Connecticut Education Association vote would promote democracy in union elections

Similar to the Electoral College for President of the United States, the Connecticut Education Association presently elects its officers through a process that separates individual union members from the direct election of their officers.  However, educators attending the CEA’s annual Representatives Assembly (RA) will have the opportunity to change that…for the better.

If the constitutional change is adopted, teachers throughout Connecticut would he given the ability to vote directly for their state officers.

It is a change that would not only ensure democracy at the CEA, but it is a step that would send a powerful message about the importance of one person, one vote in our society.

As a recent press release explained,

The amendment will be voted on by delegates at this year’s CEA Representative Assembly on May 6th. Under the proposal, all 43,000 CEA members would have the right to vote for state-level union leaders.

Connecticut educator, Martin Walsh, a teacher residing in Wethersfield and member of the CEA’s Progressive Caucus said,

“Unions thrive on participation, and direct democracy spurs involvement. In this age of instantaneous and secure data transmission, it makes perfect sense to open statewide elections to all union members. Our proposal can be easily implemented at a reasonable cost. Now is preeminently the time to make this important change.”

At a time when our democracy is under unprecedented threats, it is great to see that the Connecticut Education Association will actually be voting on a Constitutional Amendment to expand the use of direct democracy when it comes to electing officers.

Last month Malloy claimed Connecticut would have a surplus, now we have a deficit —- why?

From Connecticut State Comptroller Kevin Lembo;

COMPTROLLER LEMBO REPORTS $393.4-MILLION DEFICIT AFTER CONTINUED INCOME TAX EROSION

Comptroller Kevin Lembo today announced that continued erosion of the state income tax – likely due to a combination of investors relying more on tax-friendly investment funds, an economic trend towards lower-paying jobs and population loss – has increased the current fiscal year deficit to $393.4 million.

The Budget Reserve Fund has a current balance of $235.58 million, which is insufficient to cover the current General Fund deficit.

In a letter to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lembo said his deficit projection is approximately $3.6 million higher than the deficit reported by the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) because Lembo believes the state will spend more than initially planned on ongoing settlement payments related to the SEBAC vs. Rowland case.

“Connecticut’s budget performance is a reflection of our national and state economies,” Lembo said. “Over at least the past two months, I have expressed concern regarding final income tax collections.

“History demonstrates that final April collections typically move in the same direction as the quarterly estimated income tax payments collected earlier in the fiscal year. For the first two quarterly deposits of the fiscal year, estimated payments were running more than 8 percent below last year. This raised significant concerns – now proven true – about final payment collections. It now appears that final payments will be approximately 10 percent below last fiscal year’s level.”

Connecticut joins nearly 20 other states facing eroding income tax revenue – however, Lembo said that Connecticut also faces its own unique structural problems, including unfunded pension liabilities and retiree health costs.

Lembo said the most significant deterioration in the General Fund’s fiscal outlook occurred in the projection for income tax receipts, which are now $450.7 million below last month’s estimate and $532.2 million off from the original budget plan.

Gov. Malloy’s administration had an optimistic view regarding the potential for gains due to a significant run-up in the stock market at the end of 2016, Lembo said.

“Those gains have not materialized,” Lembo said, pointing to increasing popularity of “tax efficient” investments such as Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). “These funds are designed, in part, to minimize capital gains taxes.”In the United States, ETF assets increased from $157 billion in 2003 to $2.8 trillion by March 2017.

In addition to the drop in estimated and final income tax payments, there has been a significant downturn in the withholding portion of the income tax, which is responsible for over 60 percent of total income tax revenue. 

“A general shift in the composition of employment by sector to lower paying jobs may be a contributing factor,” Lembo said. “In addition to greater use of tax advantaged investments, the state’s population loss may also have played a role in the disappointing final payment results.”

Lembo said U.S. census data shows that Connecticut experienced a decline in population of 8,278 residents between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016. Connecticut was one of only eight states to experience a decline in population during this period – and has now posted three consecutive years of population decline.

