The Wait, What? Winter request for donations…

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https://fundly.com/wait-what-2015-winter-request

 

Friends

Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of those who have provided financial support for Wait, What? – Along with all the people who have read and participated in the dialogue – The Wait, What? blog has become a leading news and commentary site.

The 1,820 blog posts since January 3, 2011 have attracted over 1.6 million visits and an incredible 23,000 comments.

Thanks to all of you, the blog has become a prime example of the importance of investigative blogging, advocacy journalism and the role social media can play in helping to educate, persuade and mobilize people to stand up and speak out about the important issues of our time.

While the primary focus of the blog has been the on-going effort to push back against the corporate education reform industry and re-take public control of public education, we’ve collectively dealt with an impressive array of issues.

The first blog on Wait, What? was entitled “MIND THE GAAP – Confronting the Cost of Fiscal Honesty 1/3/11).” Less than a week later, the blog of the day was, “Grappling with Connecticut’s Budget Crisis – Part I: What about Education Funding? (1/7/11).”

The article ended with the observation;

“After pledging during the campaign that he would maintain state funding for local education, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy backed off a bit Thursday, saying that is “a goal” that he will “try and accommodate.”

“That’s a goal that I have when preparing the budget,” he said during his first press conference after taking office. “There are many goals that I have. We are going to try and accommodate all of them,”

While some things haven’t changed, other things have.  That post failed to generate a single comment and only a handful of visitors stopped by to read it.

Now, with tens of thousands of visitors a month, an individual blog post can generate dozens and dozens of comments.

With 2015 underway, I hope to ensure that Wait, What? becomes an even more vital and important part of the public debate.

And so, I turn to all of you, again.

Over the four years, many of you have made a contribution to help support Wait, What?

And many provided financial support to my campaign as well.

I truly appreciate each and every one of those contributions for they have provided me with a truly unique opportunity to be heard on many of the issues we care so deeply about.

I know that these are difficult financial times for many of us and that the notion of financial security remains out of reach for many, but whatever financial support you could provide would be extremely helpful as I strive to use Wait, What? as a platform to provide news and commentary about the issues of our time.

A donation will help strengthen Wait, What? and the role of advocacy and investigative journalism in Connecticut.

You can donate on-line here:

https://fundly.com/wait-what-2015-winter-request

 

Or, if you would prefer, donations can also be made by check.  Checks should be made out to Wait, What? and sent to Wait, What? c/o Jonathan Pelto, PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268

Contributions are not tax-deductible, but they go a very long way toward help with the maintenance of Wait, What?

Thanks so much,

Jonathan

Your help would be greatly appreciated https://fundly.com/wait-what-2015-winter-request?

Breaking News: State employee layoffs coming to UConn

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Updated with statement from UConn spokesperson (see end of blog post)

According to high-ranking UConn administrators, who asked to remain anonymous due to concerns about retaliation, a series of layoff notices will be going out soon to state employees at the University of Connecticut, including unionized employees.

Despite a 6.5 percent increase in tuition and fees that have already been approved for next year, inadequate state support will mean that a significant number of UConn employees will be receiving layoff notices, the first time there have been a substantive number of layoffs at the University in at least 20 years.

The UConn administrators report that the initial round of layoffs will be hitting the School of Law, the School of Social Work and at other major programs at UConn.

Governor Malloy’s record cuts to Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education have already been taking a tremendous toll.  As the State of Connecticut reduces its state budget support for UConn, the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges, students and their parents are being told they must pay more and get less.

In a related move to cut spending, the Connecticut Board of Regents is blindly rushing to approve a “Transform CSCU 2020” plan that will dramatically diminish the Connecticut State University and Community College System.

The disturbing news of impending layoffs comes on the heels of the decision by Governor Malloy’s political appointees on the UConn Board of Trustees to dramatically increase UConn President Susan Herbst’s salary and compensation package.

Voting at a special board meeting on December 29, 2014, the UConn Trustees approved a new compensation package that will push President Herbst’s  salary to $831,000 by 2019.  Herbst’s new contract increases her salary by 5 percent each year and provides that the UConn Board of Trustees or a committee shall review her salary annually and may increase, but not decrease her compensation package.  In addition, Herbst will receive an $80,000-a-year “deferred compensation” payment, along with a $38,000 “supplemental retirement benefit.”  The new contract also promises her a $40,000 performance bonus each year and guarantees her two “retention bonuses” totaling $200,000, one in 2016 and one in 2019.

But when the Trustees met at the specially called meeting to approve the UConn President’s new compensation package, they failed to reveal that a plan to layoff state employees at the University of Connecticut was already taking shape.

The news that UConn is facing a massive budget crisis is not news, but the use of layoffs is in stark contrast to Governor Malloy’s campaign message, which was that if re-elected, he would not raise taxes or cut vital services and would not need to engage the State’s public employee unions in any negotiations about concessions.

The state employee unions used that commitment to support a massive political effort that helped Malloy beat his Republican opponent by about 40,000 votes.

Despite Malloy’s rhetoric, state employees, including those at UConn, will be feeling the devastating impact of the projected $1.4 billion budget deficit in next year’s state budget.

As the CT Mirror reported last March, “The University of Connecticut is facing a $46.2 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1 — a 4 percent shortfall in the funding needed to continue existing programs.”

The CT Mirror added, “Further tuition increases, cuts to research funding, scaling back financial aid and stalling faculty hiring have not been ruled out to close the gap, a university spokeswoman said.”

According to reports produced by the University of Connecticut, State funding for UConn has decreased by more than $55.3 million a year since Malloy took office.

The Malloy budget cuts take the University of Connecticut back to 1995 when a New York Times article entitled, “UConn Plans Tuition Rise And Layoffs,” reported that, “Tuition at the University of Connecticut will rise 10 percent in 1994-95 and some part-time faculty members will lose their jobs this fall, the school’s trustees have decided.”

The New York Times added, “This is the sixth consecutive year that the university has called for a double-digit tuition increase. Over five years, tuition has doubled and the university has trimmed about one-fifth of its faculty and staff.”

In 1995, the State of Connecticut provided a block grant to the University of Connecticut that covered 32 percent of the University’s total operating budget.

Thanks to Malloy’s on-going cuts, the State of Connecticut’s operating grant now only provides 18.7 percent of UConn’s total operating costs.

It has been twenty years since those disastrous cuts, yet the on-going lack of state support for the University of Connecticut is jeopardizing the quality of the University and putting a UConn education more and more out of reach for Connecticut families.

