Connecticut to end non-credit remedial courses at public colleges

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No really….  A Connecticut law passed in 2012 made it illegal for Connecticut public colleges to provide non-credit remedial courses starting in 2014.

Long time Wait, What? readers may remember the discussion on the blog.

Led by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly, Connecticut adopted a corporate education reform initiatives aimed at ensuring that all students were “college and career ready,” while at the same time passed legislation that prohibits public colleges and universities from providing non-credit remedial courses.

Among other things, it was sold as a way to reduce the state budget.

The irony, of course, goes without saying.

The same individuals who were willing undermine Connecticut’s public education system by pushing the Common Core, the Common Core testing frenzy and the unfair teacher evaluation system all in an effort to prepare children for college were reducing the budgets for Connecticut’s public colleges and universities by record amounts.

But by prohibiting public colleges from providing courses for students who needed extra help, Malloy et. al. could simply remove a significant cost those colleges were facing.

The issues has remained in the background until now, when students, their families and the public are  finally learning about this incredibly bad policy.

As the New Haven Register recently wrote,

About 10,000 incoming freshmen at state colleges enroll in no-credit remedial courses across the state every year.  This year, that number will drop to zero.

The courses will no longer be offered at state colleges once Public Act 12-40 goes into effect this fall semester.

Signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2012, the act requires colleges to abandon lower-level, no-credit remedial courses and embed support into entry-level courses or a college-readiness program.

High school graduates who do not place into entry-level courses by way of adequate SAT scores or college entry exams will be out of luck.

The urgency of the act going into effect this year has sparked strong reactions from state legislators, community colleges and high school educators.

Strong reaction from state legislators?

Who by the way passed the bill, after heavy lobbying from the Malloy administration and over the objections of the House Chair of the Education Committee who made it very clear what the ramifications of the legislation would be.

Instead of taking the non-credit remedial courses, students are expected to turn to local public schools and community based adult education programs.  The original argument was that this would save the state and students money.

But due to an insufficient number of programs, many students who were college bound will be discovering college, even Connecticut’s community colleges, are beyond reach.

Welcome to the Malloy Administration’s definition of college and career ready.

And the problems will be evident across the state of Connecticut.

As the New Haven Register goes on to report,

“At Northwestern Community College in Winsted, Dean of Academic and Student Affairs Patricia Bouffard said she anticipates there will be students who fall below the level of remediation community colleges can now offer. Based on test scores from fall 2013, about 15 percent of entering students at NCC would not have been eligible for remedial courses if the requirements were already in place.”

While Northwestern serves a significantly smaller population than Gateway [Community College in New Haven] — about 1,700 students — Bouffard said about the same percentage of students fall into the developmental level.”

[...]

The college is in the process of developing appropriate programs in reaction to the legislation but doesn’t yet have a partnership with nearby high schools. Bouffard said the college is in the second run of an 11-week, college-math proficiency program offered to students who are below the remedial course. 

The program is computer-based with faculty in attendance. Bouffard said English is a little more difficult in terms of developing a computer-based program.

Opponents of the corporate education reform industry will recognize the pattern.  Set standards that limit a cohort of students and then buy more technology and software to deal with the problem.

In Connecticut, this policy will mean that some of the students who need the most hands-on help will be provided programs that require them to “learn” what they need to know by sitting in front of a computer.

The New Haven Register article quotes State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, who was just elected to the Connecticut State Senate in a Special Election.

Holder-Winfield’s comments represent the thinking of many  legislators who voted in favor of the original proposal.  The New Haven Register story explains that Holder-Winfield said that we was not, “’a fan of doing away with remedial courses’ but understood the logic behind it: ‘Many of our young people who go to college don’t graduate within the four to six years that we would think is normal.”

The New Haven Register reports that “Holder-Winfield understood that the bill would be rolled out and then legislators would determine if they were doing what was needed. Now, he said he isn’t sure it worked the way it was intended to work.”  He concluded, “I’m a fan of taking another look at what we have done and maybe pulling back off it. I don’t think that that was the solution.”

There are legislative proposals to  modify Malloy’s plan to end non-credit remedial courses at Connecticut’s public colleges.

Check back for updates.

