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

Right Wing “Think Tank” engaged in effort to persuade teachers to be climate change deniers

The Heartland Institute is an Illinois based conservative “think tank” and advocacy group that is focused on building support for conservative ideas such as charter schools and vouchers, all while promoting its broader, right-wing political agenda.

Last year, the Heartland Institute applauded Governor Dannel Malloy’s anti-public education, pro-charter school agenda proclaiming,

Charter schools will receive increased government support if Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s (D) proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 passes.

Malloy’s budget proposal increases state aid for public charter schools by $9.3 million and reduces state taxpayers’ funding of traditional local government schools by more than $11 million.

And later in the year, the Heartland Institute returned its attention to Connecticut observing that the state of Connecticut spent enough on public education.

In a blog post on their website, the Heartland Institute went on to quote Connecticut’s Yankee Institute for Public Policy opposing additional school aid for Connecticut’s public school children and supporting the “money follows the child” funding scheme that would divert even more scarce public funds to privately owned and operated charter schools.

Now the Heartland Institute is focusing its resources on convincing school teachers in Connecticut and across the nation that climate change doesn’t exist.

In an article entitled, Democrats Condemn Climate Change Skeptics for Targeting Teachers, the media website, Frontline explained;

The Heartland Institute has spent decades promoting doubt about climate change, and it embraces a variety of arguments to that end. At its 12th annual climate change conference last month in Washington, D.C., some speakers claimed that climate change isn’t happening. Others conceded it is happening, but that humans aren’t at fault. Others still argued that even if humans are the cause, change won’t be so bad for the planet.

Apparently the organization is now engaged in an extensive effort to convince teachers to refrain for teaching about the devastating impact that climate change is having on the earth and its residents.

The Heartland Institute has or will be sending out more than 200,000 packages of anti-climate propaganda to teachers across the country.

Frontline reports,

The packages contain a book titled “Why Scientists Disagree about Climate Change” and a related DVD; both dispute the scientific consensus that climate change is a crisis.”

As for this new initiative, Frontline adds;

The organization has long had allies in the Republican party, but its influence has grown with the election of President Donald Trump, who has called climate change a hoax.  Trump chose Myron Ebell, a longtime ally of Heartland, to run his transition efforts for energy and the environment. Trump’s appointed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has also expressed doubts about the human role in climate change, and as attorney general of Oklahoma sued the very agency he now runs 14 times, including over a plan to regulate climate-warming emissions.

If any teachers in Connecticut have received or get the Heartland package, please drop me a note at [email protected]

Malloy – Nation’s most unpopular Democratic governor won’t seek re-election

A darling of the charter school industry and their allies in the corporate education reform movement, and having used his time in office to make record cuts to education, higher education and other vital services, all while coddling the rich, Governor Dannel Malloy announced today that he will not seek re-election to a third term in next year’s gubernatorial campaign.

As CT Mirror explains;

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Thursday he would not seek a third-term in office, saying he’d reached a difficult decision after weighing what was best for his family and the state.

Malloy, who first took office in January 2011, pledged to use his remaining 20 months in office “to continue implementing my administration’s vision for a more sustainable and vibrant Connecticut economy.”

The Hartford Courant added

Standing with his wife, son and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Malloy pledged not to back down from his ambitious agenda. He promised to work to revise the state’s system for aid to schools and towns, create “better” budget practices and reform the criminal justice system.

[…]

Malloy emphasized that he had run for governor three times and “that’s enough. I’ve devoted six full years to trying to turn this state around.” He said his “personal popularity” was not a factor. “ I am overwhelmed with how happy I am.”

[…]

The announcement effectively renders him a lame-duck with more than 18 months left in his term. For more than a year Malloy, who serves as chair of the Democratic Governors Associations, has been one of the most unpopular governors in the country.

You can read more coverage of this breaking story at:

CT Mirror: https://ctmirror.org/2017/04/13/malloy-will-not-seek-a-third-term/

CT Newsjunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_says_he_wont_seek_re-election/

Hartford Courant: http://www.courant.com/politics/hc-gov-malloy-will-not-seek-a-third-term-20170413-story.html

 

 

Some legislators want to shovel even more money to some of Connecticut’s Charter Schools

A recent article by Wendy Lecker entitled, Beware the new Connecticut legislative plan to channel even more public funds to charters, noted that a group of Democratic state legislators have released a plan aimed at diverting even more scarce public funds to Connecticut’s charter schools will doing little to address the underlying system that inadequately funds Connecticut’s public schools.

Turning their backs on the need for a state-wide school funding adequacy study, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) and State Representative Jason Rojas (D-East Hartford) have proposed an extraordinary school funding system that would promote a Trump/DeVos like “school choice” program in Connecticut.