As noted previous, the result of these constant budget reductions has resulted in a tremendous shift onto the backs of students and their parents.  The cost of tuition, room and board for an in-state student has at UConn has gone from $9,784 in 1995 to $23,496 this year.

And now UConn students are being told that although they will need to cough up 6.5 percent more to go to the University of Connecticut next fall, they can expect fewer staff and reduced programs.

In response to a request for a comment, UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz issued the following statement, it provides an interesting spin on how the University is going to explain the upcoming cuts.

“At this time, any workforce reductions at the university are very limited in number, affecting very few employees, and are due to reorganizations within a particular office, department, or school, not because of financial need or any reduction in state support.”

The key factor driving academic performance is poverty…

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And a new study from the Southern Education Foundation reports that low income students are now a majority of the schoolchildren attending the nation’s public schools.

Using data from the 2012-2013 school year, the study determined that 51 percent of all students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade were eligible under the federal program for free and reduced-price lunch, a standard measure of the number of children living in poverty.

The Southern Education Foundation also reported that, “In 40 of the 50 states, low income students comprised no less than 40 percent of all public schoolchildren. In 21 states, children eligible for free or reduced-price lunches were a majority of the students in 2013.”

According to the report, even in Connecticut, the state with the highest per capita income in the nation, more than one in three public school students come from homes in poverty.  That number of public school students coming from poor households skyrockets in many of Connecticut’s poorer cities and towns where more than 8 in 10 students qualifying for free or reduced school lunches.

The Washington Post article covering the new study quoted Michael A. Rebell, the executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University, who explained, We’ve all known this was the trend, that we would get to a majority, but it’s here sooner rather than later…A lot of people at the top are doing much better, but the people at the bottom are not doing better at all.

Kent McGuire, the president of the Southern Education Foundation, which according to the Washington Post is the nation’s oldest education philanthropy, discussed the harsh reality associated with reaching a point where a majority of school children are now living in poverty.  McGuire said, “The fact is, we’ve had growing inequality in the country for many years, it didn’t happen overnight, but it’s steadily been happening. Government used to be a source of leadership and innovation around issues of economic prosperity and upward mobility. Now we’re a country disinclined to invest in our young people.”

The Corporate Education Reform Industry claims that the Common Core, more standardized testing, doing away with teacher tenure and privatizing public education by shifting to privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools will solve the biggest problems and challenges facing public education in the United States.

But the real truth is that the root problem is the fundamental lack of adequate resources for public schools, which in turn, prevents public schools from providing the breadth of support and services that would be needed to give poor children a real opportunity for academic success.

The recent Washington Post highlighted the funding problem reporting,

The amount spent on each student can vary wildly from state to state. Vermont, with a relatively low student-poverty rate of 36 percent, spent the most of any state in 2012-2013, at $19,752 per pupil. In the same school year, Arizona, with a 51 percent student-poverty rate, spent the least in the nation at $6,949 per student, according to data compiled by the National Education Association. States with high student-poverty rates tend to spend less per student: Of the 27 states with the highest percentages of student poverty, all but five spent less than the national average.

And The Southern Education Foundation concluded their report with a stark warning;

 “No longer can we consider the problems and needs of low income students simply a matter of fairness…  Their success or failure in the public schools will determine the entire body of human capital and educational potential that the nation will possess in the future. Without improving the educational support that the nation provides its low income students – students with the largest needs and usually with the least support — the trends of the last decade will be prologue for a nation not at risk, but a nation in decline…”

You can access the full report at: http://www.southerneducation.org/Our-Strategies/Research-and-Publications/New-Majority-Diverse-Majority-Report-Series/A-New-Majority-2015-Update-Low-Income-Students-Now

OMG!  You mean Connecticut really does face a budget crisis?

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Keith Phaneuf’s lead article in yesterday’s CT Mirror reads, “Malloy doesn’t get predicted revenue boost, big deficits remain.”

The news…

“A new analysts’ report Thursday found tax receipts and other revenues still likely to grow as originally anticipated last summer – when major deficits were projected for the next two fiscal years.

That means the governor — who has called those earlier estimates “extremely conservative” – still must close shortfalls topping $1.3 billion next fiscal year and $1.4 billion in 2016-17. Malloy, whose budget plan is due to legislators on Feb. 18, repeatedly has ruled out tax hikes.”

A political campaign dedicated to lying to Connecticut’s voters is in the past, and with the release of the “Consensus Revenue estimates,” Malloy’s Budget Director, Ben Barnes, announced “The revenue estimates for the biennium will be the basis for the Governor’s budget proposal.”

So despite a year of constantly denying the very real looming deficit, the Malloy administration finally admits that the dire “predictions” produced by the Independent Office of Fiscal Analysis are true.

Throughout his re-election campaign, Malloy claimed that not only would tax receipts grow by about seven percent during the next two years, but as the CT Mirror recalls, “Connecticut could expect more, according to the governor. And the revenue from that extra growth would make the deficit relatively easy to manage, provided municipal aid was kept flat and agencies did not receive inflationary spending increases.”

Is the news a surprising development?  Hardly…

Here are just a handful of the budget related posts on Wait, What? over the past year;

10-24-14: Can we have a little honesty about Connecticut’s state budget problems?

No, because – That’s not how it works! That’s not how any of this works!  

Rather than honestly confront the projected $1.4 billion budget deficit in next year’s state budget and the shortfall of more than $4.8 billion over the next three years, the two major party candidates for governor have decided to simply lie their way to Election Day in the hopes that voters will not discover the magnitude of the fiscal problems Connecticut will face over the next few years.

10-1-14: Forgive them, for they know not what they do – Not!

Both Malloy and Foley say that, if elected, they will not raise taxes, not cut vital services not reduce the state workforce and will not need to negotiate contract changes with state employees.

The notion that such campaign promises could be met is not only laughable but it is a sad commentary on how far from the truth Connecticut’s gubernatorial candidates will stray in their ongoing efforts to get elected.

8-13-14: State Deficit?  What State Deficit?”

In a recent interview with the CT Mirror, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy said,

“We really don’t have a deficit.”

However, if the truth be told, according to the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, the State of Connecticut continues to face a monumental fiscal crisis.  In fact, here are the projections from the experts for the fiscal years following this November’s election;

Fiscal Year 2016:  A $1.4 billion Connecticut state budget deficit

Fiscal Year 2017:  A $1.6 billion Connecticut state budget deficit

Fiscal Year 2018:  A $1.8 billion Connecticut state budget deficit

Malloy says the Office of Fiscal Analysis is wrong, although he uses their numbers when he complains that he inherited a $3.7 billion state budget deficit from former Governor Rell.

