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 – jonpel[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/

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

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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.

The move by the NJEA, like that of the CEA and AFT-CT, has raised a lot of questions among teachers and public education advocates.

It seems that the debate falls into two camps.  Union leaders and their supporters argue that even if the choice is “between two evils,” an endorsement is needed.  They articulate an approach that claims that in today’s political environment, the practical must take the place of the principle.

In fact, a particularly honest union leader recently told me when it came to whether to endorse Malloy or make no endorsement was the real fear that if Malloy won he would actually increase his war on teachers and the teaching profession.

On the other side of the argument are those of us who say that the organization representing teachers simply cannot overlook the fact that Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the country to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing schools.

And that any normal political candidate would have worked diligently to persuade teachers that he understood that he had been wrong to propose doing away with tenure; that given a second term he would de-couple teacher evaluation from unfair standardized testing; that he would settle the critically important CCEJF school funding lawsuit in order to ensure that long after he has left office Connecticut would have a school funding formula that was both constitutional and successfully guaranteed that every Connecticut public school had the resources need to ensure their students had the education they deserved.

In Governor Malloy’s case, he refused to make the necessary changes to his policy agenda.

A very similar situation has taken place in New Jersey, where Corey Booker, a true favorite of the corporate education reform industry took, has taken the same basic approach to education reform and like Malloy, has pledged to “stay the course” on their anti-public education crusade.

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

Here in Connecticut the CEA and AFT-CT endorsements of Malloy have ignited a long overdue debate about the role of leadership and the inherent conflict that exists between those on the “inside” and those on the “outside.”

A union leader who I have a lot respect for recently posted a note saying,

“The Koch brothers would be proud, Jonathan Pelto for your efforts to undermine the largest union in the state, and Connecticut teachers’ strongest voice in the policy arena. It’s easy to throw stones from the outside.”

A number of readers, including teachers, “liked” the statement.

For posterity, if nothing else, my goal has never been to undermine the teacher unions, but to persuade them to use their strength to force the real changes in policy that our teachers, students, parents and society need.

While it is true that failing to endorse Malloy could have led to Malloy banning the union leadership from the “rooms of power,” not endorsing Malloy would have sent a powerful message to elected officials, in Connecticut and around the nation, that walking away from the values and constituencies of the Democratic Party has real and severe consequences.

It wasn’t long ago that Hillary Clinton joined Jeb Bush on stage at a conference to sing the praises of the Corporate Education Reform Industry.  Considering that the nation’s war on teachers was effectively begun under George W. Bush and dramatically expanded under Barak Obama, Clinton’s move made political sense.

But if the teachers unions in Connecticut, New Jersey and elsewhere refused to support Democrats who push anti-teacher, anti-public education proposals, we can be sure that other Democrats would take note. (And the opposite is equally true.)

Instead of sending that powerful message, the union leadership endorsed Dannel Malloy and Corey Booker, thus sending out a very different message across the country.

No matter how harsh or personal the criticism has become, I stand by my belief that it was wrong for Connecticut’s teacher unions to endorse Malloy and equally inappropriate to try and persuade members to vote for Malloy using faulty arguments.

A follow blogger in New Jersey has made a very similar observation.

Bob Braun worked for the Star-Ledger newspaper of New Jersey for nearly 50 years. He served as its education editor for nearly 30 years and then became its senior news columnist.  He now blogs at: http://bobbraunsledger.com/

In a post this week that is entitled, “The unforgivable lies in NJEA’s endorsement of Cory Booker,” Braun writes,

In the latest NJEA Review, the organization that calls itself a union and supporter of public education not only endorses this pro-voucher, pro-charter, pro-Cami Anderson, pro-Chris Christie candidate of Wall Street, it also provides a forum for him to spread lies and half-truths. How, when the children and parents of Newark are suffering from the agony that is “One Newark,” when the city’s teacher union is under attack and about to be broken, how when Booker already has said he wanted to see Newark turned into the charter capital of New Jersey—how could the NJEA publish this rot?

How could it be so indifferent to what is happening, not just in Newark, but in Camden as well where the NJEA-endorsed Urban Hope Act—a cause embraced by Booker– is about to destroy public education?

Such cynicism is absolutely breathtaking. Unforgivable.