 

A Poem in Favor of Humanity (By Poetic Justice)

Connecticut educator and poet Poetic Justice writes;

Who would think that in 2017
I would feel the need to have you read
a poem in favor of humanity?

I look out at my students
what do I see?

I see wires from teenage ears
red, yellow, black pods in and around their ears
talking to them
mesmerizing them
hypnotizing them

I see the omnipresent ChromeBook
on their desks – their laptop computer instructors
And on tables as stand alones
I see the Boxes standing tall –
They are Black
They are Powerful
They are Teaching my kids

And I am complicit….

Whoooaaa
What did I just say?
The black plastic and metal square heads
Are everywhere… scrambling
the brains of my students
teaching them to be compliant
malleable
common
ordinary
all the same
as
each
other

But my kids the outliers on the scattergrams –
my rebels
my questioners
my thinkers
my doers
the next generation’s movers and the shakers

At least they used to be

……

They used to be when we treated them as humans
not data
not profitable
not little red, yellow, and green bars on Excel data sheets
not as inhuman commodities
not as a dollar sign
not as a deficit
not as the invisibles
the unwanted
the disposable
the shame of the school
the student who brings down my VAM

So – where is the humanity in 2017?

The little rectangular plastic and glass slab that sits in our pockets
I won’t even begin to go where that slab has pulled our children

a place where our children hide out
a place where our children hide from reality
a place where a child is no longer human

Why do our kids want to get lost in the Screen instead in the woods?
Why do our kids want to get lost in the Internet instead of in a good book?
Why do our kids want to live inside a box instead of in the real world?

I cry out for a return to humanity
for a return to nature
for a return to that which makes us human
and unique and real and immortal.

I cry out for a 21st Century Transcendental Movement.

Who will join me in the fight to transcend
the data
the algorithms
the pie charts
the Excel Spread sheets that try to
define our students?

Let us together form a new world
for our children and grand children –
a world that celebrates the child in each of us
a world that loves nature
a world that believes we are more than just flesh and blood –
certainly more than a data point –
a world that believes we can transcend the rational
a world that reaches for the stars.

You can read and comment on Poetic Justice’s piece at: https://poeticjusticect.com/2017/04/29/a-poem-in-favor-of-humanity/

 

 

State Board of Education Member – 4 DUI’s in 3 months

Dedicated to the charter school industry and the corporate education reform agenda, Trumbull’s Stephen P. Wright has been one of Governor Dannel Malloy’s staunchest allies on the State Board of Education.

Now, as the CT Post and other media outlets report, Wright is being sought by the police for failure to appear for a court hearing following his fourth drunken-driving arrest in three months.

“Wright was arrested Feb. 22 by Norwalk police and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and released on a promise to appear in court, according to court records.

Five days later, he was charged in Shelton with driving under the influence and released after posting a $1,000 bond, records show. On March 17, he was charged by the State Police with drunken driving and failure to drive in the proper lane and released after posting a $500 bond.

He was then arrested by Stratford police April 10 and charged with drunken driving, operating while under suspension and failure to carry registration/insurance and released on a promise to appear in court.

A warrant was issued for his arrest on April 20 when police said he failed to appear for a court hearing on the Norwalk arrest. If convicted of all the charges Wright could face more than a year in prison”

Wright’s official state biography explains,

Stephen P. Wright was reappointed to the Board by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in February 2015. He serves as chairperson of the Academic Standards and Assessment Committee and is a member of the Finance, Audit, and Budget Committee.”

Wright presently has DUI cases are pending in Bridgeport, Norwalk and Derby.

Breaking News – Connecticut Income Tax collections down $450 million from anticipated amount

Connecticut’s economy continues to be in deep trouble.  While unemployment is technically down, the way the economy is changing means lower income tax revenue for the state of Connecticut.