[…]

Meanwhile, the cornerstone of Malloy’s campaign is his claim that he won’t propose or accept any tax increases during the next four years, he won’t need to renege on his deal with the state employee unions nor will he have to ask for further concessions from state employees and he won’t cut vital services here in Connecticut.

8-5-14 All is well in the Land of Oz

“We really don’t have a deficit…I know that’s hard to believe.” (Dan Malloy)

Malloy tells the CT Mirror;

  • Connecticut doesn’t have a deficit
  • There will be no cuts to key services
  • There is no need to discuss concessions with state employees
  • He will not propose or accept any tax increase during his four years as governor – even to shift the tax burden by making the wealthy pay their fair share so Connecticut can reduce the disproportionate pressure on the middle class.

And how is Malloy going to achieve this incredible feat of having more services, no additional taxes and no deficits? As the CT Mirror explains, 

“The governor said he’s confident that both the nation’s and Connecticut’s economy are on the cusp of a major surge.”

7-14-14:  Connecticut deserves a government that will tell its citizens the truth

As the CT Mirror explains in the series on where the candidates stand of the state budget, Pelto: State budget deficit reveals a broken fiscal system; 

“Former state Rep. Jonathan Pelto doesn’t have any trouble standing out from the rest of the 2014 gubernatorial candidates. For Pelto, a $1.4 billion shortfall – more than four years after the last recession ended – typifies a broken fiscal system that threatens Connecticut’s schools, state workers’ pensions, and middle class families.”

6-6-14:  Look there goes a flying pig!

The truth is that Connecticut is facing a projected state budget deficit of at least $1.3 billion dollars for the fiscal year that begins after this year’s gubernatorial election.

But today Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy boldly announced… “We don’t face a deficit.”

In a late afternoon CT Newsjunkie story entitled, Malloy Dismisses Deficit Projections, Won’t Ask for More Concessions, the Governor not only explained that the deficit was going to disappear but he took the opportunity to repeat his iron-clad pledge that he will not propose or accept any new taxes in a second term.

As Malloy explained, “There will not be a tax increase.”

And to top things off, Malloy said that he was ruling out asking state workers for more concessions should he be re-elected as Connecticut’s Chief Executive Officer.

While the Governor’s hyperbole is impressive, there is not a state employee, retirees, public school teacher or retired teacher, let alone a public official or taxpayer who believes that Malloy’s portrayal of reality is accurate.

Hearing about Malloy’s remarks, one can’t help but dwell on that classic idiom about pigs flying or the one about Hell freezing over.

5-6-14:  Malloy’s “NO TAX” pledge will send Connecticut into the abyss

As a result of Governor Malloy’s gimmick ridden state budget, the candidate who wins the 2014 gubernatorial election will take office facing a projected state budget deficit of $1.3 billion or more.

By using one-time revenues for on-going expenses, purposefully under-funding various government programs and utilizing a series of budget gimmicks, the new 2014-2015 state budget is just about as irresponsible as they come.

The moment Malloy signs it into law he will be creating a budget deficit for this year and a catastrophe in the budget that will follow.

But as irresponsible as Malloy’s latest budget is, nothing compares to the damage that will come with his recent “NO TAX” pledge should he be elected to a second term.  Malloy sealed his fate when he recently told reporters that he would, “neither seek nor accept any further tax increases” in a second term.

Pandering to phantom voters, Malloy has engaged in a George Bush “read my lips” moment.

By making an “ironclad” NO TAX increase pledge, Malloy joins the Republican candidates in assuring that the people of Connecticut must live with a tax system that crushes the middle class while coddling the rich.

4-30-14:  Post-election state budget deficit projected to be an incredible $1.4 billion

As Wait, What? readers have been reading for months, the Malloy administration has been painting a rosy picture of Connecticut’s state budget situation thanks to the unparalleled use of budget gimmicks and inflated revenue estimates.

Readers have been repeatedly informed that Malloy’s irresponsible approach to budgeting would leave Connecticut with a $1 billion state budget deficit in each of the three years following the November election.

Based on the latest revenue projects, yesterday’s Wait, What? post increased that projected budget deficit to at least $1.2 billion and this afternoon, the Malloy administration, along with the General Assembly’s Office of Fiscal Analysis, announced that the person who is elected to be governor in November will face a budget deficit of close to “$1.4 billion or 7.4 percent of annual operating costs.”

And the list of articles warning about the fiscal realities facing the state goes on and on and on.

Whether you read Keith Phaneuf’s pieces in the CT Mirror or the news analysis and commentary pieces here at Wait, What?, the message has been the same….Governor Malloy and his administration have been lying to the votes of Connecticut.

And now, months after the campaign is over and just weeks before Malloy presents his 2015 state budget proposal, the governor’s budget office finally admits – Connecticut is facing a budget crisis well in excess of $1 billion.

Go Figure…

State Contractors can’t make political donations – oh – except to benefit Malloy

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The driving force behind Connecticut’s successful effort to reform its campaign finance system ten years ago was the revelation that disgraced Governor John Rowland had used his position to solicit gifts and campaign donations from state contractors and others who directly benefited from the expenditure of taxpayer funds.

Following its passage in 2005, Connecticut’s new campaign finance law was heralded as one of the strongest in the nation.

Putting aside the way the new law unfairly treated third party candidates, Connecticut’s lawmakers passed, and Governor Jodi Rell signed, a sweeping piece of legislation that systematically outlawed state contractors from making campaign donations to benefit a political candidate.

Whereas John Rowland’s campaign finance reports were filled with the names of major state contractors such as the Tomasso Brothers Corporation, the Gilbane Company and the Manafort Brothers, as a direct result of Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance reform legislation, every governor and gubernatorial candidate after Rowland would be prohibited from accessing state contractor money.

However, as the final round of campaign finance reports are submitted for Connecticut’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign, it is becoming increasingly clear that when it came the prohibition on state contractor donations, Governor Dannel Malloy and his political operation fundamentally violated the spirit of Connecticut’s campaign finance law and, quite possibly, the letter of the law as well.

As has been widely reported, in addition to collecting the $6.5 million taxpayer funded check from the State Elections Enforcement Commission, the Malloy campaign funneled at least $5.1 million into the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee’s “Federal Account,” where a significant portion of those funds were used for the exclusive benefit of Malloy’s campaign for re-election.

A review of the list of those who donated that $5.1 million includes dozens of state contractors including the some of the very companies associated with John Rowland’s downfall, including the Tomasso Brothers Corporation, the Gilbane Company, the Manafort Brothers and others whose campaign donations tarnished Connecticut’s reputation and sent a sitting governor to prison.