[…]

The New Yorker article “Schooled ,” by Dale Russakoff who, unlike NJEA leaders, actually spends time in the city. Read this:

 

“Early in the summer of 2010, Booker presented Christie with a proposal, stamped ‘Confidential Draft,’ titled ‘Newark Public Schools—A Reform Plan’. It called for imposing reform from the top down; a more open political process could be taken captive by unions and machine politicians. ‘Real change has casualties and those who prospered under the pre-existing order will fight loudly and viciously,’ the proposal said. Seeking consensus would undercut real reform. One of the goals was to ‘make Newark the charter school capital of the nation.’ The plan called for an ‘infusion of philanthropic support’ to recruit teachers and principals through national school-reform organizations; build sophisticated data and accountability systems; expand charters; and weaken tenure and seniority protections. Philanthropy, unlike government funding, required no public review of priorities or spending. Christie approved the plan, and Booker began pitching it to major donors.”

[…]

The NJEA endorsement is a propaganda rug woven carefully and deliberately of self-serving and cynical lies. The people who run the union simply cannot be so stupid or delusional or naïve that they don’t recognize what they are doing.

I understand –but do not agree—that people fear the loss of a Senate seat by Democrats, any Senate seat, might turn the upper house over to the Republicans. The NJEA could have said that. It could have not endorsed anyone, knowing Booker will probably win anyway. It didn’t have to give such a boost to this enemy of public education.

It is simply unforgivable for this organization that calls itself a union to hand Booker the bullets he needs to administer a coup de grace against public education in cities like New Orleans and Newark.

A constant refrain from Malloy’s supporters is that my posts on Wait, What? are driven by some type of “personal vendetta.”  As that same union leader recently wrote,

“Your personal vendetta against Malloy has clouded your judgment, and now you are working at cross-purposes against the educational and progressive issues you used to champion.”

I truly believe that reasonable people can disagree on important issues.  When it comes to strategies and tactics related to issue advocacy, disagreements can arise even more often.

But I will proudly stand by my statement that a Democrat who proposed doing away with teacher tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the poorest school; who refuses to de-couple inappropriate standardized tests from teacher evaluation; who diverts a hundred million dollars a year from public schools to prop up unaccountable charter schools that refuse to educate their fair share of bi-lingual students and students who need special education services; and who refused to settle the CCEJF lawsuit and develop a long-term change to Connecticut’s school funding formula … DOES NOT deserve the badge of honor that comes with being endorsed by teacher unions.

Being invited into the “rooms of power” certainly has its advantages, but I truly believe that unions, including teacher unions, can have a far great impact by standing on principle and reminding candidates that there is a price for turning their backs on the most fundamental values of the people whose votes they want.

Please excuse the typos…

Malloy’s commitment to coddle the rich!

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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.

Malloy’s comment that he “took a lot of heat amongst Democrats when I insisted that we maintain that differential in 2011,” is a reference to the decision he made in his first year in office to raise the Connecticut income tax rate on everyone except those making more than $1 million.  At the time Malloy told a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly that he didn’t want to raise the income tax rate on millionaires because he didn’t want to “punish success.” Considering that Connecticut could raise its income tax rate on millionaires by a couple percent and still be lower than New York and New Jersey, Malloy’s statement was a spit in the face to every middle class and working family in Connecticut. And even worse, as a candidate for re-election he has made it clear that he will not deviate from that un-American and un-Democratic course. As noted in a Wait, What? Blog yesterday,

“Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy inherited a $3.6 billion budget deficit from Governor Rell and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.  After four years in office, Connecticut is facing a budget deficit of at least $1.4 billion next year and more than $4.8 billion over the next three years.  In response, Malloy and Foley have pledged that they will not raise taxes, cut services, reduce the number of state employees or need to engage the state employee unions in any negotiations about salary or benefits.”