You can also read the New Haven Register article here:  http://www.nhregister.com/social-affairs/20140222/concern-grows-as-connecticut-colleges-to-drop-no-credit-remedial-courses

 

Malloy majors in fiction at press conference touting commitment to higher education

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“I am not talking about what happened in the past. I am talking about what needs to happen in the future.  (Governor Dannel Malloy 2-12-14)

The CT News Junkie headline reads “Commits To Higher Ed, Hopes Future Governors Will Too.”

Governor Malloy held a press conference at Manchester Community College on Wednesday in which he touted the “major investment” he was making in Connecticut’s institutions of public education.

As the article reports;

“Calling his recently announced higher education investments a good first step, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday he’s committed to additional funding increases even as he nears the end of his current term as governor.”

This “commitment” comes from the same Governor Malloy who has pushed through the deepest budget cuts in state history at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities.

At UConn, for example, before Malloy became governor, the Connecticut state budget accounted for 33% of the total cost required to operate the University of Connecticut.  Three years into his term and after his record budget cuts at UConn, Connecticut State University and at the State’s Community Colleges, the state now only provides 27.9% of the amount necessary to keep UConn operating.

As a direct result of Malloy’s budget cuts, the burden on students and their families have INCREASED by 17.3% with tuition and fees going up by double digits since Malloy became governor.

In 2010, candidate Dan Malloy promised to make Connecticut’s public college and universities a priority.  Since being sworn in as Dannel Malloy in 2011, Malloy has done exactly the opposite.

The reality is that it is getting harder and harder for middle class families to afford to send their children to college in Connecticut.  Since 2000, the cost of attending UConn has increased 118%.

And no Connecticut governor in living memory has done as much damage to higher education than Malloy.

But in what has now become typical fashion, Malloy failed to let the truth get in the way of a good press opportunity.

According to the CT News Junkie article, Malloy called his new funding initiative;

“Not a bad start” and added, “This is only a down payment, I’ve said it to members of the Regents Board. As this plan becomes further identified, there will in fact be increased investments in this system. That’s why this is really a celebration . . . of what is to come in the future.”

As Malloy put it, “I’m making a personal commitment and I hope future governors will make a personal commitment to make sure that this program continues…I want to be very clear, this is just the beginning of the investments we need to make in this system.”

However, the “new investment” that Malloy is making is based on an incredible budget gimmick and is not an ongoing effort to improve funding at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities.

As the CT Mirror explains, “Malloy is proposing to pay for this initiative using a budget loophole to get around the state’s constitutional spending limits.”

In a related budget story the CT Mirror laid out Malloy’s plan;

“…the $60 million Malloy would provide to cover the operating expenses…rely and the buy-one-get-one-free course for dropouts would come from a “one-time revenue transfer,” according to the administration.

What Malloy has proposed commonly is known in fiscal analyst circles as an “intercept” — a loophole used to move funds off budget and outside the purview of the constitutional spending cap.

After pledging for weeks that his new budget would comply with the cap, Malloy sent lawmakers a $19 billion plan that falls a razor-thin $8 million under the cap — and that’s before the Transform CSCU 2020 initiative is included.

The Democratic governor has been loathe to approve a legal exception to the cap – having criticized his GOP predecessors for frequently going that route. That option also is more complicated, requiring a 60 percent vote of approval in both the House and Senate.

Malloy instead turned to a loophole.

The cap system technically applies only to tax receipts and other revenues assigned to the state budget. Malloy will ask lawmakers to “intercept” $60 million of those revenues – which means that before the money “arrives” in the state treasury, it has been assigned to a new purpose outside of the budget.

Effectively, there would be no difference in how the money is spent in the fiscal year that begins July 1, but the expenditure wouldn’t be counted for spending cap purposes.

Traditionally though, state payments to cover higher education costs have been included within the budget.

Governor Malloy’s entire “commitment” to higher education has been a farce and his latest “commitment” is even more absurd than his previous ones.

Now that’s funny: “Malloy Signs Bill Shifting Power to Pick Regents Chief From His Office To Board”

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AKA:  The ongoing saga known as the Connecticut Board of Regents

Earlier this month, at the request of Governor Malloy’s Chief of Staff, the Chairman of the Board of Regents informed that Board that it would be sending the Governor the names of the three finalists.  In that way, the Governor and not the Board would be selecting the next president of the Board of Regents.

