in which the heartbreaking story of young Crispin Alcindor is told. Crispin attends P.S. 397 in Brooklyn, NY, a school of 350 students and a school where more than 70 per cent of the students did not pass the Common Core tests. ConnCAN would deem this a “failing school” and designate an “F”grade  as part of its ranking as what Common Core will  basically do is to rank schools and students. With this ranking, would Ms. Alexander like to see the school closed and replaced with one of ConnCAN’s so-called high achieving charter schools? However, the fact that 90 per cent of the children in P.S. 397 come from low income families would never be taken into consideration as the corporate reformers would have you believe that poverty is never a factor for low achievement.

The New York Times account of Crispin Alcindor is the story of a child who had been a model student in his school and at the top of his class until he had to take the Common Core state exams which placed him near the bottom of his class. Needless to say, his failure on the Common Core tests shattered him as failure was the catalyst that led the boy to cite, “If I don’t pass the test, I will feel miserable and never come out of my room.” Moreover, how many children in Connecticut schools destined to fail the SBAC will have similar feelings of failure as Common Core takes the joy out of learning for many Connecticut children?

Jennifer Alexander also cites in her commentary that most teachers in Connecticut support the Common Core but that is not the feedback I have received from teachers involved with implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The various surveys that Alexander cites concerning the popularity of Common Core with teachers are dubious to say the least, especially surveys conducted by the Gates Foundation. The recent election of Barbara Madeloni as president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association is symptomatic of teachers’ disenchantment with Common Core. A fierce opponent of neoliberal education reform, Madeloni believes that teachers today are “in an enormous amount of pain and that the joy in human relationships and the possibilities of teaching have been foreclosed by the “education deform” (Common Core) project.” Also, according to Madeloni, the use of SBAC test scores for the purpose of evaluating teacher effectiveness strips away what little remains of teachers dignity.

As Joe Ricciotti proves, yet again, the talking heads of the corporate education reform industry are no match for the educators who actually devote their lives to the well-being of our children.

Connecticut – Our children are not stupid

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However, that is EXACTLY what the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test is designed to tell us.

The shocking, truth is that parents who do not opt their child out of the unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing regime this year will “discover” that approximately 70% of the state’s children are failing.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

In a CT Mirror commentary piece entitled “Don’t let misinformation destroy the promise of Common Core,” Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of ConnCAN, Connecticut’s charter school lobbying group goes to great length to actually MISLEAD Connecticut’s parents about the false promise of the Common Core.

This pro-Common Core cheerleader and leading apologist for Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s corporate education reform industry agenda claims that,

…we must continue to implement consistent high standards like the Common Core across every classroom, every school, and every district in our state. It is a necessary step toward our goal of providing a high-quality education for every Connecticut child.

But what Jennifer Alexander, Governor Malloy and the other proponents of the Common Core fail to tell parents, and the public, is that the Common Core SBAC Test is designed in such a way as to ensure that only about one-third of our state’s public school students get passing marks.

How is that possible?

Because the Common Core Test uses what is called the NAEP “proficient” level as its passing grade.  NAEP is The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a national testing entity.

According to NAEP, the “proficient” level is a standard that is equivalent to what is deemed “high performance,” rather than what would be considered grade-level performance.

So, in reality, the Common Core Test is not designed to determine whether our children are learning what is expected at that grade level, but is purposely designed to pretend that all students should be “higher performers.”

Of course, as every parent knows, while all children can learn and thrive with the right support, not all students are academic “high performers” each step of the way.

But proponents of the Common Core testing system like Jennifer Alexander and Governor Malloy won’t tell parents that their children will be deemed failing if they don’t score at the “high performer” level.

When New York State implemented the Common Core Test, student scores across the state dropped by nearly 50 percent from the scores those same students had received in previous, more grade level-oriented, standardized tests.

The result of the Common Core Test was that only 31 percent of all public school students in New York State got a “passing score” on the math and English language arts  Common Core tests.

Did New York students suddenly become stupid?