The role state contractor donations played in the Malloy campaign has received a fair amount of media coverage, such as Jon Lender’s investigative series in the Hartford Courant’s reporting on how top executives at Northeast Utilities donated more than $50,000 to benefit Malloy’s campaign.  The head of NU instructed subordinates that they could support Malloy by making their checks out to the Connecticut Democrat’s “Federal Account.”  (See details about the NU story via NU Chief Asks Subordinates To Support Malloy By Giving To Democratic Party and Election Agency Probes Legality Of NU Chief’s Solicitation For Malloy.)  The latest campaign reports indicate that NU officials helped Malloy by donating at least $56,750 to that Democratic account, as instructed.

But the full extent of the Malloy campaign unethical use of state contractor donations goes well beyond the Northeast Utilities example.

HAKS Engineering of New York collected more than $18 million from the State of Connecticut since Dannel Malloy took office.  Some of their work was part of a new contract to inspect overhead power lines on the New Haven Line of Metro North.  A May 2014 article in the CT Mirror reported that executives of HAKS Engineering had donated $45,000 to the account the Malloy campaign was using to sidestep Connecticut’s law prohibiting state contractors from giving funds to benefit Connecticut candidates.

In fact, by the end of the 2014 campaign cycle, HAKS executives and their families, along with their related companies, had actually donated about $80,000 the Democrat’s “Federal Account,” including $32,000 from Hasam Ahmad and his wife, $10,000 from Shahida Akhtar, $10,000 from Elliot Gene Sander, and donations in the range of $5,000 or more from other HAKS employees including Franco Balassone, Mahmood Mohammed, Louis Torelli and Mubbashir Rahman.

Another example of the Malloy campaign collecting campaign donations from those who have directly benefited from the Malloy administrations actions is Winstanley Enterprises, the lead developer of New Haven’s Downtown Crossing.  The publicly funded project is now home to Alexion Pharmaceuticals, the company that received a $51 million corporate welfare package from the Malloy administration to move to that property.  Adam and Carter Winstanley each donated to $20,000 to the Democrat’s Malloy oriented “Federal Account,” while David Winstanley pitched in $10,000 for a total of at least $50,000 from the Winstanley family.

Another key source of campaign funds for the Malloy operation was the law firm of Pullman & Comley whose attorney provided more than $45,000 during the recent campaign.  The Bridgeport based law firm has snagged a series of extremely lucrative contract with various state agencies including the Attorney General’s Office, the State Treasurer’s Office, the University of Connecticut, the State Airport Authority and the Department of Transportation.  Since Malloy became governor, the firm has collected in excess of $2.7 million and that doesn’t even count the money billed in this fiscal year.

Yet another example is the one the CT Mirror noted in their May 2014 article where they wrote, “The Simon Konover Company, which the state pays $4.7 million annually to rent 55 Elm St. in Hartford, is up to $51,000 in donations, with $30,000 from three executives last month on top of $21,000 last year. Its tenants include the attorney general, treasurer and controller.” As the Malloy’s re-election campaign came to a close, the total raised from those directly associated with the Simon Konover Company reached $71,000.

And what about those big construction companies that were so generous to John Rowland.  The Malloy operation also managed to collect donations from officials the Tomasso Brothers Corporation, the Gilbane Company and the Manafort Brothers Company.   The Manafort Brothers Company led the pack with $22,000 in donations.

Check back tomorrow for even more examples of the role state contractors inappropriately played in Malloy’s re-election effort.

Malloy hands Charter Schools even more taxpayer funds

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Despite the controversies surrounding Connecticut’s charter school industry and the growing level of state debt, Governor Dannel Malloy’s Connecticut Bond Commission, with the support of the Republican members of that Commission, allocated an additional $5 million earlier this week to, “assist charter schools with capital expenses.”

Adding to the cost to taxpayers is the fact that Malloy is using the state’s already over-extended credit card to make these generous payments.  The technique will dramatically increase the long-term cost for taxpayers since the total burden will now include the $5 million in grants PLUS the associated interest and expenses related to borrowing the money.

The latest $5 million in construction grant funds for charter schools comes on top of $20 million that the Bond Commission has already handed out to Connecticut’s charter schools.

Not surprisingly, heading the list of beneficiaries is Achievement First, Inc., the charter school management company that was co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s (now former) Commissioner of Education.

While the City of Bridgeport’s public education budget faced additional cuts this school year, Achievement First Inc.’s charter school in Bridgeport will be getting a free $850,000 in public funds to construct a new cafeteria, classrooms and gymnasium space.

And in the small world department;

One of the two principals at Achievement First – Bridgeport is Katherine Baker, who is married to Morgan Barth, the Director of the State Department of Education’s Turnaround Office.

Morgan Barth, a former long-time employee of Achievement First Inc., was recruited by Commissioner Pryor in 2013 to leave Achievement First and join him at the State Department of Education.  Before joining Pryor at the State Department, Barth served as the other principal at Achievement First Bridgeport. Barth also has the dubious distinction of having illegally taught and worked for Achievement First Inc. from 2004 until 2010.

Making the whole situation even more “complex,” in addition to running Pryor’s “turnaround” operation, Morgan Barth also heads up the State Department of Education’s “Charter School Accountability” program.

When Commissioner Pryor announced Barth’s appointment he wrote, “Mr. Barth will serve as the Division Director for Turnaround in the Turnaround Office.  He will guide all of the work of the division.  Mr. Barth brings a wealth of experience as an educator and school leader – particularly in school environments that are in need of intensive intervention.  Before coming to the SDE, he led improvement efforts at two of the lowest performing schools in the Achievement First Network, first at Elm City College Prep and most recently at Achievement First Bridgeport’s middle school.  At Elm City, he taught fifth and sixth grade reading for four years before becoming the principal and taught fourth grade in Arkansas before coming to Connecticut in 2004.” Barth was a TFA teacher in Arkansas].

But what Pryor did not explain was that Barth was unable to acquire certification under Connecticut’s teacher and administrator certification law, meaning that despite repeated warnings from the State Department of Education’s Certification Division, Achievement First, Inc. allowed Barth to teach and serve as an administrator from 2004 to 2010, despite his total lack of certification to work in a Connecticut public school.

Luckily for Barth, and thanks in part to a $100,000-a-year lobbying contract with one of Connecticut’s most influential lobbying firms, Achievement First, Inc. (and its associated organizations ConnCAN and ConnAD) were able to convince the Connecticut General Assembly to pass a law in 2010 that exempted Connecticut’s charter schools from Connecticut’s mandatory teacher and administrator certification requirements.

