Malloy and Wyman seek to turn their “Wisconsin Moment” into a Wisconsin Era

Elected on a claim that he would stave off a “Wisconsin Moment,” Governor Dannel Malloy and his “policy partner” and side-kick Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, have not only ushered in Connecticut’s own anti-public employee, anti-government service and anti-middle class “moment,” but Malloy and Wyman are making it clear that nothing less than a Wisconsin Era.

Malloy is saying that the only budget that will get his signature is a full-fledged austerity budget; a spending plan that destroys vital state services and lays off public employees while coddling the rich and shifting even more of Connecticut’s already unfair and inequitable tax burden onto the back of Connecticut’s middle class.

In his latest diatribe, the ever smug, sanctimonious and thin-skinned bully of a governor has announced that he will veto any spending plan put forward by the General Assembly’s Democratic majority that reverses Malloy’s record-breaking, mean-spirited and draconian cuts to the critically important services that Connecticut residents need and deserve.

Pontificating that Democratic lawmakers won’t consider “enough spending cuts,” Malloy has – yet again – telegraphed that when it comes to the state’s revenue and expenditure plan it is  his way or no way.  It is a strategy that will require unprecedented state employee layoffs, will reduce the availability of critically important services for Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens, will mean less funding for Connecticut’s public schools and colleges, and will lead to higher local property taxes for Connecticut’s middle income families.

In addition to harming Connecticut residents, the Malloy-Wyman approach to governance leaves the leadership of Connecticut’s unions with egg on their faces and blood on their hands.

As many will recall, during the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, Connecticut’s union leaders were only too proud to hoist Dannel Malloy onto their shoulders with the false claim that Malloy, and Malloy alone, would protect Connecticut from following the dark and devastating tactics being implemented by Wisconsin’s right-wing, Tea Party governor and legislature.

As the media and union representatives reported in June 2014,

Preventing a “Wisconsin moment” from taking place in Connecticut was the prevailing theme of the Connecticut AFL-CIO’s 10th biennial political convention.

A union blog post at the time reported,

“AFSCME President Lee Saunders electrified the more than 300 union delegates to the convention with his keynote address on June 16” roaring, “We can’t afford Connecticut to become another Wisconsin.”

Saunders added,

“This election is in our hands. If we turn out the vote of people who share our values, who want to preserve the middle class, who care about quality public services, then we will win.”

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) leadership explained,

We have chosen to support candidates who will act to prevent a ‘Wisconsin moment’ here in Connecticut,”

And the President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO echoed the rhetoric at a press conference to announce labor’s support for Malloy saying,

“In recent weeks we’ve heard candidates talk about Connecticut having a ‘Wisconsin moment.’ Well let me say unequivocally — we are not Wisconsin.”  

In response Malloy bragged about his commitment to a Connecticut moment,” explaining that,

“A Connecticut moment is when you stand up for your fellow citizens.”

In the weeks that followed, AFSCME dumped $1.2 million into the Super PAC that was created to support Malloy and Wyman’s effort to spend four more years in office.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) added $600,000 and SEIU donated $550,000 to the same political committee.

Another $160,000 in union member funds was slid into the slush-fund that Malloy’s campaign operatives were using to get around Connecticut’s campaign finance laws.

Now, eighteen months later, Malloy and Wyman are standing up on these issues…

But rather than standing up for the People of Connecticut and doing their right thing, they are standing up, turning their backs and walking away from the very people who elected them.

To better understand the damage being wrought by Malloy, Wyman and their policies, one need only read some of the unsettling commentary pieces that have been published by many of Connecticut’s media outlets.  For example,

Connecticut must not balance budget by denying basic medical care

Looming Health Care Crisis Can Be Avoided by Restoring Funds to Community Health Centers

Connecticut position as leader in Children’s Dental Medicaid in jeopardy.

An aging Connecticut needs the Legislative Commission on Aging

Budget cuts threaten Connecticut’s progress in mental health

Governor puts low-income families at risk of losing health coverage

CJTS teachers lament ‘inhumanity’ of sudden staff layoffs

Short-sighted budget cuts undermine CT’s long-term prosperity

CSCU tuition increase no surprise, but is just as wrong

CEA wrong to claim NWEA’s MAP test is an appropriate tool for evaluating teachers.