But the truth is that additional revenue (read taxes) will be needed. The question is, will the rich be asked to pay their fair share or will the middle class continue to be the primary target of Connecticut’s bad fiscal policies? The fact is that Connecticut’s middle class pay about 10% of their income in state and local taxes, while the poor pay about 12%. By comparison, the rich only pay about 5% of their income in state and local taxes. We don’t have a progressive tax structure.  We don’t even have a flat tax structure. Connecticut has regressive tax structure that is crushing the middle class. But Malloy (and Foley) promise that they won’t raise taxes on the rich — even as a mechanism to make Connecticut’s tax system more equitable. One thing is certain… Malloy and Foley’s approach to the state budget will mean that Connecticut cities and towns will not get the state aid they will need to maintain their schools and other local services.  This, in turn, will require Connecticut’s communities to continue to increase local property taxes.  The result will be underfunded schools and a tax system that is even more unfair for the middle class and working families. Election Day is one month from today and thev reality of the situation is that Dannel Malloy continues to prove that he has voided his right to be called a Democrat. You can read the Hartford Business Journal article at: http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/article/20141004/PRINTEDITION/310039981

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

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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.

The highlights of the Gates Foundation/Scholastic Corporation survey show the following…

  • As of July 2014, nearly two-thirds of public school teachers report that the implementation of the Common Core is “mostly or fully complete” (65%, up 19 points from 2013), and teachers increasingly agree that the implementation of the Common Core is “going well in their schools” (68%, up six points from 2013).
  • In addition, more public school teachers report feeling prepared to teach to the Common Core, with 79 percent of teachers saying they are “very” or “somewhat” prepared (up eight points from 2013), even as more agree that implementation is challenging (81%, up eight points from 2013).
  • According to the survey, among the challenges that teachers continue to face is “critical resources they need to ensure successful implementation,” with more than eight in ten teachers citing Common Core–aligned instructional materials (86%) and quality professional development (84%), and many teachers wanting additional planning time (78%) as well as opportunities to collaborate with other teachers (78%).  In other words, school districts need to invest in more computers, more common core software and more common core-aligned instructional materials.
  • Finally, an incredible seven in ten (68%) public school teachers report that they are “enthusiastic about Common Core implementation in their classrooms,” although slightly fewer agree this year over last (down five points from 2013).

So where did this wonderful, albeit unbelievable, survey come from?

According to the press release issued by the Scholastic Corporation,

NEW YORK, NY – October 3, 2014 – Scholastic (NASDAQ: SCHL) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today released results from a survey of more than 1,600 of America’s pre-K–12 public school teachers who are in the more than 40 states where the Common Core State Standards are being implemented. Focused on how the new standards are affecting teachers’ students and classrooms, the survey found that over the past year the majority of teachers have remained optimistic that the Common Core will lead to greater levels of student achievement and that many are observing positive changes in their classrooms despite some challenges in implementation. This survey, which was conducted in July 2014, is a follow-up with the teachers who responded in July 2013 to the comprehensive survey that comprised Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change

The actual internet survey being reported about today was conducted by YouGov, an on-line multi-national polling company that is headquartered in England and run by a group of businessmen that are primarily associated with Britain’s Conservative Party.

YouGov’s former Chief Executive Office won a seat in Parliament as a Conservative member in 2010 and the company’s current CEO ran as a Conservative Party candidate for Parliament in 1997.  The company’s chairman is a successful media entrepreneur, while YouGov’s president is a well know political commentator in England.

This year’s Gates Foundation/Scholastic Corporation Survey was another in a series of opinion research projects aimed to building government, business and public support for the Common Core and its related standardized testing program.

According to the Scholastic Corporation, “The first edition, which was fielded in 2009 and surveyed more than 40,000 teachers, is widely considered the largest-ever survey of America’s teachers. The following second and third editions were fielded in 2011 and 2013, respectively. The third survey asked 20,000 teachers their views on the many changes occurring in America’s classroom. Acknowledging the fast pace of these changes, the 2014 Update shows the impact of one year on teachers’ views on the Common Core State Standards.”

It is unclear how the 40,000 or 20,000 teachers were selected to participate in the various on-line studies, although see below for how YouGov generally recruits participants.  You can find the report on the 2013 Gates Foundation/Scholastic Corporation survey at:  http://www.scholastic.com/primarysources/2013preview/PrimarySourcesCCSS.pdf and the most 2014 press release on the new study at: http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/press-release/survey-provides-first-hand-look-how-one-year-has-affected-teachers-views-common-core

This year’s survey apparently used a similar on-line questionnaire, this time polling 1,676 pre-K–12 full-time public school classroom teachers.