No, of course not!

Even worse, the Common Core Test design is particularly unfair to African American and Latino American students.  In New York State, only about one in five Black and Latino students “passed’ and the Common Core test design ensured that only 3% of the English Language Learners achieved passing scores under the new Common Core scheme.

To put it bluntly, the Common Core Test is designed to send students of color, students who have English Language barriers and students with special education needs home with a report that indicates that they are failing.

The underlying problem with the Common Core Testing is not a secret, although many politicians wish that it was.  As has been widely reported, the Common Core Test gives fifth graders questions that are written at an 8th grade level.

The harsh reality is that the “cut score” or passing number on the Common Core Test has been purposely set so that approximately 30 percent of the test takers pass and 70 percent fail.

Jennifer Alexander, who is paid a six-figure income to speak for the charter school industry, doesn’t reveal that the real reason the corporate education reform industry loves the Common Core Testing is because it produces an almost unlimited list of failing schools.

And thanks to Presidents George W. Bush and Barak Obama, federal law provides that failing schools can be handed over to charter school management companies…and with it hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds going to private charter school corporations to run public schools.

For the truth about the Common Core Testing system one need only go back to a 2011 article in the Washington Post in which James Harvey, the executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable, explains what the NAEP proficient level really means.

Harvey says,

“Proficiency remains a tough nut to crack for most students, in all subjects, at all grade levels. NAEP reports that only one third of American students are proficient or better, no matter the subject, the age of the students, or their grade level

[…]

NAEP’s benchmarks, including the proficiency standard, evolved out of a process only marginally better than throwing darts at the wall.

That’s a troubling conclusion to reach in light of the expenditure of more than a billion dollars on NAEP over 40-odd years by the U.S. Department of Education and its predecessors. For all that money, one would expect that NAEP could defend its benchmarks of Basic, Proficient, and Advanced by pointing to rock-solid studies of the validity of its benchmarks and the science underlying them. But it can’t.

Instead, NAEP and the National Assessment Governing Board that promulgated the benchmarks have spent the better part of 20 years fending off a consensus in the scientific community that the benchmarks lack validity and don’t make sense. Indeed, the science behind these benchmarks is so weak that Congress insists that every NAEP report include the following disclaimer: “NCES [National Center for Education Statistics] has determined that NAEP achievement levels should continue to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution”

So the Common Core score is tied to a system that even the United States Congress admits should be “used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution”

Harvey goes on to explain,

“Proficient Doesn’t Mean Proficient.

Oddly, NAEP’s definition of proficiency has little or nothing to do with proficiency as most people understand the term. NAEP experts think of NAEP’s standard as “aspirational.” In 2001, two experts associated with NAEP’s National Assessment Governing…made it clear that:

“[T]he proficient achievement level does not refer to “at grade” performance. Nor is performance at the Proficient level synonymous with ‘proficiency’ in the subject. That is, students who may be considered proficient in a subject, given the common usage of the term, might not satisfy the requirements for performance at the NAEP achievement level.”

Despite the mountains of evidence about the problems with the Common Core and Common Core testing, corporate elitists like ConnCAN have the chutzpah to say we should implement the Common Core and the unfair Common Cores tests because, “many national studies that show wide support for clear, high standards to help ensure that all students, regardless of where they live, are ready for the challenges of college and career.”

As parents of public school children, we all recognize that there is nothing wrong having “clear, high standards.” Standards are good and Connecticut has its own process for updating and enhancing our state’s academic standards.

Yet rather than using Connecticut’s process and respecting the values inherent in the local control of education, the Common Core was developed using a system that did not include the full involvement of teachers, parents and the community.

Governor Malloy, ConnCAN and the corporate education reform industry have thrown their support behind an inappropriate set of national standards that were not developed by teachers, parents or those who know what is developmentally appropriate for children.

Furthermore, had the proponents of the Common Core been genuinely interested in enhancing educational standards in the United States they would have developed those standards using the appropriate people and then phased in those goals over a period of ten years, thereby allowing our schools to ramp up what we expect of our children and our public education system.