Some Connecticut residents have simply given up looking for work.  Others have taken jobs that pay well below what they used to earn and still other are working in part-time consulting work as opposed to full-time jobs.

Together these changes mean Connecticut’s tax picture is in deep trouble.

As Keith Phaneuf of the CT Mirror explained today;

Plummeting state income tax collections are experiencing their worst decline since the last recession, falling $450 million below anticipated levels for April.

The impact of this decline in revenue not only means Connecticut will face a budget deficit this year, but the revenue shortfall for the next two years will be much more severe than previously estimated.   The 3.6 billion deficit projected over the next biannual budget will grow by $500 million next year and $600 million the year after.

The state will now be facing a $4.5 billion gap between projected revenue and projected expenses.

As CT Mirror wrote, the new numbers mean that the state will probably

Close its third successive fiscal year in deficit;

And deplete its $235.6 million emergency budget reserve.

It increases the risk that state government might have to borrow to cover operating costs for the first time in eight years — even though it still hasn’t paid off nearly $1 billion in operating debt from the last recession.

Read more about this breaking story at: CT tax revenue in free fall, adding $1.1B in red ink for next 2 years

Malloy’s claim that Connecticut enjoys a budget surplus for this fiscal year is a blatant lie…

Late last week the Hartford Courant headline read, State Projects Surplus For Current Fiscal Year.  Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration bragged that they state budget would end up with a $19.7 million surplus this year.

As with previous year, Governor Malloy has falsely claimed the state budget is in much better condition than it really is.

The dark clouds were already evident.

Already last month, the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis projected that the current fiscal year deficit would be at least $45 million and Comptroller Kevin Lembo pegged the shortfall on April 3 at $44.6 million.

But last week, according to the monthly letter sent by Malloy’s administration to Comptroller Kevin Lembo, “Personal income tax collections are currently running within acceptable ranges relative to our target…”

Now, just days later, we learn that Malloy’s claim about income tax receipts are false.

In a stunning report in the CT Mirror;

New reports show dramatically eroding state income tax receipts that could expand the deficit in the next two-year budget by more than $500 million while depleting existing reserves.

Although six more days remain before analysts complete their review of April income tax receipts, the new numbers also raise the prospect state government may have to borrow to balance the current budget — the first time Connecticut has had to do so in eight years.

The CT Mirror adds;

The legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis notified the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee on Monday that April receipts are running $267 million below the level anticipated in this fiscal year’s adopted budget.

[…]

In other words, if the early returns hold, and if April receipts are down 20 percent or $267 million, that probably would prompt analysts to reduce expected revenues for each of the next two fiscal years by a similar amount, or more than $500 million for the upcoming biennium.

In a rare commentary included with Monday’s report, nonpartisan analysts said it appears that a “pessimistic scenario” that is related to the last state budget is playing out.

Finances, unless adjusted, are on pace to run $1.7 billion in deficit in 2017-18, and $1.9 billion in the red in 2018-19, according to Malloy’s administration, for a combined biennial shortfall of $3.6 billion.

[…]

If the April income tax estimates hold, the worst-case deficit forecast from the Malloy administration would approach $2 billion in 2017-18 and $2.2 billion in 2018-19.

To restate the seriousness of the situation, while the Malloy administration is claiming that April tax receipts are within “acceptable ranges,” they are actually far off what was projected in the budget.

If the actual situation holds true, Connecticut will be facing a major budget deficit this year and a biannual budget shortfall that could reach or even exceed $4.4 billion over the next two years.

The reality is that tax increases will be necessary.

The question is whether Connecticut’s elected officials will continue to overtax middle and lower income Connecticut residents or whether state government will finally start to require that the state’s wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.

Malloy’s austerity budget a disaster for Connecticut…

Governor Dannel Malloy is blasting the legislature for talking about additional revenue to help fund critically important services.

Although Malloy’s budget relies on increasing taxes for poor and middle-class families and shifting $400 million onto the backs of local property taxpayers, he is claiming that the solution to Connecticut’s fiscal crisis is his budget plan.