Wait, What? readers may recall the two posts entitled “News Flash: What the Hell is going on…Malloy snubs nose at Connecticut law” and “Whoa there…Let’s try telling the truth…

As the CTMirror reported at the time, the Chairman of the Board of Regent explained that the Board forwarded three names for Governor Malloy to pick from following “a request from the governor’s chief of staff to do so.”  The news story quoted Board of Regents Chairman Lewis Robinson as saying, “Which ever one he chooses, we have a fine leader…I think all three are outstanding. I am excited.”

All this despite the fact that the letter and spirit of the law was stunningly clear.  The Board of Regents was to conduct interviews, select a candidate and the Governor would technically make the appointment.  In that way, the selection process would be done at arm’s-length from the politics of the Capitol.

But alas, despite that clear intent of the law, Governor Malloy and his staff couldn’t help themselves.  They wanted to determine which of the three finalists were most likely to recognize their supreme authority.

In response to all of this, the Connecticut General Assembly acted with amazing courage and speed and actually fast-tracked legislation “clarifying” the law by taking away Governor Malloy’s authority to even make the appointment.  The new bill put the duty to appoint in the hands of the Board of Regents, tracking the approach that exists with the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees.

When the dust settled, there was no bill signing on this one.  No smiling faces crowded around the Governor waiting for their copy of the pen that signed the legislation into law.

Instead, as the Hartford Courant noted in their story, “According to a statement from the governor’s office, Malloy ‘signed legislation he proposed in collaboration with state lawmakers’ and said ‘the change will help the next leader institute a long-term vision that increases stability and academic growth for the students at the state’s colleges and universities.’”

Malloy’s statement went on to read, “’I want to thank the members of the House and the Senate, including the chairs of the Higher Education Committee, for working with my administration on introducing this bill and acting quickly on its passage,’ Malloy said, according to the statement.”

So there you go — it turns out that it was all one big misunderstanding and Governor Malloy was actually the one who wanted the new law that made it clear that it was the Board’s responsibility and not his to make the appointment of the next president of the CSU and Community Colleges system.

Thank goodness that was clarified before the governor was forced to personally choose the next president.

You can read more about this story in the follow CTMirror article: http://ctmirror.org/story/19758/after-controversies-general-assembly-votes-remove-governors-authority-naming-college-pre

Resume Enhancement 101: The President Elsa Nunez story

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When Governor Rell nominated World Wrestling CEO Linda McMahon for a position on the State Board of Education, McMahon claimed that she had a Bachelor’s Degree in Education.  Thanks to some investigative work, I learned that the degree was really in French.

More recently, Wait, What? readers will recall that an aide to Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch listed himself on a national website that he served as Bridgeport’s Deputy Mayor for Education despite the fact that Bridgeport didn’t have a position of Deputy Mayor and the young staff person wasn’t actually even at the director level of anything.

In this Internet age, padding one’s resume has become increasingly difficult since the truth is only a search or two away.

That said, “Resume Enhancement” remains a part of our world.

The tactic is especially condemned in the world of colleges, universities and academia, which makes the following story all the more strange.

Connecticut State Register and Manual, often called “The Connecticut Blue Book,” has been the official record of Connecticut government since 1785.

The State Register and Manual lists the President of EASTERN CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITY as Elsa Nuñez, Ph.D.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut Campus Compact (CTCC) is an organization that was established in 1998 and is made up of twenty-eight Connecticut colleges and universities.  Its goal is to help colleges develop more effective community partnerships.  The CTCC is governed by a Board of Directors, which lists Elsa Nuñez, Ph.D., as its Vice Chair.

Elsa Nunez, Ph.D. also serves on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Association of Human Services, a one hundred-year-old organization that promotes economic security strategies for low-income families.

And Eastern Connecticut State University’s Canadian Studies Program lists Elsa Nunez, Ph.D. as the President of Eastern.

Elsa Nunez, Ph.D. is also quoted by numerous media outlets such as the Manchester Journal Inquirer newspaper and the CT Latino News.

The only problem is, Elsa Nuñez doesn’t have a Ph.D.

Elsa Nunez doesn’t have a Ph.D. but she did receive an Ed.D. (A Doctor of Education) from the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in 1979.