Instead, in a grotesque effort to grab as much public funding as possible for the testing companies and the rest of the education reform industry, these people, with the help of our government officials, mandated the Common Core standards and then mandated that our children be tested against those standards immediately.

So what have we been given?

Connecticut has been served up a system that is designed to tell 70 percent of our students that they are failures.

And that is nothing short of child abuse.

Rather than pushing the flawed Common Core testing program on our students, teachers and public schools, Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Pryor, and Connecticut’s public school superintendents and principals should be standing up and protecting our children from this unwarranted abuse.

But since they won’t, it is up to parents to take on the task of stopping this abuse by opting our children out of the absurd Common Core Standardized Testing program.

And if your school district tells you that you can’t opt out your child, remind them that this is America and that there is absolutely no federal or state law that revokes your parental rights when it comes to standardized testing in our public schools!

The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them.

In this case, the Malloy administration and the proponents of the Common Core and its related testing apparatus are nothing short of bullies —– and they must be stopped before they do any more damage to our children and our public schools.

The charter school industry’s commentary piece in today’s CTMirror is a clear reminder.

The time is now to tell your school district that your children will not be participating in this year’s Common Core Testing.

A glimmer of light in the darkness

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If you were not at Quinnipiac University (in Connecticut) tonight to hear Diane Ravitch speak about our continuing battle to beat back the corporate education reform industry and re-take control of our nation’s public education system then you not only missed an extraordinary speech, but you also failed to experience the hope that comes with seeing the glimmer of light which serves to push back the shadows associated with these dark times.

One by one Diane successfully challenged the lies and hoaxes being perpetrated by those intent on destroying and privatizing America’s public education system.  Over the course of ninety minutes she left the forces promoting the corporate education reform industry with nowhere to hide.

Her remarks were nothing short of a stark reminder of the words of Rachel Carson, of Silent Spring fame, who once said,

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road—the one “less traveled by”—offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth” [Or in this case the most fundamental values of our society].

But in challenging the so-called education reforms at each and every step, Diane left the audience, as individuals and as a collective, with a sense that all is not lost.

While it is true that the task ahead may seem insurmountable, Diane’s words of wisdom and courage and conviction were nothing short of a clarion call to return to the battle field with an enhanced sense of purpose and commitment.

We can and must retake control of public education in this country.  We can renew the appreciation for teachers and the teaching profession and ensure that all of our children are provided with the learning environment, resources, knowledge and skills that they need and deserve to live meaningful and fulfilling lives.

Watching Diane’s car drive out of the Quinnipiac parking lot and head back to New York, I was reminded of Margaret Mead’s profound observation…

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

The other equally profound fact was that none of our state’s leaders, Democrat or Republican, were in the audience tonight.

Thus, even now, that glimmer of light and hope waivers…

But we will not be turned away from our path and the battle will continue.

If you ever have another opportunity to hear Diane speak, don’t miss it.

Till then, read her blog at www.dianeravitch.net.  It is not only a vital source of information, but you’ll benefit from the hope and light that it provides.

The Democrat’s sanctimonious claims about campaign money

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In recent weeks, many of us have received the emails or invitations from the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee urging, pleading and cajoling us to give them money so that they can fight off the “big” money that is pouring into Connecticut to attack Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his re-election campaign.

The display has been nothing short of sanctimonious – otherwise known as “pretending to be morally better than other people” or being “hypocritically pious or devout.”

Readers may recall the various Wait, What? blog posts over the past three years about how Connecticut’s once nationally-recognized campaign finance reform law became nothing more than a joke as a result of the loopholes that were proposed by Governor Malloy and passed by the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly.

“Big money,” “tainted money,” “special interest money,” is now pouring into Connecticut, in large part, because of Malloy’s effort to corrupt Connecticut’s campaign finance system in order to allow for the very mechanisms that he and Tom Foley are now using to augment the $6.2 million in taxpayer funds that each of them received to pay for their 2014 gubernatorial campaigns.