According to the report released with the survey, “All Common Core State Standards implementation states, plus the District of Columbia, are included in this research with the exception of Delaware. The states not included are Alaska, Nebraska, Virginia, Texas, South Carolina and Indiana. The sample is balanced on population characteristics including grade(s) taught, years of teaching experience, gender and urbanity, as was the case in each edition of Primary Sources.”

Putting aside the broader questions about the selection of participants, the methodology, including the impact of internet based self-selection and the impact that weighting can have on the results, it is important to note that the “2014 Common Core Update…fielded online by YouGov, includes teachers who participate in Primary Sources, Third Edition: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change, which was fielded in July 2013.”

This means that the survey was simply a sub-set of teachers who had already shown their support for the Common Core in the 2013 survey.

Some readers may recognize the YouGov name.  The company generally recruits people,

who like to express and share their opinions, and earn points along the way…As a panel member you will receive regular email invitations for new surveys. Every survey you complete earns points that when accumulated can be redeemed for rewards such as movie ticketsgift cards, and other prizes. You will also receive surveys that don’t have points but enter you in a monthly prize draw…All YouGov surveys are completed online and filled out at a time that is convenient for you. Redeem Points for Rewards… Join Today and Receive Our 2000 Points Welcome Bonus.

So there you have it.

Thanks to the Gates Foundation and the Scholastic Corporation we now know that the implementation of the Common Core standards are going great and that an incredible seven in ten public school teachers report that they are “enthusiastic about Common Core implementation in their classrooms.”

Don’t worry, be happy!

Corporate America has everything under control.

Okay, but what about the real issues…

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Gubernatorial Debate Turns Personal, Nasty (CT NewsJunkie), Malloy and Foley stage slugfest on character, integrity (CT Mirror), Malloy-Foley Debate Turns Nasty: Sharp Jabs On Integrity Questions

Hello?  Looks like the two major party candidates for governor are busy, but what about these other issues…

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s inherited a $3.6 billion budget deficit from Governor Rell and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.  After four years in office, Connecticut is facing a budget deficit of at least $1.4 billion next year and more than $4.8 billion over the next three years.  In response, Malloy and Foley have pledged that they will not raise taxes, cut services, reduce the number of state employees or need to engage the state employee unions in any negotiations about salary or benefits.

While Connecticut’s middle class pay about 10% of their income in state and local taxes, the poor about 12% and the rich about 5%, Malloy and Foley say they won’t raise taxes on the rich — even as a mechanism to make Connecticut’s tax system more equitable.

Malloy and Foley’s approach to the state budget will mean that Connecticut cities and towns will not get the state aid they will need to maintain their schools and other local services.  This, in turn, will require Connecticut’s communities to continue to increase local property taxes.  The result will be underfunded schools and a tax system that is even more unfair for the middle class and working families.

Malloy has pledged to “stay the course” on his inappropriate, destructive and expensive Common Core-driven corporate education reform and privatization agenda.  Foley has said he’ll copy Malloy’s strategy.

Despite having a school funding formula that is unconstitutional and forces schools to unfairly rely on local property taxes; Malloy has refused to settle the critical CCEJF v. Rell school funding case.  It isn’t even clear whether Foley has acknowledged that Connecticut’s school funding formula is unconstitutional.

Malloy has made the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities.  This policy has resulted in massive increases in tuition and fees and shifted even more of the burden of getting an education onto the backs of Connecticut’s already overburden students and parents. Foley hasn’t proposed a higher education policy.

Although he implemented the biggest gas tax increase in history, Malloy has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars away from the transportation budget and into the general operating budget.  Malloy has also failed to move forward with critically important transportation projects.  By comparison, Foley hasn’t even proposed a meaningful transportation policy.

Massive cuts to Connecticut’s hospitals, along with his bait and switch provider tax on hospital care, has meant that Malloy’s policies are undermining the ability of many of the state’s hospitals to survive.  Consolidation and the entrance of for-profit hospital management companies threaten to dramatically reduce the availability of hospital care for large segments of the Connecticut population.  Foley has failed to propose a policy to save Connecticut’s hospitals.

Under Governor Malloy, the Department of Children and Families (along with and the Department of Developmental Disabilities) are so disorganized and/or underfunded that thousands of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens, including children, aren’t getting the vital services they need and deserve.  Foley hasn’t proposed any meaningful policies to deal with enhancing human services in Connecticut.