At the time, Rutgers’ granted an Ed.D. from the School of Education in a variety of concentrations including; “(1) Creative Arts Education, (2)Elementary/Early Childhood Education, (3) English-Language Arts Education, (4) Language Education (with emphasis in BilingualBicultural, English as a Second Language, Foreign Language and Linguistics Education), (5) Mathematics Education, (6) Science Education, (7) Social Education.

Let’s be clear.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with an Ed.D. but as academics will tell you, an Ed.D. is a very different degree than a Ph.D.

The Ph.D. is an academic doctoral degree and is specifically called a “doctor of philosophy.”

An Ed.D. is traditionally a professional or vocational degree for people who work in the field of Education.

As New York University notes in their Graduate School of Education catalog, “The Ph.D. program is a research degree designed for students who aspire to conduct research throughout their careers in roles such as faculty members, researchers, government employees, policy scholars, or institutional researchers…”

NYU goes on to say, “In contrast, the Ed.D. program is designed to meet the increasing need for visionary and entrepreneurial leaders in community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, corporate-sponsored education, and governmental agencies.”

Or as Wikipedia explains, “In the United States, the Ph.D. degree is the highest academic degree awarded by universities…” Whereas, the Doctor of Education (Ed.D) is a degree that has a more “professional” focus.  Wikipedia goes on to explain. “From the very beginning there was a formal division between the Ed.D. and the Ph.D. in education, and the growing popularity of the applied doctorates was met by faculty in the arts and sciences questioning their legitimacy. They argued that practical and vocational aims were inappropriate for doctoral study, which they contended should be focused on producing scholarly research and college professors…The Ed.D. and the colleges of education that granted them continued to face criticism…”

While the issue may seem rather archaic to some, rest assured that at universities around the nation, the debate remains heated.  Many academics are particularly sensitive about whether the letters Ph.D. or Ed.D. are listed after their names.

In Nunez’s case, rather than explain that she has an Ed.D. from Rutgers with a concentration in “Language Education (with emphasis in BilingualBicultural, English as a Second Language, Foreign Language and Linguistics Education),” President Nunez’ simply states that she has a “Doctorate in linguistics from Rutgers.”

And that is how Nunez’ bio reads today – “A Doctorate in linguistics from Rutgers.”

It would be fair to say that such a claim is one of those statements that isn’t quite true, but then again, it isn’t quite a lie either.

What is true is that Nunez collects $299,460 a year, plus benefits, as the President of Eastern and now gets an extra $48,000 as a result of the extra administrative duties she provides for the Board of Regents.  Her pay raise was caught up in last year’s illegal bonuses that the previous President of the Board of Regents doled out.  Those bonuses or pay increase were then revoked but later re-instated for Nunez and one of the Community College Presidents who was also given “extra administrative duties.”

In the world of politics, there is little awareness of the difference between Ph.Ds and Ed.Ds, but that is hardly the case in the world of academics.

And it is for that reason that it is rather odd for Elsa Nunez to approach this controversial issue in the way that she has.

Whoa there…Let’s try telling the truth…

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The CTMirror has a “must read” follow up story about Governor Malloy’s “request” to interview and select a finalist for the position of President of the Connecticut Board of Regents.

In the article, the CTMirror reports that, “The governor’s spokesman, Andrew Doba, said the interviews aren’t unusual. He noted that the University of Connecticut trustees in late 2010 allowed then-Governor-elect Malloy to interview finalists for the president’s post that went to Susan Herbst.”

File that one under somewhere between “misleading spin” and “out-right lie.”

In fact, in 2010, Governor Rell and Governor-elect Malloy met with Susan Herbst, as did dozens of other individuals, PRIOR to the UConn Board of Education’s vote.

Then, according to press reports, including the Associated Press’ national story, “UConn’s Board of Trustees unanimously selected Susan Herbst at a special meeting Monday, calling her an exceptional leader in higher education who will use her enthusiasm and experience to help UConn push ahead academically and in research.”

The situation that played out yesterday was very different.  In this case, “the regents voted Thursday to recommend three finalists to Malloy for the president’s position…” and Lewis Robinson, the chairman of the Board of Regents, who was appointed by Governor Malloy, explained their decision to the CTMirror by saying, “the governor had requested three. And I thought as a courtesy or respect to his office, it would be appropriate to accede to that wish.”

This approach despite the fact that Connecticut law clearly states that it is the Board of Regents who is responsible for selecting the name of the President of the Board.