In a recent Hartford Courant commentary piece entitled, ‘Smarter Balanced’ Test Wrong Answer For Students, Teachers, Connecticut Education Association President Sheila Cohen correctly explains that,

[The] Smarter Balanced and other high-stakes standardized tests are not useful measures of student success — and were not designed to evaluate teachers. Smarter Balanced is an invalid, unfair and unreliable test that does not measure student growth within a school year. Smarter Balanced does not assist teachers in measuring academic growth, takes away precious instruction time and resources from teaching and learning, and is not developmentally and age-appropriate for students.

Teachers, administrators and parents want an evaluation system that develops and sustains high-quality teaching and provides teachers with more time to collaborate on best practices that result in a better outcome for all students.

But then, in a bizarre move that appears to be yet another attempt to acquiesce to Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman’s ongoing education reform and anti-teacher agenda, the leader of the CEA claims that although the state should not use the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test as part of the state’s teacher evaluation program, it is okay to use the NWEA’s MAP standardized test as a teacher evaluation tool.

The CEA’s President notes,

Teachers are evaluated appropriately by measurable results using:

  • Standardized progress monitoring tests like NWEA or STAR.

  • Progress on student performance rubrics tied to external standards in their evaluations.

  • District- and department-designed common assessments

When developed correctly, student performance rubrics and district and department designed common assessments can be useful tools when it comes to evaluating and improving teacher performance.

However, standardized tests like the SBAC or NWEA’s MAP are inherently unfair and inappropriate for use as part of a teacher evaluation system.  Period.  End of Story.

Education Advocate and columnist, Wendy Lecker, addressed this very point when she recently published, Connecticut – A failed application of standardized tests by Wendy Lecker.

One of the most damaging practices in education policy, in Connecticut and nationwide, is the misuse of standardized tests for purposes for which they were never designed. Standardized tests are being used to measure things they cannot measure, like school quality and teacher effectiveness, with deleterious results; such as massive school closures, which destabilize children and communities, and the current troubling shortage of students willing to enter the teaching profession.

Connecticut policy makers engage in this irresponsible practice constantly. They jumped on the bandwagon to adopt the SBAC as the statewide accountability test, despite the complete lack of evidence that it the SBAC can support reliable or valid inferences about student performance, let alone school quality or teacher effectiveness. After abandoning the SBAC for 11th graders, our leaders hastily approved the mandated use of the SAT for accountability purposes, despite, again, the absence of evidence that the SAT is either aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements or valid or reliable for use a test to measure student performance, school quality or teacher effectiveness.

Connecticut’s political leaders also blindly adopted the use of standardized tests in teacher evaluations in 2012, despite the evidence, even then, that standardized tests are inappropriate for this use. Since that time, every reputable statistical and educational research organization has repudiated this invalid practice; because a mountain of evidence proves that standardized tests cannot be validly or reliably used to rate teachers.

If only our leaders would examine evidence before adopting a policy, our state would not only save millions of dollars, but it would guide education policy in a direction that is good for students and teachers. Engaging in thoughtful educational policymaking requires a more nuanced understanding of what happens and should happen in schools. It demands an acceptance that in this very human endeavor, objective measures are not always possible and even when they can be applied, they can only measure a fraction what we want schools to accomplish.

As for the claim that the NWEA MAP (“MAP”) is a valid teacher evaluation tool, Wendy Lecker explains,

The MAP test is a standardized tests some districts use to measure progress during the year. In other words, it is used to measure students, not teachers. Some teachers find the MAP test helpful, although a study from the national Institute of Educational Sciences found that the MAP test has no impact on student achievement.

There is only one study on the use of the MAP for teacher evaluation. An urban Arizona district interested in using the MAP for teacher evaluation engaged a well-known expert, Professor Audrey Amrein Beardsley, and her team, to determine whether this use of the MAP would be valid. Unlike Connecticut officials, these Arizona district officials wanted to be sure of its validity before imposing it on their teachers. Thus, they requested the study before beginning implementation.

The MAP test is closely aligned with the Arizona state test. However, despite the close alignment, the study revealed that the MAP test is unreliable for use in teacher evaluation. Consequently, the district decided against this use of the MAP.