Their plan would divert even more taxpayer funds to Connecticut’s charter schools, while taking money away from Connecticut’s successful magnet schools.

As the CT Mirror reported, their plan proposes to have the;

“…state calculate how much each local district spends to educate a student on average and then withhold one-quarter of that amount for each student who leaves for a magnet or charter school. The withheld funding would be sent to the school the child actually attends.

Currently districts do not get funding for students who leave for charter schools. However, districts still get state funding for students who leave for magnet schools, which is somewhat offset by tuition that magnets charge the sending districts.

The changes that Duff and Rojas propose would drive huge funding increases for several charter schools — including about $1,800 more per student for Achievement First Hartford Academy and $1,700 for Stamford Academy…

[…]

The network of regional magnet schools opened in the Hartford region in an effort to comply with a Connecticut Supreme Court order to desegregate Hartford schools would be hit hard by the changes, with a loss of $3,569 per student.

The legislators’ plan also fails to properly account for the added cost of educating students who require special educations services and those who need extra help learning the English Language.

One explanation for the proposal’s failures is that it appears to have been developed in conjunction with The Connecticut School Finance Project, a charter school advocacy front group that has been working closely – in violation of Connecticut’s ethics laws – with Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration.

Beware the new Connecticut legislative plan to channel even more public funds to charters

In a new piece published in the Stamford Advocate, education columnist and advocate Wendy Lecker reveals a stunning new proposal that would force taxpayers to give Connecticut’s charter schools even more scarce public funds.  Governor Dannel Malloy already gives Connecticut’s charter school more than $110 million a year and this year, while proposing the deepest cuts in state history to public schools, Malloy unveiled a plan to increase that amount by about 10 percent.  However, a group of Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly want to divert even more public funds to these privately owned, but publicly funded entities.

As Wendy Lecker explains;

Using the Betsy DeVos playbook, Norwalk Sen. Bob Duff and East Hartford Representatives Jason Rojas and Jeffrey Currey are pushing major changes to Connecticut’s school funding system, concocted by the charter front group, the Connecticut School Finance Project; in order to funnel money directly from school districts to privately run charter schools.

Currently, public school districts pay for the cost of education from: a state allocation, ostensibly calculated under Connecticut’s school funding formula, the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula; local funding, i.e. the local share; and some federal funds.

Charter schools are considered independent school districts, authorized and overseen by the state. Local communities have no say over the operation of charters within their borders. Charters are exempt from many requirements, such as having all certified teachers and serving all grade levels. Thus, it is logical that districts should not pay local dollars to charters. Charters are funded through a separate state funding stream, and receive federal and private funds.

However, the Connecticut School Finance Project proposal will now have local districts paying for these privately run charters. For every child attending a charter school, a local district will lose a portion of its ECS allocation equal to about 25 percent of its local per-pupil share. Charter schools will receive an ECS allocation that will cover the rest of its funding. So charters will get more state funding than the local school district, plus local districts will now pay them an additional penalty for each charter school student. As charters expand, districts will lose more.

The DeVos team used this strategy in Michigan. They instituted a system where money intended for public schools flowed to charters. They then fought for explosive charter growth. This toxic combination decimated budgets and schools of Michigan’s poorest cities, such as Detroit.

Worse still, this proposal fails to fund Connecticut schools adequately. A foundation aid formula, like ECS, is only adequate if its components are: i.e., the foundation amount, the amount necessary to educate one child with no special needs; and the weights that adjust the foundation amount for different needs, like students living in poverty, English Language Learners and students with disabilities.

This proposal’s foundation amount is not based on any assessment of the cost of education in Connecticut. Instead the proposed foundation amount is supposedly derived from average spending in other states — a ludicrous way to estimate the cost of education here. The proposal does not even consider spending on operating expenses, i.e. the expenses needed to run a district. It only considers spending on a narrow selection of expenses they call “core instructional costs.” It is no wonder the foundation amount this group proposes is lower than Connecticut’s foundation amount back in 2007-08.

The proposed student need weights are also not based on the actual additional cost of serving needy students. The 30 percent poverty weight is less than half of what experts say is needed to educate poor students. The proposal omits additional weighting for students living in severe poverty, who are costlier to serve. Why? Because charters tend to serve students who are less poor than their host public school districts. If the formula does not differentiate, then charters are rewarded for continuing to ignore the most disadvantaged.

The proposed ELL weight is a ridiculous 10 percent — only one-tenth of what it necessary to fund education for these students. It will particularly harm districts with large and growing populations of ELL kids. However, charters routinely under-serve ELL students, so a low weight means they will not get penalized financially for continuing this practice.

This proposal removes special education funds from the ECS allocation. For a group claiming its aim is a “unified” formula for all students, why omit students with disabilities? Special education is the thorniest cost to deal with when privatizing schools. Removing it clears the way for charter expansion.