For background on the issue, read the September 15, 2014 Wait, What? post entitled, “Three cheers for campaign finance corruption in Connecticut!

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy has deposited his check for $6.2 million from the State’s Public Finance System.

As a result of Connecticut’s landmark 2005 campaign finance reform bill, in return for raising $250,000 in contributions of under $100, Malloy (and the Republican nominee for governor) have each received $6.2 million in public funds to pay for their gubernatorial campaigns.

The original concept, which passed following the conviction of Governor John Rowland in 2005, was that in return for a multi-million dollar campaign donation from the public, candidates would agree to forgo private funds raised from state contractors, lobbyists, political action committees, and the wealthy and other special interest.

But that was before Malloy and the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly torpedoed the most important elements of the law.

Now, in addition to the $6.2 million in public funds, Malloy and his political operatives have collected at least $3.5 million for his campaign into the Democratic State Central Committees “federal” account, much of it from state contractors, lobbyists, political action committees and the wealthy.   The political maneuver was made possible thanks to a proposal Malloy and the Democrats pushed through in 2013.

In addition, a “separate” political action committee called Connecticut Forward, has already raised $2.5 million to run ads in support of Malloy and against his opponent.

Now, as the Hartford Courant’s Jon Lender is reporting in “Democrats Press Controversial Attempt To Use Federal Account To Fund Malloy’s Re-Election,” and Christine Stuart is explaining in Democratic Party Wants To Use Federal Account For Malloy Mailer, Malloy and the Democrats are taking their campaign finance charade one step further.

The Courant reports:

The state Democratic Party is pushing an already controversial campaign-financing issue to a new level, asking the Federal Election Commission to comment on the legality of the party using money from a federal campaign account to pay for a planned campaign mailing asking voters to re-elect Gov. Dannel Malloy.

And CTNewsJunkie explains Malloy ruse with:

State election law prohibits state contractors from contributing to state party accounts or statewide candidates. But state contractors are not prohibited from giving money to the party’s federal account, which pays for some administrative costs and federal campaign activities.

Last month, state election regulators were forced to rule that an email solicitation from the head of Northeast Utilities in 2013 didn’t violate Connecticut election law even though it used Malloy’s accomplishments to solicit money for the Democratic Party’s federal account.

The SEEC concluded that it was “offensive and disturbing and violates the spirit and intent of the Connecticut state contractor ban,” but there was nothing in the state law that made the more than $50,000 in contributions illegal.

The decision to pass Connecticut’s campaign finance reform law in 2005 and give candidates public funds to run their campaign was based on the requirement that candidates would not be able to accept money from people doing business with the state or others whose vested interest was to “buy” themselves public policy.

But instead, Malloy and the Democrats passed loopholes in the campaign finance laws that they sought to benefit from by being able to divert money from companies that do business with the state into the Democratic Central Committee’s Federal Account.

And now, Malloy wants to go even further and use that tainted money to directly pay for his campaign mailings.

Malloy’s blatant disregard for campaign finance reform is a perversion of everything the Democrats claim to stand for when it comes to getting dirty money out of politics and overturning the disastrous Citizens United ruling in which the United States Supreme Court determined that, in essence, defines corporations as people for the purposes of being able to buy elections.

And who are some of the “people” who donated to the Connecticut Democratic Party’s “Federal Account” that Malloy is now trying to use for his campaign?