The study’s authors stressed that measuring “growth” is not as simple as policy makers think it is; and “it is certainly unwise for states or school districts to simply take haphazard or commonsense approaches to measure growth. While tempting, this is professionally and (as evidenced in this study) empirically misguided.”

The truth is that the NWEA’s MAP standardized test is just as inappropriate a tool to evaluate teachers as is the SBAC and the unions that represent teachers have a fundamental obligation to ensure that public policy makers understand what are and what are not valid techniques for determining how well an individual teacher is doing in the classroom.

The CEA’s latest move to condemn the SBAC but endorse the MAP is an uncomfortable reminder that, over the past six years, teachers and other public employees have watched as their union leaders have engaged in an almost schizophrenic approach when it comes to dealing with Governor Malloy’s bully, while standing up for their members.

Wanting to be perceived as “insiders” for the purpose of “getting into the rooms of power,” some union leaders have consistently dismissed or tried to explain away Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman’s ongoing anti-teacher, anti-public employee agenda.

On the other hand, recognizing that their membership is getting angrier and angrier and that the Malloy/Wyman agenda is undermining public education, public services and is translating into public employee layoffs, some of these same unions have taken to running television advertisements urging citizens to stand up for the public servants who educate our children, provide critically important support for those in need and ensure that government programs are available to the people of Connecticut.

The CEA’s initial approach to the teacher evaluation issue was a case study in the strategy of trying to get-along to go-along.  But, after failing to successfully fight off Malloy’s inappropriate and unfair teacher evaluation initiative, the union changed course this past January.

As the January 5, 2016 Wait What? post,  4 years late[r] – The Connecticut Education Association may finally be standing up against Malloy and Wyman on their teacher evaluation disaster, reported,

According to a press advisory issued earlier today, the Connecticut Education Association will hold a press conference at 11am at the Legislative Office Building on Thursday, January 7, 2016 to call on Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly to “join with the majority of states in the U.S. that have replaced the federally-sponsored SBAC or PARCC tests with better, more authentic and effective assessment programs.”

If the announcement is as impressive as suggested, it would mean that the leadership of Connecticut’s teacher unions have finally moved 180 degrees from the position they held on January 25, 2012 when the CEA and AFT joined with the other members of Governor Malloy’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) to approve the so-called “teacher evaluation framework” that inappropriately and unfairly mandates that student’s standardized test scores be a major factor in the teacher evaluation process.

In addition to reversing their position on the SBAC test, the CEA and AFT-CT have been working extremely hard to get the Connecticut General Assembly to pass Senate Bill 380 which would prohibit the state from using the results from the Connecticut’s Mastery Testing program in the state’s teacher evaluation program – a proposal that Malloy and his education reform allies strongly oppose.

And yet, as the CEA seriously – and finally – engages on this vital issue, along comes the claim that the NWEA MAP test is a valid mechanism for evaluating teachers – a claim that may please Governor Malloy and his anti-teacher friends but is absolutely and completely out of line with the academic evidence and good public policy.

Connecticut can and should have a strong and effective teacher evaluation system, but using standardized test results to evaluate teachers has no place in such a system.

It does a tremendous disservice for the CEA to suggest otherwise.

Democrats Malloy and Wyman stab state employees in the back – again – and again.

When they were running for re-election, Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman were all smiles as they accepted the political endorsements from Connecticut’s state employee unions and the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

When Malloy and Wyman wanted the unions to fork over money to help pay for their re-election campaign, union leaders stepped up big time.

Using hard-earned money collected from their members, AFSCME dumped $1.2 million into the Super PAC that was set up to support Malloy and Wyman’s effort to spend four more years in office.  The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) added $600,000 and SEIU donated $550,000 to the same political committee.

In addition, when Malloy and Wyman wanted campaign donations funneled into a special account run by the Democratic State Central Committee, the various unions came up with over $160,000.

And not a complaint was heard when unions’ political operation kicked into high gear, providing the votes that Malloy and Wyman needed to get the second term in office that they so desperately wanted.