As a result of that law, starting on July 1, 2010, Connecticut’s charter schools could have up to 30% of their staff be uncertified.  The law was particularly important for Achievement First Bridgeport since they had in excess of 36 percent of their staff uncertified at the time.

The law meant that while Barth worked illegally from 2004 to 2010, he could legally serve as Achievement First Bridgeport’s principal until he joined Pryor at the State Department of Education.

How Barth got away with teaching illegally for six years remains somewhat of mystery, although it may have helped him that he is related to Richard Barth, the head of the massive KIPP charter school chain, who in turn, is married to Wendy Koop, the founder of Teach For America.

In any case, back to this week’s State Bond Commission meeting.

The $5 million in grant funds were allocated to a total of five charter schools.  At least three of the charter schools will be using the taxpayer money to pay down debt on buildings that these private charter school companies own.

No… you read that correctly…

Malloy and his administration, in this case with the support of the Republican members of the Bond Commission, are borrowing money to give to privately owned, but publicly funded charter school companies so that they can pay down mortgages on buildings that they own and will be able to keep even if they decide to close their charter schools.

The cost to taxpayers for this corporate welfare program will be the $5 million plus interest, while the benefit to the private charter school company will be less debt and lower debt payments, therefore giving them the ability to keep (or use) more of the taxpayer funding they get from their annual charter school operating grant that they also receive from the state.

According to the State Department of Education, Charter Schools may request up to $850,000 from this particular charter school grant program.

While the primary purpose of the program is to help charter schools, “Finance school building projects, including the construction, purchase, extension, replacement, renovation or major alteration of a building to be used for public school purposes,” the law does allow charter school companies to seek grants to, “Repay debt incurred for school building projects, including paying outstanding principal on loans which have been incurred for school building projects.”

Now, next time you hear the Malloy administration talk about charter school accountability, you’ll know a bit more of the back story.

CT Teachers Union against charter schools, except when the vote counts

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Less than twelve hours after Governor Dannel Malloy took the stage to declare victory on Election Night 2014, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education met to unanimously endorse a proposal to open eight new charter schools in Connecticut.

A CT Mirror article at the time entitled “State education board wants to open eight new charter schools” reported that while the State of Connecticut faces a $1.4 billion projected budget deficit for next year, “The State Board of Education is asking the state for $11 million to fund eight new charter schools to open over the next two school years…The request, put forward by Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and approved unanimously by the state board…”

The CT Mirror added that, “Allan B. Taylor, chairman of the 13-member state panel, said expanding school choice for students makes sense.”

The Hartford Courant covered the story as well noting;

Of the eight new charters proposed to open over the 2015-16 and 2016-17 fiscal years, two proposals were approved by the board at a lengthy meeting in April amid much testimony for and against new charter schools.

The charters already approved to open in 2015-16 include Stamford Charter School for Excellence and Capital Prep Harbor School in Bridgeport. Those proposals, however, are contingent on the availability of funding.

After funding for Steve Perry’s proposed Bridgeport charter school, along with money for seven others charter schools, won the full support of the State Board of Education, Melodie Peters, the President of the Connecticut Federation of Teachers, submitted a hard-hitting commentary piece to the CT Mirror entitled, “Plan for more charter schools flawed in many ways.”

Peters, one of Malloy’s biggest supporters began her article by saying, “The state education department commissioner’s proposal last week to hand over more public education resources to privately managed charter schools deserves an ‘F’ as both ‘incomplete’ and tone deaf.”

Peters added,

“Now is not the time to ask taxpayers for another $21 million on an experiment whose record of ensuring a quality education for all has yet to be demonstrated.

It has been just six months since the scandal involving the charter management outfit Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) and the schools it operated in Hartford and Bridgeport made headlines. Recall that the extent of the alleged corruption and nepotism quickly led to a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of FUSE and its affiliated Jumoke schools that today is still ongoing.”

Having told members that Lt., Governor Nancy Wyman would be Malloy’s point person on education in Malloy’s second term, Peters added,

“In August, the Malloy-Wyman Administration rightly responded to the crisis by ordering a thorough review of the department of education’s policies governing charter management companies. The department quickly agreed to changes that echo what parents, educators, and advocates have been urging for years: charters should be held accountable to the same standard as traditional public schools.”

The AFT -CT President went on to blast Pryor’s decision to seek funding for eight more charter school saying, “The state should not green-light more charters or expand their reach without first verifying that education department oversight of charters has actually improved.

Of the various issues associated with President Peters’ “blistering attack” on the decision to approve Pryor’s proposal for eight more charter schools, perhaps the most interesting is that Peters completely and utterly failed to mention that the newest member of the State Board of Education, Meriden Federation of Teachers President Erin Benham, voted IN FAVOR of the resolution to fund eight new charter schools.

In a political move to reward the AFT-CT for ramming through an endorsement of Dan Malloy, without even granting the other candidates [like myself] the opportunity to fill out a candidate questionnaire, meet with the AFT-CT PAC or address the AFT-CT Board of Directors, Malloy announced on August 21, 2014 that he was taking the unprecedented step of appointing Meriden AFT President Erin Benham to a four year position on the State Board of Education.

As the time, Peters wrote,

“We applaud the administration of Governor Dannel Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman for selecting Erin Benham to serve on the State Board of Education. They have appointed a committed classroom educator and trusted labor leader with a long, successful record of direct engagement in grassroots efforts to improve schools in Meriden and across Connecticut.

“The SBOE, as well as the state’s education department, will greatly benefit from Erin’s experience in Meriden Public Schools. There, she and her fellow educators have proven that collaboration — not confrontation — is the way to form a productive working partnership with their district’s administration.

“Erin will bring tremendous value to the board with real-world teacher-student, educator-parent and labor-management experience. I have seen firsthand Erin’s passion for her vocation, and I have no doubt she will make a significant contribution to the board’s mission.

“We expect Erin to ensure that the voices of educators are heard and respected, and to play a role in helping to shape policy in all our state’s schools.

“We congratulate Erin on her appointment and look forward to her service on the SBOE throughout her four-year term.”

Two weeks later, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten came to Connecticut to endorse Governor Dannel Malloy for re-election, despite the fact that Malloy was, and is, the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and unilaterally repealing collective bargaining rights for teachers in the poorest school districts in Connecticut, including some of the teachers who worked in Meriden.