And though some districts stand to gain this year (especially Duff’s, and Rojas’ and Currey’s), the proposal reduces the state share of funding for our poorest districts.

Even proponents admit this proposal woefully underfunds Connecticut schools. The group acknowledges that the ECS formula is currently underfunded by more than $600 million. Realistic estimates conclude that the total shortfall is over $1.5 billion.

Yet this proposal plans to increase school funding by only $320 million — over six years! And there is no mechanism to increase state funding as costs rise.

Raiding public school funds to favor privately run charters, that serve less than 2 percent of Connecticut students, is not equity. It will leave our neediest students with less.

You can read and comment on the full article at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-A-new-plan-to-channel-local-funds-11058087.php

Connecticut will no longer use SBAC and SAT as part of teacher performance evaluations.

As the CT Mirror reports,

The state Board of Education voted late Wednesday afternoon to adopt new usage standards for state mastery test data, explicitly prohibiting the use of those test scores in evaluating teacher performance.

[…]

State education board Chairman Allan B. Taylor and Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell both praised the board’s approval of the plan as an important clarification of the role state tests should play: a goal-setting tool for teachers, not part of a formula for rating an individual teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom.

While state mastery tests – which include the Smarter Balanced assessments, SAT, CMT and CAPT science – are no longer an option, school districts are still required to measure teachers in part on their students’ testing success, which makes up 22.5 percent of the teacher evaluation rating. Now, school districts will have to choose from a number of non-state exams to evaluate teachers in that category.

In a written response, the Connecticut Education Association posted;

This is a big victory for students, teachers, and public education,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “The voices and expertise of teachers were heard and addressed by policymakers who did the right thing by putting the focus back where it belongs: on teaching, learning, and student achievement.”

[…]

Cohen concluded, “We feel confident that these new guidelines will have positive outcomes for everyone—students, teachers, and administrators—and will allow us to continue to move forward to improve the educational opportunities for all public school students in Connecticut.”

While the state’s action is an important and positive step, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test and the SAT will still be used for the unfair and discriminatory labeling of students, teachers and schools.

The State Board of Education Action means the SBAC and SAT will be used for the following inappropriate purposes;

Informing goals for individual educators
Informing professional development for individual educators
Discussion at the summative evaluation conference
Informing collaborative goals
Informing professional learning for groups or teams of educators
Any communications around planning
Development of curriculum
Program evaluation
Selecting or evaluating effectiveness of materials/resources
School/district improvement planning
Informing whole school professional development to support school improvement

The complete CT Mirror story can be found via the following link: https://ctmirror.org/2017/04/06/ct-scraps-using-state-test-scores-to-compute-teacher-ratings/

Media fails to properly report on Malloy plan to destroy Connecticut’s community college system

In a stunning development yesterday, Governor Malloy’s former chief of staff – who know serves as the President of the Connecticut State University and Community College System – proposed a devastating plan that would undermine Connecticut’s Community College System and remove important independent functions of Connecticut’s State Universities.

In the initial news coverage of this breaking news, Connecticut media outlets have failed to focus on the proposal’s negative impacts, instead parroting the empty rhetoric and broad generalities contained in the Malloy administration’s press release.

The CT Mirror reported,

“The Board of Regents for Higher Education will be asked Thursday to endorse a framework for saving at least $41 million annually through the administrative and operational consolidations of institutions that have remained autonomous since the merger in 2011 of the state’s 12 community colleges, four regional state universities and the online college, Charter Oak.”

As for the dramatic plan to strip each college community college of its leadership and administrative teams the news story only adds,

Facing a shrinking college-age population and growing budget gaps, the system’s president, Mark Ojakian, released an outline Monday for an “operational consolidation” unifying the community colleges into a centrally managed institution that would retain its dozen campuses while shedding administrators at an annual saving of $28 million.

“Unifying the community college system” is hardly an adequate explanation of the extraordinary negative impact that would occur by eliminating the community college presidents and campus based leadership teams that presently run each of the state’s twelve community colleges.

Perhaps the most astonishing and disturbing aspect of the entire development is that without legislative or public input the Connecticut State University and Community College Board of Regents are expected to vote on adopting this terrible proposal this coming Thursday.

Media coverage of the proposal can be found via the following links;

CT Mirror: https://ctmirror.org/2017/04/03/ojakian-pitches-sweeping-consolidations-to-keep-cscu-viable/

New Haven Register: http://www.nhregister.com/social-affairs/20170403/president-of-state-colleges-and-universities-system-proposal-would-cut-13-million-in-back-office-jobs

Courant:  http://www.courant.com/education/hc-cscu-sweeping-budget-plan-20170403-story.html