In addition to numerous corporations and individuals who directly benefit from having state contracts are the following political action committees;

AETNA INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $5,000

AT&T INC. FEDERAL POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (AT&T FEDERAL PAC) — $5,000

BANK OF AMERICA CORPORATION STATE AND FEDERAL PAC — $5,000

BOEHRINGER INGELHEIM USA CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $7,500

CBS CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $1,000

CIGNA CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $5,000

COMCAST CORPORATION & NBCUNIVERSAL POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE – FEDERAL — $5,000

COMPUTER SCIENCES CORPORATION PAC — $5,000

COZEN O’CONNOR POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $5,000

DEMOCRATS FOR EDUCATION REFORM — $5,000

DOMINION RESOURCES, INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE – DOMINION PAC —$2,000

GENERAL DYNAMICS CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (GDC PAC) — $2,500

GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (GEPAC) — 6,000

GHC ANCILLARY CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $3,000

MINERALS TECHNOLOGIES INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (MTI PAC) —$2,500

NATIONAL CONFECTIONERS ASSOCIATION OF THE UNITED STATES, INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $2,500

NESTLE WATERS NORTH AMERICA INC. PAC — $1,000

NORTHEAST UTILITIES EMPLOYEES’ POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE-FEDERAL —$2,500

PFIZER INC. PAC — $10,000

PITNEY BOWES INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $3,500

PRAXAIR, INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE — $5,000

PURDUE PHARMA INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (PURDUE PAC) — $5,000

SPECTRA ENERGY CORP POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (SPECTRA-DCP PAC) —$2,500

SYNERGY PAC — $5,000

THE HARTFORD FINANCIAL SERVICES GROUP, INC. PAC (AKA THE HARTFORD ADVOCATES FUND) — $10,000

THE PHOENIX COMPANIES, INC. – PAC FEDERAL — $2,500

THE TRAVELERS COMPANIES INC. PAC — $10,000

THE WALT DISNEY PRODUCTIONS EMPLOYEES PAC — $5,000

THERMO FISHER SCIENTIFIC INC. PAC — $2,000

UNITEDHEALTH GROUP INCORPORATED PAC (UNITED FOR HEALTH) — $10,000

WAL-MART STORES INC. PAC FOR RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT — $5,000

WALGREEN CO PAC — $2,500

WEBSTER BANK PAC – FEDERAL — $2,500

WELLPOINT, INC. WELLPAC — $2,000

XEROX CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (XPAC) — $2,500

Guest Post – Connecticut Education Association’s Lesser Evilism: Why endorsing Malloy is a losing strategy

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Editorial Note:  Many of the mot powerful and informative blog posts over the past three years have come in the form of guest posts from teachers, parents and public school advocates.  If you have a commentary piece inside you that you’d like to write down and have posted, just drop me a note – [email protected]

Connecticut Education Association’s Lesser Evilism: Why endorsing Malloy is a losing strategy ( A Guest Post by Jay Poppa)

[For informational purposes only, Jay Poppa is the Vice President of the Bridgeport Education Association; this commentary piece is his own and not associated with his position in the BEA]

On Friday, September 26 the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) Board of Directors fell into the pit of lesser evilism by voting to endorse incumbent Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy for a second term.

CEA leadership ignored the recommendations of the CEA PAC, which was to not endorse any candidate running for Governor, a decision at least two of Connecticut’s largest teacher locals, affiliated Bridgeport (CEA) and unaffiliated Hartford (AFT), already made on their own.

The CEA is now committed to supporting the teacher attacking, pro-corporate education reformer Malloy. What’s more is that this decision highlights the failed strategies of the CEA in thinking that choosing a so-called “lesser evil” will help to protect teachers, students and schools from the greater evil represented by people like Republican candidate Tom Foley. However, Malloy is just as eager to carry out the education reform dictates pushed by the profit hungry corporate education reform industry, and has publicly stated so.

The CEA’s strategy of lesser evilism and their reluctance in calling out their Democratic Party political “friends” over the last few years has hampered the union’s ability to effectively fight for the schools we need. Supporting the Democrats is a political dead-end for any union. In this political climate only organizing a strong rank and file base with deep community ties will effectively combat corporate education reform and the general attack on the working class.

As the late historian Howard Zinn said, what matters most isn’t who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in. If social movements and workers aren’t in motion, making demands on politicians and struggling from below, mainstream politics will be shaped by the pressure from above, by the demands and priorities of the wealthy and the education reform industry they promote.