And to drive home the special relationship between the AFT and Malloy – and Malloy and the AFT – AFT President Weingarten, AFT-CT President Peters and Malloy started their day with a tour and press conference at a Meriden public school, with none-other-than the newest member of the State Board of Education, Meriden AFT President Erin Benham.

Yet exactly sixty-one days later, Erin Benham, the teacher who Peters promised would, “ensure that the voices of educators are heard and respected, and [who would] play a role in helping to shape policy in all our state’s schools,” joined Malloy’s other political appointees on the day after the election to vote in favor of diverting millions of dollars to even more privately run, publicly funded charter schools.

In her commentary piece a week after the vote, AFT-CT Peters wrote,

Another unanswered question is why we aren’t investing education resources in community schools that will educate all children, instead of cherry-picking students to boost standardized test scores. An investigation by Reuters in 2013 found charters across the country imposing “significant barriers” that result in “skimming the most motivated, disciplined students and leaving the hardest-to-reach behind….Wouldn’t we all be better served investing our tax dollars in traditional neighborhood schools that do not exclude our special education, ELLs, and children with behavioral disorders?”

And AFT President Peters concluded her commentary piece with the observation, “And until the department can demonstrate that it can, the State Board of Education should deny the outgoing commissioner’s request.”

Over the course of Malloy’s 2014 campaign for re-election, the American Federation for Teachers Federal Political Action Committee donated $10,000 to the Committee Democratic State Central Committee “Federal Account,” the fund that the Malloy campaign used to launder lobbyist, state contractor and political action committee funds into a program to assist the Malloy campaign.

In addition, the American Federation of Teachers Federal Political Action Committee threw in $600,000 to the Democratic Governor’s Association’s $5.7 million Independent Expenditure campaign to support Malloy’s re-election.

But putting aside, for the moment, AFT President Melodie Peters’s anti-charter school editorial of November 17, 2014, when the real vote on the motion to adopt the Malloy administration’s proposal to fund eight more charter schools was taken, it passed the State Board of Education unanimously….with the support of AFT’s representative along with Chairman Allan Taylor, Vice Chair Theresa Hopkins-Staten, Charles Jaskiewicz, Patricia Keavney-Maruca, Maria Mojica and Joseph Vrabely.

That is a lot of teacher’s money for an investment that appears to be ending in disaster.

Some would even call the whole thing yet another Wait, What? moment.

Steve Perry’s taxpayer subsidized “Education Truth Tour”

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It is Tuesday, January 13, 2015 – another day of school at Hartford’s Capital Preparatory Magnet School – but Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry, who has been skipping out on his job there about 25% of the time, is off to Carrollton, Georgia for the latest stop on the “Dr. Steve Perry Education Truth Tour.”

Last month, it was another school day, and the speech was in Buffalo, New York.

Next week it is week day speeches in Radford, Virginia and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The week after that it is Indianapolis.

According to information posted by his publicist, the “Dr. Steve Perry “Education Truth Tour” will take him to twenty four cities in the coming months, almost all the speeches taking place on days when he is supposed to be running a public school in Hartford.

But despite the employment policies and procedures that must be followed by all the other employees of the Hartford School System, Perry has been gallivanting around the country while collecting a paycheck or, at the very least, collecting his pay by cashing in on vacation days, all of which has been signed off by the Hartford superintendent’s office and approved, at least by default, by the leadership of the Hartford Board of Education who have chosen to look the other way.

So who is running the operation back at Capital Prep while Perry is out collecting speaking fees on what are supposed to be work days paid for by the people of Hartford and Connecticut?

According to the charter school applications that Perry and his private charter school management company submitted to open charter schools in Bridgeport and New York City last year, Perry’s Capital Prep “management” team of administrators and teachers are not only running the day-to-day operations at Hartford’s public school, but they have been playing an in integral role in the development of Steve Perry’s private charter school management company, where they helped developed the charter school applications and will be managing the two newly approved charter schools.

As for this charade, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education approved Perry’s proposal for Bridgeport even though there is no funding in Connecticut’s state budget for another charter school. Perry’s charter application in New York was approved by the New York Board of Regents, despite the fact that the concepts, materials, programs, policies and operations that Perry says he will be using at these news charter schools were developed in the course of the work performed by the Hartford Board of Education employees making the information the property of the Hartford Board and Hartford’s taxpayers and most definitely not the property of Steve Perry and his team.

But with the “green light” from Governor Malloy’s administration and the New York Board of Regents, the two new charter schools will mean that Perry and his private company will be collecting  approximately $25 million in management fees over the next five years.

And how have the Hartford Superintendent and the Hartford Board of Education leadership handled this entire mess?

Without even a public meeting or a vote of the Hartford Board of Education, the Hartford Superintendent announced that Perry’s privately run, but publicly funded charter schools will be “sister-schools” with Hartford Capital Prep Magnet School.

In fact, it wasn’t even Hartford’s Superintendent who “announced” the deal, it was Perry himself who told the Capital Prep parents that he and Hartford’ Superintendent had developed a plan that, “will establish ‘sister schools’ between Capital Prep and our new schools,” and that Perry himself would be playing a primary role in the selection of Capital Prep Magnet School’s new principal

See Steve Perry announces Capital Prep will have “sister status” with his privately owned charter schools (12/12/14) and Steve Perry Claims Victory – Tweeting – “Not leaving, just expanding.” (12/15/14)

While it remains unclear just what the Hartford Superintendent actually committed taxpayers to fund, Perry explained that his strategy, “will ensure that students, parents and staff from each of the schools can collaborate for the betterment of all children. Together we will create the professional learning community that so many of us wanted.”

According to Steve Perry’s New York City charter school application he has committed that the Assistant Principal at Capital Prep would become the new COO of his private school management company and that at least  seven other Capital Prep administrators and teachers are founding members of this charter school chain and will provide the administrative and academic support for the new charters schools in New York and Bridgeport.

Obviously one of the most critical questions that remains unanswered is whether the “special deal” between Perry and the Hartford Superintendent is nothing short of an inappropriate, and perhaps an illegal, mechanism to keep the people who will be on Perry’s charter school management staff on the Hartford payroll, saving Perry’s private company millions of dollars in salary and compensation costs.

The agreements associated with the two new charter schools allow Perry to collect management fees of up to ten percent of the total school budgets each year.  If Hartford is going to pay for the lion’s share of the individuals working for Perry’s private charter school management company, it certainly leaves a lot more of the $25 million in management fees for Perry to use for himself or as he sees fit.

And meanwhile, what exactly is the message of the “Dr. Steve Perry Education Truth Tour”?