So just to be clear…

Despite what the Governor’s spokesman says, there is actually a very big difference between Malloy meeting with Susan Herbst before the UConn Board of Trustees voted to make her president and the Board of Regents inappropriately voting to forward three names to Governor Malloy so that he can interview and pick one.

In one scenario, the UConn Board of Trustees was acting legally.

In the other scenario, the Connecticut Board of Regents was acting illegally.

You can read the latest CTMirror story at:  http://www.ctmirror.org/story/19641/governor-will-get-pick-next-college-president

News Flash: What the Hell is going on…Malloy snubs nose at Connecticut law

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Earlier today, Connecticut’s Board of Regents for Higher Education met and voted to forward three names to Governor Malloy with the request that he pick one to serve as President of the combined State University and Community College System.

But the fact is that neither the Board of Regents nor the Governor has the authority to make the choice in this way.

According to Connecticut law, the Governor nominates the majority of the members of the Board of Regents and, according to the new Board of Regents law passed in 2011, “The Governor shall appoint the chairperson of the board…”

However when it comes to choosing the President of the Connecticut Board of Regents system, the law is absolutely and completely clear.

Section 10a-1b of the Connecticut State Statutes reads, “(a) The Governor shall appoint an interim president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education who shall serve as president until a successor is appointed and confirmed. On or after January 1, 2012, the president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education shall be recommended by the board and appointed by the Governor…”

Governor Malloy did appoint an interim President who was forced to resign after it was discovered that he inappropriately provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses to his staff.

And now it is “on or after January 1, 2012.”

The law is that, “the president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education shall be recommended by the board and appointed by the Governor…”

According to a story that has been posted on the CTMirror website, the Chairman of the Board of Regents, appointed by Malloy, said that the board sent three names for Governor Malloy to pick from following “a request from the governor’s chief of staff to do so.”

The CT Mirror reports that Board of Regents Chairman Lewis Robinson said, “Which ever one he chooses, we have a fine leader…I think all three are outstanding. I am excited.”

But as the CT Mirror goes on to note, “State law requires the board to recommend “the president” to the governor. The board’s decision was announced during a two-minute public meeting following an hour-long meeting of the board behind closed doors.”

“The governor had requested three. And I thought as a courtesy or respect to his office, it would be appropriate to accede to that wish,” Robinson told the CT Mirror.

But the law is the law.

And, this is a law that the Governor’s Chief of Staff helped write and personally lobbied.

If the Governor and General Assembly meant to have the Board of Regents forward three names to a sitting governor so that the governor could then wheel and deal, they would have done that.

Instead it was written in a way similar to the law for the University of Connecticut.

Connecticut law has always been clear that it is not the role of politicians to decide which academic should run our institutions of higher education.

Instead, the approach has always been that governors nominate and legislatures approved the members of the various boards who then have the duty to make the key personnel decisions removed, or at least somewhat, from the realm of partisan and personal politics.

The debate about how best to choose the President of the Board of Regents took place two years ago.  A process was decided and that process was put into law.

That process provided that the Board of Regents would go through the selection process and choose who they deemed to be the best person for the job…and the governor would then appoint that person to the post.

The law is the law.

The Chairman of the Board of Regents had an obligation to tell Governor Malloy that the Board was legally obligated to follow the law.

The Board of Regents itself was obligated to tell the Governor that the Board was legally obligated to follow the law.

And Governor Malloy and his Chief of Staff should never have requested that the Board of Regents do anything but follow the law.

As citizens of the state of Connecticut we are left wondering…

What will it take for the Governor of this state to admit that even he is not above the laws of Connecticut?

Meanwhile, Connecticut’s Attorney General should be on the phone right now ordering the Board of Regents to re-convene and conduct themselves in a manner that fulfills their duties under the laws of Connecticut, regardless of what the Governor has asked them to do.

You can find the CT Mirror story here:  http://www.ctmirror.com/story/19641/governor-will-get-pick-next-college-president

Remember when merging CSU & Community Colleges was going to save money so they could hire more faculty…

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They said it was all about adding faculty for Connecticut’s public colleges. While the number of students had increased dramatically, the number of full-time faculty had declined by 10 percent over the past eight years.

First came Malloy’s merger of the Connecticut State Universities and the Community Colleges.  The promise was that the plan would save at least $4.3 million, money that would then be used to hire new faculty.