Connecticut is among the states with the heaviest debt levels in the nation.  The state has more than $65 billion in outstanding debt and unfunded pension and health care benefits for state and municipal employees.  In response, Malloy has borrowed an additional $1 billion to provide corporate welfare checks to successful companies and has used the state’s credit card to pay for ongoing operating expenses.  While opposing “corporate welfare,” Foley hasn’t proposed a substantive plan to pay down Connecticut’s debt.

And the list goes on and on…

(Feel free to add other examples)

With a month to go in this year’s gubernatorial election, perhaps the candidates for governor could restrain their tempers and their personal attacks and actually take the time to explain to the voters of Connecticut what they will do about these and other issues.

Or then again, maybe their ongoing “slugfest” says more than enough about how they will conduct themselves if elected governor…

Look out Malloy and Foley – you are both on the wrong side on education

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A new National Poll on Public Education was released today.  The poll was paid for by a Democratic leaning advocacy group and conducted by Harstad Strategic Research – a Colorado-based firm which worked on President Barack Obama’s 2008 election and 2012 re-election.

The poll reports….

Solid majorities back more funding for public schools and teacher pay, and overwhelming majorities rate local public schools and their teachers highly.

  • A 61% majority of voters believe that state funding for public schools should be increased – including 79% of Democrats, 57% of Independents and even 45% of Republicans.
  • And 56% of voters with an opinion believe pay for public school teachers falls short of what it should be.
  • Fully 82% of voters able to rate their local public school teachers rate them as excellent, very good, or good – versus just 8% who rate them as marginal or poor. Among public school parents, 93% rate public school teachers as excellent, very good, or good.
  • Speaking of public school parents, 84% give their children’s schools an A (53%) or B (31%) grade. Ten percent offer a C, and 3% say D or F. While there is certainly room for improvement, the median grade would in effect be an A-minus.

When given four broad reasons for why public schools might not be performing better, virtually no one puts the blame on “bad teachers.”

  • 40% Lack of parental involvement and support
  • 29% Inadequate funding and resources for public schools
  • 18% The effects of poverty, hardship and problems kids bring to school
  • 3% Bad teachers (including 4% of Republicans and 3% of conservatives)
  • 9% Don’t know

The survey tested a dozen statements, asking whether voters agree or disagree with each one. Messages that were supported by at least 2/3rd of Americans were the following.

The survey tested a dozen statements, asking whether voters agree or disagree with each one. Messages that were supported by at least 2/3rd of Americans were the following.

  • Neighborhood schools should be our top priority because they educate a huge majority of our kids;
  • Teachers should be held accountable by principals, supervisors and parents– not by standardized bubble tests;
  • Taxpayer money should pay for children’s education– not for corporate profits, CEO bonuses, or advertising budgets;
  • Educators should be teaching critical thinking and problem-solving– not just teaching to the standardized bubble test; 
  • We must let teachers do what they know best– teach our kids and prepare them for college and careers. Politicians and corporations should get out of the way; 
  • Everyone has a favorite teacherwho made a real difference in their lives – and we need to support and promote those kinds of classrooms.

More about the poll can be found at: http://www.democratsforpubliceducation.com/news/dems-public-ed-releases-poll-showing-overwhelming-support-public-schools/

 

Important candidate question for tonight’s Hartford Courant and FOX CT gubernatorial debate

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The Hartford Courant and FOX CT, along with the University of Connecticut, will be hosting a gubernatorial debate at 7 p.m. with Democrat Dannel “Dan’ Malloy and Republican Tom Foley. The debate will be televised on Fox61 and live-streamed at www.courant.com.

In a disturbing statement about the health of our democracy, the debate press release announced that, “only candidates who receive at least 10 percent of support in independent statewide polls are participating in the debate.” Therefore the organizers, in conjunction with Malloy and Foley are banning 3rd party candidate Joe Visconti from the debate.

There is a fundamental question that parents across Connecticut would like to have asked;

Mr. Malloy and Mr. Foley, with a simple yes or no answer, can you tell us whether Connecticut’s public school parents have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test?

If you too want this question asked, please send it to – [email protected] and Tweet it to @CarolynLumsden using the hashtag #ctpolitics.  [ Q: Do parents have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test? .]

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