According to an article published in Urban Image Magazine about Perry’s performance in Buffalo, “During Dr. Perry’s speech in Buffalo, he informed us with his witty charm and humor, there are black people in Hartford!  Who knew!”

As for Perry’s extraordinary record of achievement, the article noted that, “To add the icing on the cake, since its first graduating class in 2006, Capital Preparatory Magnet School has sent 100 percent of its first generation high school graduates to four-year colleges.”   [A statement that, like much of what Perry says, is nothing short of a lie].

And the Urban Image Magazine reporter added that Perry told the audience that they should “Shut down all the Buffalo ‘raggedy” schools!’”

She also explained that, “He went on to say our kids can learn to play football by an uncertified coach with just a whistle and learn how to coordinate complex moves on a field, but they cannot read!  What is wrong with this picture?  Dr. Perry stated our kids are not dumb!  The fact of the matter is teachers are not taking the time to teach our children…Dr. Perry believes teaching is not a job, it’s a calling!  He stated some teachers are not meant to teach or cut out for the job.  Some of the same teachers you had when you were growing up, were no good back then and they are still teaching and they are still no good now Dr. Perry said!”

The real truth is Perry is making big bucks, bashing teachers, spewing hate speech about teacher unions and calling public education advocates, such as Diane Ravitch, racists.

And while it is bad enough that Perry collects tens of thousands of dollars traveling around the country selling his snake oil, it is even worse that he is doing it while serving as a full-time employee for the City of Hartford where he is supposed to be running one of the City’s public schools.

Perry appears to believe that he plays by a different set of rules and, to be honest, he has ample evidence to prove this is indeed the case.

According to state policy, children who miss more than 10 percent of school are deemed to have “excessive absences,” and labeled truants, and if a series of required steps do not correct the student’s truancy rates, the Department of Children and Families is called in.

But when Perry misses two or three times the number of days that would define him as a chronic truant, the Hartford School Board fails to act and the Office of the Hartford Superintendent of Schools continues to sign off on Perry’s schedule, allowing him to collect his salary despite missing massive amounts of work.

Now Perry and his private company have been granted two lucrative “charters,” both of them to be paid using tens of millions in public funds, even though Perry’s school has consistently failed to educate its fair share of Latinos, those with English Language challenges and those with special education needs.

Topping it all off is some bizarre deal that Perry, his private company and the Hartford Board of Education have developed that appears to require that the taxpayers of Hartford and Connecticut will continue to subsidize what is already Perry’s massive money-making scheme.

Oh, and of course, while all of this plays itself out, the “Dr. Steve Perry Education Truth Tour” continues to take Perry away from his sworn duties at Hartford’s Capital Prep Magnet School.

The Dr. Steve Perry Education Truth Tour

The Dr. Steve Perry Education Truth Tour from Perry’s website

 

Re-post – Is it Malloy’s greatest “Wait, What?” Moment?

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Re-posting for Monday Readers;

As Governor Malloy and his administration prepare to roll-out his new “Transportation Initiative,” the Governor’s press office issued a press release Friday (January 9, 2015) to proclaim that the Governor will soon be proposing legislation to amend the Connecticut State Constitution in order to, “ensure revenues earmarked for transportation cannot be diverted for other purposes.”

Although the process to change Connecticut’s State Constitution takes two years or more, Malloy said, in his prepared statement, “We must make sure every penny we raise for transportation goes toward our vision to transform Connecticut – now and in the future,”

This incredible “Wait, What?” statement comes from the same individual who has consistently worked to balance Connecticut’s State Budget by raiding various funds and transferring money from dedicated accounts to the State’s General Fund.

But Governor Malloy now says that he is committed to ensuring that the money collected for a particular purpose will actually be spent on that purpose…

For starters, one might ask, on behalf of Connecticut’s state employees, why Governor Malloy still hasn’t created the “Health Care Trust-Fund Lock Box” that he promised to do as part of the 2011 SEBAC state employee concession agreement.

The SEBAC concession agreement provided that all state employees give up 3% of their pay to help fund future state employee retirement health care premiums.  At this point, the program is generating about $120 million dollars a year, but the money isn’t even being put aside in a special “Lock Box” fund and invested for long term growth, as Malloy promised.

The State employees have fulfilled their end of the bargain, and although the State doesn’t start matching those contributions until 2017, the SEBAC agreement required that the funds collected are to be deposited into a special “Trust Fund.”

Yet to date, the Malloy administration hasn’t even taken that necessary step….

And now Malloy is proposing a Constitutional Amendment to protect future transportation revenue?

The political maneuver is nothing short of laughable.

What follows is just A PARTIAL LIST of the budget transfers Malloy and his administration has used over the past four years to make the state budget appear balanced;

  • Transferred $2.2 million from the Boating Fund to the General Fund, eliminated the boating account and required all future revenue from watercraft registration and numbering fees to be deposited in the General Fund.
  • Transferred $600,000 from the Transportation Strategy Board in the Department of Transportation to the General Fund.
  • Transferred $7.5 million from the Regional Performance Incentive Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred $1.2 million from the Banking Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $450,000 from Workers Compensation Administration Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $2.3 million from Consumer Counsel and Public Utility Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $500,000 from Insurance Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $4. 7 million from the School Bus Safety Belt Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred all revenue from fines, civil penalties, or restitution for violating banking law from the Banking Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred multiple PROBATE COURT ADMINISTRATION FUND “surpluses” to various non-probate programs and the remaining to the General Fund
  • Transferred $3. 6 million from the Public, Education, Government Programming and Education Technology Investment Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred $2 million from the Biomedical Research Trust Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $2 million from the Community Investment Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred $2 million from various accounts within the Office of Policy and Management to the Litigation/Settlement account
  • Eliminated the Municipal Revenue Sharing Account Malloy created in his 2011 tax package to aid cities and towns, “saving” the General Fund nearly $100 million a year
  • Transferred $35 million from the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA) to the General Fund
  • Transferred and additional 6.9 million from the Public Education and Governmental Programming Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred an additional $11 million from the Banking Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $5 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to the General Fund
  • Transferred $30.4 million from the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) to the General Fund
  • Transferred $10 million from the Municipal Video Competitiveness Account to the General Fund
  • Transferred $10 million annually (for 10 years) from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to the “smart start” preschool program so the $100 million would not need to come out of the General Fund
  • Transferred $10 million from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) to the General Fund
  • Eliminated $20 million statutory transfer from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to the Stem Cell Research Fund, thereby keeping the money available for the General Fund
  • Transferred and additional $1 million from the Probate Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred an additional $4 million from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to the General Fund
  • Transferred $15 million from the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation to pay for one-time expenses of the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges

And that doesn’t even cover some of the other “fund transfers” that Malloy made.