Even after the 2014 election, Team Malloy/Wyman kept their proverbial hand out, looking to the unions to cough up even more of their members’ money.  According to the latest campaign finance reports, the state employee unions have donated in excess of $42,000 to the Malloy/Wyman political operation in 2015.

However, as Connecticut’s public employees are learning, yet again, the Malloy administration is fond of turning on state employees with a vengeance.

While refusing to demand that Connecticut’s wealthiest residents pay their fair share, Dannel Malloy’s new state budget plan cuts vital programs, lays off state employees and seeks to privatize public government functions.  The budget proposal is more in line with something that would be coming from the likes of right-wing Republican Governor Scott Walker.  (See also – Malloy Administration ushering in a “Wisconsin Moment” at UConn and CSU Wait, What? 11/6/2015)

In addition to proposing a state budget balanced through state employee layoffs, concessions and major budget cuts, each news cycle reveals additional attacks by the Malloy administration on state employees and the services they provide.

As CT Newsjunkie is reporting in an article entitled, Malloy Proposes Bill To Outsource Some DMV Services, in an incredible and deceitful move, Malloy is expanding his effort to shift the blame for the massive problems associated with the Department of Motor Vehicles’ recent computer upgrade onto the backs of the state employees who work at DMV.

Although it was the Malloy administration that contracted with the out-of-sate, for-profit company to revamp DMV’s computers, a move that has led to longer wait times and a variety of problems, Malloy is now proposing to privatize even more of the DMV’s activities.

As CT Newsjunkie reports;

AFT Connecticut First Vice President Jean Morningstar said the outsourcing of the information technology was just the most recent in a “long line of outsourcing failures that could and should have been avoided.”

However, “the administration appears ready to double-down on another risky contracting scheme. If it fails — like so many previous privatization bungles — state residents will be left with the tab and suffering from degraded services,” Morningstar said.

Morningstar serves on the State Contracting Standards Board, which has been unable to meet to go over contracts because the governor has yet to fill the vacancies on the board and it doesn’t have a quorum.

This week Malloy and Wyman will begin a new round of their – my way or no way — budget tours, and while the spin will be coming fast and furious, their fundamental approach to the Connecticut state budget will be clear for all to see.  Target the most vulnerable for budget cuts, expand funding for charter schools, shift costs to local property taxpayers, college students and others … and most importantly … blame state employees.

Malloy’s approach has certainly changed considerably since he took the stage  at the AFL-CIO convention in June 2014 where he proclaimed;

“A Connecticut moment is when you stand up for your fellow citizens,” Malloy told about 450 union leaders and supporters gathered in the unionized Omni Hotel. “When you understand that they too have rights; that we can move forward together, and in fact when we don’t move forward together, we move backward.”

If this all sounds a bit familiar… 

 Union Members Not Interested in ‘Wisconsin Moment’ (AFSCME + AFT IN CT Newsjunkie)

No Wisconsin Moment in CT (AFSCME)

Conn. Members Say No to a ‘Wisconsin Moment (IBEW)

Wyman: We’re All In This Together, Offers To Buy Foley A Ticket To Wisconsin Moment (OIB Blog)

NOTE: For those who want to be lectured to, the Malloy/Wyman style of leadership will be on full display at their first Town Hall Budget Forum February 11, 2016.

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman today announced that they will hold a town hall forum in Stamford on the evening of Thursday, February 11, 2016, to discuss his budget principles, his proposals for adapting state government to a changing economy, and other issues concerning the future of the state.

The forum will be held from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the UConn Stamford Campus in the Gen Re Auditorium (1 University Place, Stamford).  Residents who would like an opportunity to ask the Governor a question should arrive about 30 minutes prior to the start of the event to submit their name on a sign-up sheet.  The forum is open to the public.

The Stamford event will be the first stop in a series of town hall forums that the Governor and Lt. Governor will be holding throughout the 2016 legislative session.  The event will be similar to those they have held in previous years, where they answered hundreds of questions on a range of state issues at numerous forums.

Dates and locations for additional town hall forums in the series will be announced during the coming weeks.

AFT, NEA and the Corporate Education Reform oriented DGA

Perhaps we should simply call it a symptom of the corporatization of the modern American labor movement.

Or perhaps we call it a product of the centrifuge that is sucking mainstream American politics into the control of the corporate elite.