Over the past year the CEA leadership has made some positive efforts to be more responsive to their membership and move toward an organizing model of unionism. Unfortunately, endorsing Malloy will significantly undermine these efforts by eroding their leadership and the trust of their rank and file activist base and community allies. If the CEA is serious about its efforts to organize the teacher rank and file and their community allies they must retract their endorsement.

When looking at the CEA position it isn’t surprising to find their endorsement of Malloy falls in line with what many of the largest and strongest teacher unions in the country are doing.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) whose historic 2012 strike inspired and energized the US labor movement, voted to endorse Democratic Governor Pat Quinn whose running mate is former Chicago Public School superintendent Paul Vallas.  Vallas has been the poster boy for the “shock doctrine” style, pro-charter school, school privatization schemes.  He oversaw the wholesale privatization of the New Orleans Public Schools following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in which he turned almost all of the public schools over to charter school operators. He then went on to wreak havoc on the Philadelphia, Haiti and Bridgeport, CT (where he was forced out by a coalition made up of the community and the CEA/BEA) school systems.

Lesser evilism as a strategy has plagued the American labor movement for decades. It has played a part in the ineffective response to the employers offensive on American unions and living standards over the past four decades. It is a strategy that hasn’t helped to overcome union retreat and defeat and has created a steady decline in the unionization rate from a high 1950s high of 35% to 11.3% of the total work force.

One aspect of this employer’s offensive has been the desire to eradicate American unions. After decades of steady attacks by the employers the unionization rate in the private sector is about 6.7%.

Now both Republicans and Democrats have set their sights on destroying public sector unions who make up about 35.3% of this workforce.  This attack has been a bipartisan effort aimed mainly at teachers, the largest section of organized labor, but this attack extends to all public sector workers.

The CEA Leadership Bungles SB24

In the winter and spring of 2012 Malloy proposed and helped to get passed his “education reform” bill SB24 that was written by the corporate education reform industry.

Connecticut teachers have been angry at Malloy’s verbal attack on their profession.  Malloy’s most infamous quote from his address to the 2012 Connecticut House of Representatives, “Basically, the only thing you have to do is show up for four years (to earn tenure)” is widely remembered for its vitriolic character. Malloy’s willingness to engage in some of the most outwardly heinous aspects of the corporate reform movement such as teacher bashing were only outdone by his actions which have positioned him as one of the most aggressive pro-corporate education reform Governor’s in the country.

The CEA, then led by Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine and President Phil Apruzzese, responded to SB24 in a manner that could only be characterized as top down, bungling and inadequate.

Apruzzese and Levine initially agreed to some of the most hated aspects of SB24 such as the new teachers evaluation that aimed to tie teacher certification to evaluations based heavily on standardized test scores. Apruzzese and Levine unilaterally released their “View From the Classroom” which was the CEA plan for education reform that included some of worst provisions of SB24.

Instead of sharply and aggressively critiquing SB24 which was what was needed to match the support put together by the corporate education reform industry and Malloy, the CEA hugged the line between collaboration and mild criticism effectively making their critiques weaker at a time when they needed to be stronger and sharper.

Current CEA Leadership

The current CEA leadership, under President Sheila Cohen and Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, has stated their desire to and actually has taken some steps to change the course of the CEA to focus more on organizing teachers and community members against education reform. These steps, however, have been slow and often inadequate. In fact, outside of the Summer Leadership Conference organizing workshops and the Bridgeport fight to keep an elected school board, the CEA has publicly continued on the path of compromise.

On some provisions of SB24 the current CEA leadership has quietly accepted or has positioned themselves as good partners in Malloy’s education reform plan.

Even critical participation has been absent in the conversations over the Commissioner’s Network a “turn around,” competitive grant style school funding scheme. In fact the CEA and local affiliates have done little to organize or discuss with the public that these programs seek to lower our expectations as to what we will receive in terms of funding and resources from the state and they also seek to curtail the rights of union members. The CEA could highlight these issues, along with some of the real problems our schools and students face, such as how our schools are underfunded by the state, or that our “underperforming schools” are predominantly in poorer, working class neighborhoods, and neighborhoods of color.