And when it comes to actually supporting transportation, Malloy’s first term in office was marked by failing grades.

At a campaign stop last fall, Malloy told a special forum on transportation,

“This stuff is a passion to me,” and he added, “This administration is committed to build out the infrastructure of this state.”

But as a special CT Mirror investigative series in September 2014 pointed out, Malloy’s record on transportation is anything but impressive.

[For the details read Keith Phaneuf’s pieces in the CT Mirror – BUDGET CHOICES, FISCAL MANEUVERS UNDERMINE TRANSPORTATION FUNDING  IMPROVING TRANSPORTATION IN CONNECTICUT: A DECADE OF SLOW GOING, A ROUGH ROAD AHEAD FOR TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENTS.]

While Malloy said he had made transportation a priority and would do even more in a second term, the CT Mirror revealed;

  • Nearly $3.5 billion in financing for transportation projects has been approved — but the funds actually haven’t been borrowed and spent.
  • And as a result of the Malloy administration’s decision not to refill many important positions, the State Department of Transportation has almost 150 fewer engineers and employees than when Malloy took office, making it impossible to get a large number of projects underway.

And while Malloy may not have raided the Transportation Fund as much as former Governor Rell had done, he still siphoned off money that was supposed to be earmarked for improving Connecticut’s transportation system.

The actual level of state spending on transportation in FY14 was $91 million less had been approved by the legislature and this year’s budget diverted another $20 million.

The Transportation Fund is supposed to get most of its dollars from Connecticut’s 25-cent-per-gallon retail tax and the state’s wholesale fuel tax.  However, despite four tax increases in the wholesale fuel tax which increased Connecticut’s revenues by 40 percent since 2005, Governors Rell and Malloy have used nearly $1.4 billion on non-transportation programs.

And now Governor Malloy is saying that Connecticut should adopt a Constitutional Amendment so that taxpayers can be sure that revenue for transportation programs are actually spent on transportation programs????

Yeah, this could very well be Governor Dannel Malloy’s greatest “Wait, What?” moment (to date.)

The Malloy Leadership Model – Raises for political appointees – Secrecy whenever possible

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It was the night before the night before Christmas and with the vast majority of Connecticut citizens focused on the short work week and the upcoming holidays, the Malloy administration quietly announced that they were handing out major salary increases to approximately 200 of the governor’s political appointees.  In fact, although some of these individuals already made more than the Governor, Malloy gave a number of his top aides no less than 12 percent pay raises, skyrocketing those salaries even higher.

As explained in a Wait, What? post last month entitled, “Malloy political appointees score big with “Christmas” salary increases,” although Malloy spent the 2014 gubernatorial campaign claiming there was no state deficit, nor would there be one next year, a $100 million hole in the budget “appeared” in the week following Election Day and the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis has consistently warned that the State of Connecticut will be facing a $1.3 billion budget shortfall in next year’s budget.

But as incredible as the news was that Malloy handed out large pay raises back on December 23, 2104, the Hartford Courant’s investigative reporter, Jon Lender, has now reported that Malloy’s extreme generosity toward his political appointees pales by comparison to what Malloy actually did on that day that he ordered the pay raises.

As Lender explained in his recent weekend story, “Political Appointees’ Christmas Raises Came With Unannounced Gift: A Provision For Future Pay Hikes,” the pay raise directive that Malloy signed not only granted his aides those lucrative raises but he also changed the entire payment arrangement for top political appointees (who are coded as Labor Unit 01 in the state payroll system).

Through the years, the decision about whether to increase the pay of Labor Unit 01 (political appointees) required direct gubernatorial action, ensuring the public, via the media, would know when a governor decided to give his or her aides raises.

But on December 23, 2014, Malloy not only signed the required executive directive granting his aides up to 12 percent raises, but he added language that reads,

“Note – Effective January 1, 2106, employees in Labor Unit 01 shall receive cost of living adjustments and annual increments granted to managerial and confidential employees in the MP pay plan in Labor Unites 02 and 03.  The EX [Executive Pay Plan] pay plan shall be adjusted accordingly.”

As Lender reports, Malloy’s action means that going forward a governor’s top political appointees will automatically get the same salary increase that Connecticut non-union, non-political, 3,000 classified employees will get.

The move not only means Malloy’s political appointees will get automatic get pay increases each year he is in office, but that unless the edict is directly repealed, the political appointees of future governors will also reap the benefits of Malloy’s decision to provide an unprecedented level of special treatment for political appointees.

Lender adds that the, “provision calling for those raises in future years was quietly tacked onto the end of the official Dec. 23 order that authorized the raises – which was signed by Malloy, his budget director Ben Barnes, and Commissioner Donald DeFronzo of the Department of Administrative Services (DAS).”

Barnes also serves as Malloy’s budget director and was one of the political aides that got a 12 percent pay raise in December.  Malloy’s Chief-of-Staff also pulled in a 12 percent pay raise at the time.

As an indication of the Malloy administration’s never-ending strategy of secrecy, Lender notes, “But this provision wasn’t mentioned in the press release that a Barnes deputy issued as darkness fell at 4:32 p.m. on the day before Christmas Eve.”

Lender and the Hartford Courant provide a link to the pay raise memo which can be found at: http://das.ct.gov/HRDocs/EItem/2147-E.pdf

Lender’s piece adds that, “Both Barnes and the Democratic governor have defended the raises by saying most of the political appointees hadn’t gotten raises during the governor’s first four years in office – or had not come close to keeping up with unionized employees and non-unionized managers. As Barnes put it, the state needs to ‘attract and retain top-notch talent.’”

When Lender asked OPM Secretary Barnes why the larger change in policy wasn’t reported in the press release, Barnes claimed that the Malloy administration wasn’t attempting to withhold the information, but, “It didn’t seem that it was as relevant as the fact of the raises.”

So Malloy’s position is that he needed to give his political appointees up to 12 percent raises in order to “attract and retain top-notch talent,” and that he decided it wasn’t necessary to tell the public about the maneuver to that automatically grants raises to political appointees in the future because it, “wasn’t relevant.”

It would appear that Governor Malloy and UConn’s Board of Trustees, who approved a massive boost in salary and benefits for President Susan Herbst between Christmas and New Year’s went to the same school of public relations.

You can read more about this issues at Wait, What? -Malloy political appointees score big with “Christmas” salary increases  and at the Hartford Courant: http://www.courant.com/politics/hc-lender-appointees-raises-0111-20150109-column.html

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