Malloy’s continued refusal to ensure the rich are paying their fair share means poorer and middle income families are suffering on both the tax and expenditure side of the budget.

As CT Voices explains;

The Governor’s Budget would reduce the Earned Income Tax Credit, remove parents from HUSKY A, eliminate property tax support for the lower and middle classes, keep young children out of  Care 4 Kids funded child care, and cut municipal aid to 141 towns. Statewide, proposed cuts to the EITC and the property tax credit are equal to a tax increase of $93 for low-income families and $157 for middle-income families.

CT Voices adds;

Many of the Governor’s cost-savings proposals target the same groups of low- to middle-income families.

For example, a single mother with two children making $30,000 per year would lose her health insurance, be unable to enroll her children in Care4Kids, and could see a tax increase of $93. A single parent working for $12 per hour with a child would also lose her health insurance at the same time the state restricts her access to child care and increases her taxes.

In response to the Governor’s outrageous budget proposal, some Connecticut legislators are talking about increasing the tax rate on high income earners in Connecticut.

Remember, in Connecticut, the poor pay about 12% of their income in state and local taxes, the middle class about 10% of their income in state and local taxes and the rich only pay about 5.5% of their income in state and local taxes.

Connecticut has created a regressive tax structure that unfairly hurts lower and middle income families.

It is time for Connecticut’s legislators to stand up to Malloy’s bullying tactics and move forward with a tax reform proposal that will not dump the burden on lower and  middle income families while shifting even more onto the backs of local property taxpayers.

For more about some of the tax proposals – good and bad – read;

CT Newsjunkie:  Finance Committee Explores Abundance of Revenue Ideas As Deadline Nears

A CT School Adequacy Study will inform a rational and constitutional education finance program

The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education (CCJEF) explains why the Connecticut General Assembly should approve legislation requiring a CT School Adequacy Study rather than adopt a faulty school funding formula that fails to adequately fund Connecticut’s public schools and diverts even more scarce resources to Connecticut’s unaccountable charter school industry.

Q & A:  THE NEED FOR AN ADEQUACY COST STUDY TO INFORM RATIONAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL EDUCATION FINANCE REFORM

  1.  What is the difference between the proposal supported by CCJEF (Subst. H.B. 7270, File 511) and the Sen. Duff proposal (to be amended to S.B. 2)?

CCJEF proposes an adequacy cost study, which has been done in over 30 other states, to help determine the amount of funding needed to educate different groups of students depending on their needs. S.B. 2 proposes a dramatic revision of the entire funding system which shifts funds away from traditional public neighborhood schools, reduces the “foundation” amount now allocated for each student and makes unsupported guesses at funding levels for poverty students, ELL students and others without first knowing the extent of student needs and how much is required to meet them across districts. S.B. 2 may include some improvements over the status quo but this radical change in education funding was drafted in the dark and has never been subjected to the light of a public hearing or given sufficient scrutiny.

2. Does the Duff proposal responds to the inadequacies defined by the CCJEF court?

No. Because the proposal is not based on empirical data on how much it actually costs to adequately and equitably educate students across Connecticut, the proposal is irrational. The trial court held that “Connecticut is defaulting on its constitutional duty to provide adequate public school opportunities because it has no rational, substantial and verifiable plan to distribute money for education aid and school construction.” The judge said, “[i]f the legislature can skip around changing [education funding] formulas every year, it invites a new lawsuit every year.” S.B. 2 repeats the mistakes of the past. It is another formula patched together for political and budgetary reasons without sufficient research about the diversity of student needs and the actual costs of an adequate education.

  1. How would S.B. 2 impact students attending magnet schools in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and Norwalk?