Token Gestures and Defending the Real Evil

Now election season is nearing and Malloy is behind in the polls. He has offered teachers a few token gestures; getting rid of Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and alleviating some of the provisions of the new teacher evaluation plan. Unfortunately for teachers and students most of the damage has been done. Malloy’s SB24 locks in additional state funding for charter schools when our public schools aren’t even adequately funded. It still uses standardized test data to evaluate teacher performance, which will lead to more “teaching to the test.”

In the coming days and weeks we will hear CEA leadership justify their decision in many ways. They will argue that not endorsing Malloy would have been irresponsible because it would allow Foley to get elected or that our allies and fellow union members were counting on us to help keep Foley out. They will tell us that Foley wanted to bring right to work legislation to Connecticut or bring about a “Wisconsin moment” and that supporting Malloy was a “hard choice” for the CEA to make. We will hear that Malloy isn’t what we want but he’s the best we can get. CEA will advise that we hold our noses and vote for Malloy anyway.

While Foley’s “money follows the child” position on education is lunatical and his pension ideas are frightening, the truth is that there is no good choice between the two mainstream parties.  However, supporting Malloy will only allow him to continue a rightward slide and attack on public education while saying to us, “Well, at least I’m not Foley.”

The reality is that the words and actions from the CEA leadership show a lack of understanding as to who the forces are behind the corporate education reform project.

Through the 2010 remarks of News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch we can see how the richest 1% of the American ruling class see public education.

“When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching….”

They see it as a massive untapped market for private investment and profits.

The problem isn’t that the Democrats are too weak-willed to fight against the profit driven Murdoch and his ilk. As left-wing writer Doug Henwood clearly wrote about the nature of the Democrats:

“Another recurrent feature of the ["lesser evilism"] genre: a lament over the Democrats’ lack of spine, which is often treated as a curable condition. But in fact, the invertebrate status is a symptom of the party’s fundamental contradiction: it’s a party of business that has to pretend for electoral reasons that it’s not. Related to that, it’s getting harder to say what the party’s core beliefs are. Republicans have a coherent philosophy–loopy and often terrifying, yes, but coherent–which they use to fire up an impassioned base. The Democrats can’t risk getting their base too excited, lest it scare their funders.”

In fact among Malloy’s top two campaign donors are Jonathan Sackler and Mary Corson, his wife. Sackler is the director of Purdue Pharma and a major proponent of charter schools in Connecticut. Of course Sackler and Corson are going to want something for their money.

We have to remember that by supporting politicians like Malloy we are helping to push the Republican Right even further to the right. A position of “no endorsement” could have sent a message to both candidates that their politics are not supported.  Instead the CEA’s message to the public and Malloy is, “there is no consequence for your attacks on us, keep it up.”

What’s more is that there is a genuine third-party candidate who is running and who has been a vocal opponent of corporate education reform. Jonathan Pelto, a progressive activist and pro-public education, pro-teacher blogger announced that he would be running for governor over the summer. Unfortunately, he didn’t get enough signatures to get his name on the ballot although he is still running as a write in candidate.

The truly hard choice for the CEA would have been the most sensible. They could have put their money and political support behind Pelto’s campaign. Even if he didn’t win it would have excited thousands of teachers, parents and community activists. It would have spread the message of why corporate education reform is a bad thing and how Malloy is an advocate of it. It would have helped to organize allies together and it could have set the CEA and pro-public education forces up to wage a stronger fight against whoever gets elected Governor.

The Democratic Party has been called “the graveyard of social movements” for a reason, because once you accept the idea that defeating the Republicans is the most important political strategy, it makes sense to prioritize that over everything else. The result is that movements don’t stand up when the attacks come from Democrats, as they already have and will continue to in the future.