State Senator Beth Bye, the legislator’s strongest advocate for the merger, echoed Malloy’s claim, writing in a commentary piece that, “One financial benefit of the governor’s proposed overhaul is that an estimated $4.3 million is saved by eliminating duplicative administrative costs…” Senator Bye added that the savings would be used to add faculty.

Then came the tuition increases.  The cost for an in-state student attending one of the Connecticut State Universities and living on campus jumped to $19,119.

But Mike Meotti, Governor Malloy’s point person on the merger, and the Executive Vice President of the Board of Regents promised, “This recommended increase will allow our state colleges and universities to hire additional faculty…”

Meanwhile, Governor Malloy’s own spokesman called the increase “fairly modest” and defended the decision to raise tuition during a recession saying that the money would be spent on new faculty.

But today, the Board of Regents announced that the $5.5 million that they pledged to use to hire at least 47 new faculty is being eliminated as a result of Governor Malloy’s recent $14.4 million cut to the new system.

As noted in today’s CTMirror, “A letter from the college system’s chief financial officer instructed college presidents not to move forward with hiring the new positions the appointed Board of Regents for Higher Education approved three months ago.”

And surprise, surprise, the CT Mirror found that “the Malloy administration was not immediately available for comment” on this recent development.

At this point, since Malloy took office last year he has cut state spending on public college and universities by more than 14%, reaffirming his position as the Governor who has made the deepest cuts in the history of Connecticut’s public higher education system.

The result being that, once again, Connecticut students and parents are left paying more and getting less.

The CTMirror story can be found here:  http://www.ctmirror.org/story/18367/state-deficit-stalls-promised-new-faculty-positions-higher-ed-shakeup

Malloy’s Blueprint for this time of economic crisis: A disproportionate cut to public higher education

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Faced with a $365 million budget deficit in this fiscal year, Governor Malloy and his budget chief, Ben Barnes, released a list of $170 million in cuts today.

Their list of cuts is quite a commentary on Malloy’s vision of shared sacrifice and on where cuts can actually be made.

After implementing the deepest cuts in Connecticut history to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities…Governor Malloy is now cutting another $10 million from UConn, another $14 million from CSU and the Community Colleges and $1.3 million in student financial aid. (But Malloy is only cutting the financial aid that goes to students attending public colleges; the financial aid to the students attending Connecticut’s independent colleges has already been given out and so can’t be cut).

UConn’s budget is about 1.2 percent of the total state budget – and yet their share of cuts amounted to 6 percent of today’s $170 million in cuts.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut State University and the Community Colleges (now known as the Board of Regents) gets about 1.5 percent of the total state budget – and yet their cut amounted to 8 percent of today’s total cuts.

The message couldn’t be much clearer – Connecticut is dedicated to competing in the 21st Century by disproportionately cutting its system of public higher education.

The full list of $170 million can be found here: http://www.ct.gov/opm/lib/opm/budget/2012_2013_biennial_budget/DeficitMitigationPlan/RescissionTransmittalMemo_11282012.pdf

Can someone stop the Board of Regents before they do even more damage?

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Last week it was the resignation of the President and Executive Vice President of Connecticut’s new Board of Regents, the group responsible for overseeing the merged system of Connecticut’s State Universities and Community and Technical Colleges.

The solution, we were told, was that the actual Board of Regents would step forward, take control and actually perform the duties allocated to them under state law.

At their first meeting, they reinstate the inappropriate and previously illegal raises for the Vice President for State Universities and the Vice President for Community Colleges.

Then they hire, as expected, former UConn President Phil Austin to run the Board of Regents.

The Board of Regents votes to give interim President Austin a base salary of $340,000, but say they are withholding any of the extra benefits that pushed up the previous president, Robert Kennedy’s salary, by about $100,000.

Austin’s current base salary at the University of Connecticut is in the range of $285,000.

However, in 2010, Austin actually had a salary and compensation package of $419,000 and last year, Austin’s package was over $427,700.

So what gives?

The actual contract the Board of Regents approved doesn’t actually line up with what the Board of Regents reported to the media and the public

Austin’s contract with the Board of Regents reads, “The President shall receive all normal Board of Regents benefits, including, but not limited to, health insurance for the President and any dependents, dental insurance, retirement plans, deferred compensation plans, flexible spending accounts, vacation and sick leave.”