    S.B. 2 would decimate magnet schools across Connecticut because it would reduce magnet school funding by approximately $3,500 per student (based on a recent circulated version of the bill) while shifting those funds to increase payments to charter schools. Magnet schools would be unable to afford their supplemental features, such as classroom aides or special academic themes, which make them attractive options for voluntary desegregation initiatives in Connecticut. Under the proposal, students who leave for magnet schools would take funding away from the “sender” traditional neighborhood schools. At the same time, the network of regional magnet schools would lose approximately $3,569 per student.

    4. Does S.B. 2 shift taxpayer funds from traditional neighborhood schools to charter schools?

    Yes. Without the benefit of any public hearing, S.B. 2 would overturn decades of giving priority to funding of neighborhood public schools by adopting the “money follows the child” concept which shifts taxpayer money away from traditional public schools to charter schools without requiring these charter schools to meet the same accountability standards as other public schools. The inevitable long-term result may well be the slow defunding of many public school districts.

    5. Is a cost study as proposed by CCJEF a well-recognized tool used nationally in cases involving education adequacy brought before courts?

    Yes. Cost studies are not a new idea. In fact they are the gold standard prerequisite in education finance reform efforts. They have been performed in more than 30 states to effectuate education reforms with great success. For instance, the Maryland legislature enacted a bipartisan education funding system based on data and recommendations provided by a cost study. Additional funding was phased in over six years and aimed at closing the achievement gap. In the years that followed, Maryland’s high-need children performed significantly better on all metrics of evaluation than they had in the past. Likewise, in Massachusetts, a 1991 study ultimately formed the groundwork for the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993. This act brought nationally-recognized reforms that catapulted Massachusetts’ student achievement to first in the nation.

    6. What is the budgetary cost of an adequacy cost study?

    The adequacy cost study is estimated to cost $250,000, less than one-in-ten-thousandths of what our state currently spends on primary and secondary education each year. It is a small price to pay to get the real-world data needed by policymakers to develop a rational education funding formula that ensures adequate and equitable educational opportunities for all public school students.

    7. How long would a cost study take?

    A cost study would take about 12 months or less to complete. Under Subst. H.B. 7270, the Department of Education would issue a request for proposals 30 days after passage of the act. The selected entity conducting the cost study would then file an interim report not later than December 14, 2017 and a final report not later than February 14, 2018.

    8. Could the CCJEF proposal be incorporated into the Duff proposal?

    Yes. Elements of S.B. 2, such as the shift in measuring local ability to pay equally between property wealth and income wealth as well as changes in student need factors, could be adopted as the beginning of a transitional financing system while the adequacy cost study is being performed.

    9. Has anyone proposed conducting a cost study in the past?

    Yes. Back in 2013, Gov. Malloy’s Task Force to Study State Education Funding recommended that “a comprehensive cost study regarding the demographic, economic and education cost factors … should be considered in determining an appropriate foundation level for the cost of education.”  Indeed, portioning out funding for each district without this knowledge is fiscally irresponsible and puts our children at risk.

  2. Has the General Assembly taken any action on developing a cost study?

    Yes. The Education Committee reported out Subst. H.B. 7270, File 511 which proposes a comprehensive “adequacy study of public school funding” to be completed in the next 12 months. This adequacy cost study is desperately needed to provide the hard, real-world data necessary to get education finance reform done right in Connecticut.

Connecticut remains committed to unfair SBAC Testing Scam in new federal plan

Earlier this month, with no legislative oversight and limited public input, the Connecticut State Department of Education become one of a handful of states to submit its proposed action plan under the new Every Student Succeeds Act.

Although the Trump administration has postponed the date states must submit plans until September 2017, the Malloy administration decided – for reasons that remain unclear – to jump the gun and submit a plan that fails to adequately utilize much of the flexibility contained in the new federal law.

One of the most noticeable and absurd aspects of Connecticut’s new ESSA plan is despite proposing record cuts to Connecticut’s public schools, the Malloy administration claims that it will ensure that 100 percent of all students will be proficient on the state’s standardized tests by 2029-2030.