Even those in the CEA leadership who understand the importance of organizing but still engage in lesser evilism will continue to postpone organizing efforts and claim that the unions aren’t strong enough yet to pursue a strategy that doesn’t include endorsing bad politicians. This position ultimately allows activists to kick the can down the road to some imaginary future in which we magically have the right level of organizational strength to put forward a real alternative.  That magical future will never arrive if we don’t start organizing for it now and on a principled political basis.

When we support the lesser evil, even if we do so reluctantly, we make it harder to fight against the greater evil of education reform. Whoever gets elected will aim to gut the public education system and scapegoat teachers. The battle against this will need to be waged by the rank and file teachers, their allies. Unfortunately, we will be starting from a position in which our leadership just spent money and time defending Malloy, helping to put him back into the Governor’s seat.

If the CEA truly wants to wage the fight necessary to defeat the education reform industrial complex, they will need to rescind their endorsement and truly move completely into an organizing model of unionism. Any other gesture from the CEA will seem disingenuous and conciliatory. If the CEA leadership isn’t willing to change course on its own then it will be up to the hundreds of rank and file teachers that have more recently emerged inside the CEA to put forward the ideas, politics and strategies we need to win.

You can reach Jay Poppa at [email protected]

Are we there yet?  A big weekend for Wait, What? Blogs about the political landscape

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And this list doesn’t even include the ones in the pipeline:

Malloy’s commitment to coddle the rich!

In a new interview with the Hartford Business Journal, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy explains why we can’t ask the rich to pay their fair share;

Call it his most stunning, albeit honest, statement about his dedication to coddle the rich and ensure that the wealthy are not required to pay their fair share in taxes. In an interview with the Hartford Business Journal this week, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy reiterated his profound commitment to trickle-down economics and the notion that it is bad public policy to ask the rich to pay their fair share in taxes. Malloy told the Hartford Business Journal;

Maintaining, if not widening, the maximum differential between Connecticut’s taxes and New York and New Jersey’s is very important. I took a lot of heat amongst Democrats when I insisted that we maintain that differential in 2011, and I think it is important to do that. We know that the hedge fund industry in Connecticut has an advantage in Connecticut. Let us keep it. We know high-end earners [in Connecticut] have a tax advantage over New Jersey and New York. Let us keep it. Let us look at those areas that will allow us, particularly on a regional basis, to be a lower tax alternative.

Read the full blog at:  http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/10/04/malloys-commitment-coddle-rich/

 

Gates Foundation and Scholastic Corporation report that teachers love the Common Core!

Turns out teachers – LOVE – the Common Core.  In fact, an incredible seven in ten (68%) public school teachers report that they are “enthusiastic about Common Core implementation in their classrooms,”

Teachers, parents and public school advocates may want to play the YouTube video of Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry Be Happy song while reading this blog post.

The USA Today headline reads, “Survey: Common Core standards working well.”

In other words, the USA Today and other “main stream media outlets” are telling the Common Core naysayers to sit down and shut up with all this anti-common core mush.

How do we know the Common Core standards are working well?

Because the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the driving force behind the Common Core and its unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Testing Scheme, along with one of the companies that will profit most from the implementation of the Common Core, have a new public opinion survey showing that public school teachers love the Common Core.

Read the full blog at:  http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/10/03/gates-foundation-scholastic-corporation-report-teachers-love-common-core/

CEA and AFT-CT not alone in endorsing anti-teacher, corporate education reform champions

And finally, take heart Connecticut teachers…

Last month, the New Jersey Education Association voted to endorse U.S. Senator Cory Booker for re-election.  Booker, like Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, is among the nation’s most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic elected officials.

Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, was Mayor Booker’s top aide in Newark, New Jersey before he returned to Connecticut to lead Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative with its anti-tenure, anti-teacher, pro-charter school provisions.

In New Jersey and Connecticut, teacher unions have caved in and handed their support to people who have spent years knocking down and stomping on teachers, parents and our public schools.

You can read the full post at: http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/10/05/cea-aft-ct-alone-endorsing-anti-teacher-corporate-education-reform-champions/

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