But whatever we call it, the premature decision by the American Federation of Teachers to endorse Hillary Clinton for President is yet another example of how the unions representing teachers have been gravitating toward backing those who are perceived to be more acceptable to corporate interests, display a track record of supporting policies that are less than supportive of teachers and the nation’s public schools and/or are defined as the “only” choice because the Republican alternative would be “even worse.”

Truth be told, the issue isn’t even really about Hillary Clinton.  As the presidential nominating process moves forward Hillary Clinton may very well be the “best” choice for the Democrats and the electorate, but the AFT leadership’s decision to endorse her now is an stark indicator of just how far the teacher unions have gone to become part of the get-a-long, go-along status quo.

Rather than requiring that any candidate seeking political support from teachers have a solid progressive record on public education and articulate clear-cut policies and positions that are diametrically opposed to the corporate education reform industry, there is a growing acceptance of candidates who have thrown their support behind the charter school industry and the broader education reform agenda.

Above all else, one thing is certain and that is that the American Federation of Teachers, and for that matter, the National Education Association, has consistently backed Democratic candidates whose records and positions are closely aligned with the so-called “education reformers.”

No where is that clearer than with the massive financial support that the AFT and NEA have given to the Democratic Governors Association, despite the DGA’s outspoken and on-going support for President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s education reform agenda, the Common Core, the associated Common Core testing scheme and the inappropriate requirement that standardized test scores be used as part of the teacher evaluation process.

Over the past five election cycles, the American Federation of Teachers has handed the Democratic Governors Association more than $5.5 million in money that was earned by America’s teachers and given to their union with the intention that the funds would be used to support candidates and promote policies that support teachers and enhance public schools.  The National Education Association has donated $4.8 million more.

But despite teacher unions giving more than $10 million dollars to the DGA over the past decade, the organization whose role it is to elect Democratic governors has remained committed to an education reform agenda that is actively and intentionally undermining teachers, the teaching profession and the nation’s public education system.

Just last summer, as opposition to the Common Core and its associated unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme grew, along with the resulting opt-out movement, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, who was Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association at the time, dismissed the legitimate concerns that were being raised as nothing more than the work of right-wing nuts.

As reported in an AP story in June 2014, Democrat Shumlin dismissed the opponents of the Common Core as “crazy” conservatives adding, “The fact that the tea party sees that as a conspiracy is a symptom of their larger problems.”

But of course, opposition to the corporate education reform agenda is not a “right-wing issue,” nor is the push back against the heavy-handed and faulty implementation of the Common Core and the Common Core testing scam.

In fact, it is real world it is a broad spectrum of liberal, moderate and conservative parents, teachers and public school advocates who are leading the effort, all across the United States, to turn back the corporate funded public school privatization and education reform effort.

Although the NEA and AFT were two of the DGA’s four largest donors during recent 2014 election cycle, one would think the DGA went out of its way to remind teachers that while their money was useful, their opinions were not.

Not only did the DGA spend more than $3.8 million to promote the re-election of corporate education reform aficionado Democrat Dannel Malloy to serve a second term as  Connecticut’s governor, but the members of the DGA went on to elect Malloy to serve as the next Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

Malloy, who in 2012 became the first sitting Democratic Governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the poorest schools districts is such an eager charter school advocate that he threatened Connecticut’s Democratic controlled General Assembly that at the same time he was proposing to cut funding for public schools, he would not sign any budget bill that did not expand the number of charter schools in the Constitution State.

And the Democrats in the legislature acquiesced to Malloy’s threats.

Malloy also vetoed a bill, passed with bi-partisan support, to require that anyone who serves as Connecticut’s commissioner of education must have appropriate classroom teaching experience.  Malloy whined that requiring the state’s education commissioner to have education experience would cramp his appointment decisions.

Although Connecticut Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy rivals New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo when it comes to anti-teacher rhetoric and policies, the harsh reality is that Malloy is nothing more than a continuation of the DGA’s effort to support Democratic governors who are wedded to the corporate education reform agenda.

Teachers, students, parents and public school advocates deserve better from the Democrats and from the unions representing teachers, the very same unions that are pouring millions of dollars into the Democratic Party.