First off, as an employee of the University of Connecticut, Mr. Austin already gets more than $50,000 in non-salary benefits.  Some of those benefits may very well continue, even if Austin takes a full unpaid leave of absence from UConn.  However, even if he gives up those benefits from UConn, the cost to the Board of Regents to provide “all normal Board of Regents benefits” will be as much, if not more, depending on how the Regent’s policy handles deferred compensation and vacation and sick leave.

Normally, items such as vacation and sick leave are provided to full-time, year-round employees and not professors, meaning that in addition to his base salary of $340,000 and his $50,000 or so in benefits, Austin could actually find his total compensation package going even higher under the wording of the Regent’s contract.

As the CT Mirror reported, the Regents proudly proclaimed that although Austin, “will be making the same $340,000 annual salary as his predecessor — but none of the additional lucrative incentives — in exchange for leading the state’s embattled, merged public college system on a temporary basis.”

That statement is simply not true.

Worse, as the CTMirror went on to explain, “The regents approved Austin’s pay without public discussion following a one-hour-and-40-minute closed-door session.”

Didn’t these people learn anything from the initial catastrophe?

With no public discussion, there is no public record, which means there is absolutely no public accountability about how these compensation issues might be interpreted.

As the Mirror reported, the “Chair of the Board of Regents explained that “Austin did not seek any compensation beyond the $340,000 annual pay that had been granted to Kennedy.”

Of course he didn’t ask for more, because he didn’t need to ask for any more.  Much of it was already part of the basic compensation package that came with the contract.

Finally, there is an additional benefit in the Austin contract that he never had under any contract with the University.  The contract approved for Austin reads, “The Board of Regents shall, with prior approval of the Board, within available appropriations and in accordance with the policies of the Board of Regents, reimburse the President for professional development that is appropriate and in the best interest of the system as determined by the Board of Regents and such necessary travel expenses associated with professional development.”

While it is unclear what such language might possibly mean, one thing is for certain; UConn’s presidential contract has no language to “reimburse the President for professional development that is appropriate and in the best interest of the system.”

So the Board of Regents can claim all they want that their new contract isn’t like the one that Governor Malloy’s Office negotiated with Kennedy, but Austin is walking away with a lot more than the $340,000 “base salary” that the Board mentioned.

Board of Regents Newsflash: Let’s put in a chief of staff with no public higher education experience

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First Governor Malloy selected former UConn President Phil Austin to be the interim President of the Connecticut Board of Regents, despite the fact that he has no experience running community colleges.

And today it has  become public that they will be adding a new Chief of Staff with NO EXPERIENCE with public higher education at all.  The Chief of Staff’s position is to oversee the day-to-day operations of the agency in charge of Connecticut’s State Universities and Community Colleges.

Keith M. Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas of the CT Mirror are reporting that, “Deputy State Labor Commissioner Dennis Murphy, an administrator with longstanding ties to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, will become the interim chief of staff for the state’s merged public college system.”  http://www.ctmirror.org/story/17913/governor-ally-become-college-systems-next-chief-staff

According to the CT Mirror, “Murphy, who will be appointed by Philip E. Austin, interim president for the Board of Regents for Higher Education, also will retain his labor title and split his time between the department and the college system.”

Earlier in the week the Board of Regents informed the existing chief of staff, former Malloy spokesperson Colleen Flanagan, that she was returning to her post as communications director for the Regents, and a new Chief of Staff would be added with a salary of $129,000 plus benefits

Murphy was one of Malloy’s earliest appointees, becoming Deputy Labor commissioner in January 2011.

Murphy previously served as Malloy’s Director of Human Resources in Stamford from 2004 to 2008.

Before that Murphy served as Bridgeport Mayor Joe Gamin’s Director of Labor Relations.

Murphy is the spouse of John Stafstrom, who is the former Democratic Town Committee chairman of Bridgeport and a partner in the law firm of Pullman and Connolly.

John Stafstrom and Pullman and Connolly has received a series of high-profile state contracts since Malloy became Governor including being given the lucrative job of handling the state’s legal work for the Jackson Laboratories project and the new Connecticut Airport Authority.

A graduate of Fairfield University and Boston College, Murphy appears to have had absolutely no experience with any public higher education entities in his career, making him an odd selection for a new public  university system that educates well over 100,000 Connecticut residents.

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