The truth is that while the Every Student Succeeds Act continues much of the test and punish elements of the No Child Left Behind Act and the Race to the Top Program, the federal law does provide states with greater flexibility when it comes to how it relies on the use of unfair, discriminatory and inappropriate standardized testing schemes.

However, Connecticut, one of only 12 states to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Education, informed federal officials that it remains committed to the use of the poorly constructed and blatantly unfair Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scam.

In a recent new report, Education Week Explains;

Under ESSA, states are required to pick both long-term and interim goals for student achievement and graduation rates.

And

States are supposed to give separate, “substantial weight” to student achievement, graduation rates, English-language proficiency and another academic indicator, as well as an indicator of school quality or student success. Academic indicators—like test scores and graduation rates—are supposed to weigh “much more” as a group than the indicator of school quality or student success.

Education Week goes on to note that;

Connecticut hasn’t set student achievement goals, although it has set growth goals for elementary and middle schools. The state considers its targets as setting “growth to proficiency.” 

and,

Connecticut is still working on its English-language proficiency indicator, which it plans to attach to student growth, rather than consider separately. Peer reviewers may question the fact that the state won’t be measuring English-language proficiency right from the start, and the fact that ELP won’t be a standalone indicator.

In addition to 100 percent achievement by 2029-30, the Connecticut plan claims that it will reach 94 percent graduation rates for all students, and all subgroups of students. In 2014-15, the graduation rate in Connecticut was 87.2 percent.

It is a sad commentary that the Malloy administration and his political appointees on the State Board of Education remain unnecessarily and inappropriately committed to the unfair SBAC testing system.

You can read more about Connecticut’s plan in Education Week via – http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2017/04/academic_goals_states_ESSA_plans.html

Connecticut has spent upwards to $1 Billion on corporate welfare programs with limited oversight

Since taking office, Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration have shoveled hundreds of millions of dollars in “corporate aid” to dozens of companies as part of their ongoing efforts to “persuade” business to stay or grow in Connecticut.

As CT Voices for Children, a non-profit, non-partisan research group explains,

These incentives come in the form of direct aid, such as discounted loans and grants, and business tax breaks, such as tax credits, which reduce the tax liability for investors, industries, and individual firms.”

Other than some limited review by the very agency that hands out the money, there has been little public oversight of this massive outlay of public funds.

Last year legislation passed the Connecticut General Assembly to require greater oversight but Governor Malloy vetoed the bill and his allies in the legislature choose not to try and override the veto even though there was broad, bi-partisan support for the law.

However, a new bill before the legislature could finally require proper oversight of the state’s economic development programs.

Just last week the General Assembly’s Finance Committee held a public hearing on House Bill 7316, An Act Concerning Evaluation of Business Assistance and Incentive Programs.  The legislation would dramatically expand the level of oversight and transfer some of the duties to monitor and report on the corporate welfare programs to the Office of State Auditors, an independent agency.

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo has been one of the most outspoken proponents for the need for more oversight of the public funds being spent on business incentives.  His legislative testimony can be found – here.

Speaking in favor of the bill CT Voices noted,

A more efficient, transparent, and fair budget process would include regular reviews of all economic development incentives to ensure that tax expenditures are yielding the promised economic development benefits. The proposed legislation does just that by ensuring that business tax breaks undergo regular scrutiny to determine their effectiveness.

Tom Swan, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group added,

We believe that the review process outlined not only makes sense, but is long overdue. In recent years, we have seen increases in corporate handouts, while making severe cuts to our safety net and critical needs. This bill will help to provide the legislature with the tools you need to determine the efficacy of these programs going forward. We particularly like having the Auditors conduct performance audits and the involvement of legislative committees formally within the oversight process. We believe this will lead to better results from our business assistance and incentive programs and lessen the possibility of these programs being corrupted.

The full legislation can be found at:  https://www.cga.ct.gov/2017/TOB/h/2017HB-07316-R00-HB.htm