Regent President Gray’s “gag-order” on out-going provost must not be allowed to stand

2 Comments

In a world in which we probably shouldn’t find anything surprising, the fact that the Separation Agreement  between the Board of Regents and out-going provost Michael Gargano includes a “gag order” is truly revolting.

Regent President Gray and the Board of Regents are presently in the midst of an extremely controversial effort to “Transform” Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges.  The Regents paid a leading out-of-state corporate education reform industry consulting group $1.8 million to put together a “road-map” that has been harshly criticized and, if implemented, would do tremendous damage to the future of Connecticut’s 17 state universities and colleges.

In recent weeks Regent President Gray has been engaged in an attempt to claim that the Transform CSCU 2020 Plan is a product of an open and thoughtful process, when nothing could be further from the truth.

The entire process to develop Transform CSCU 2020 was hardly open, and most telling of all, the Executive Committee overseeing the development of the plan doesn’t even include representatives from the faculty, staff, students and alumni of Connecticut’s public state universities and colleges.

Not only does the Transform CSCU 2020 Plan deserve a full and complete public airing, but considering how important the institutions are to Connecticut and its citizens; the plan deserves a legislative hearing by the General Assembly’s higher education committee.

But as if to reiterate the fundamental problem with President Gray and Governor Malloy’s appointees to the Board of Regents, it turns out that the Separation Agreement with the Board of Regent’s outgoing provost Michael Gargano includes a clause forbidding Gargano from making “any derogatory or defamatory statements about his employment with the BOR [Board of Regents], about any previous or current employee or officer of the BOR, or about any previous or current member of the BOR.”

As if that wasn’t incredible enough, the Separation Agreement includes a clause seeking to keep the document secret from the public.

Regent President Gray is a public employee and the Board of Regents is a public agency.

Their effort to block public access to information that belongs in the public domain is reprehensible.

To forbid the out-going provost from talking about why he left his position, about his experience as the provost, or his opinion of the Transform CSCU 2020 plan is not only unethical, but it flies in the face of Connecticut’s once historic position on open government.

Gray and the Board of Regents appear to be trying to use the cover of a personnel file exclusion to circumvent Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws, or worse, these public officials are intentionally trying to block information that rightly belongs in the public arena.

Governor Malloy should demand that the Board of Regents immediately remove the gag order.

If Malloy won’t take that action, the Connecticut General Assembly should step in and ensure that the public’s right to public information is not infringed upon by the outrageous actions of Regent President Gray and the Board of Regents.

The CT Mirror has posted a copy of the separation agreement.

ALERT – The on-going effort to destroy CSU and the Community Colleges

5 Comments

The CT Mirror had an excellent article last Friday entitled, CSCU leader says balking faculty will eventually praise transformation plan.” It highlights some of the issues surrounding the uproar about Governor Malloy’s “Transform CSCU 2020” plan.

It would appear that the basic problem with the Transform CSCU 2020 “initiative” can best summed up by the naïve comment of Regent President Gregory Gray who told the CT Mirror,

“All of this [plan] is very supportable…I think the faculty, when they really learn more about it, and participate before it becomes a final plan, I do believe they are going to praise it.”

Like a true champion of corporate education reform, Gray appears committed to the notion that a “post-modern,” corporate oriented approach to public higher education is a “simple” solution to providing Connecticut’s residents with the higher educational opportunities they need and deserve in today’s complex world.

Like so much of the corporate education reform movement, the rhetoric sounds great, but the product produced is the antithesis of what is best for students, faculty and the society at large.

It is a sad commentary, although not surprising, that when you turn public primary, secondary and higher education over to the corporate elite and their well-paid consultants, you end up with a “business plan” that appears financially attractive but lacks the sophistication necessary to produce an education system that recognizes that all students can learn and thrive, but not all students learn and thrive at the same time or in the same way.

Most importantly, these corporate driven plans tend to think of educators as if they are the greeters at Wal-Mart, the re-stockers at Target or the checkout workers at the Dollar store.

While all of those positions are vital to the success of an advanced capitalist retail establishment, the model is not transferable to the “education sector,” although the corporate reformers are either unable or unwilling to recognize that truth.

The CT Mirror piece lays out the key issues underlying the failure of the Transform CSCU 2020 plan including;

  • “An unpopular merger of the bachelor-degree granting Connecticut State Universities with the state’s online and community colleges created a 90,000-student system and left many faculty uneasy.
  • A cut in the portion of funding provided by the state legislature challenged the 16-campus system that was already facing significant shortfalls.
  • A trio of serious missteps by the new system’s first president led to his dismissal and further damaged faculty confidence in the organization’s leadership.”

But in the end, the botched development and roll-out of Transform CSCU 2020 rests with the President of the Board of Regents, the Board of Regents and their $1.8 million consultants.

The plan to transform Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges was driven by a consulting company called Boston Consulting Group (BCG).  As CT Mirror notes, the plan is a “long list of ‘road maps’ for implementation; and used language that to faculty was strange, bureaucratic and off-putting, referring to such things as collecting ‘payroll and staffing data’ to ‘identify key opportunities’ with the goal of ‘program optimization.’”

Observers shouldn’t be surprised by the junk delivered by the Boston Consulting Group. While $1.8 million might sound excessive, the Regent President and the Board of Regents got exactly what they paid wanted and paid for…or at least they got exactly what they should have expected.

The Boston Consulting Group is a massive, multi-national consulting company whose fame comes, in part, from helping companies transform themselves into international competitors by outsourcing every possible function and laying off Americans in the process.

The Boston Consulting Group is also infamous for its unending commitment to the corporate education reform industry agenda of privatizing schools, undermining teachers and the teaching profession and recommending that progress can only be achieved by crushing unions and rolling back collective bargaining rights.

Topping their list of “successes” is their present plan to privatize much of Philadelphia‘s public school system.  Their proposal, for which they were paid millions of dollars, has been to lay off teachers, dramatically expand the number of privately run, but publicly funded charter schools, out-source services and replace people with technology.

As the CT Mirror story notes in its story, Regent President Gray now says that he was surprised by the backlash against the plan that he and the Board of Regents developed in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group.

If Regent President Gray was really surprised, then that – as we say – says it all!

As reported in early Wait, What? blog posts, the problems with the Transform CSCU 2020 are not new.

Transform CSCU 2020 started with the wrong approach to developing a comprehensive plan, utilized the wrong consultants and was backed by a Board of Regents who don’t have the understanding or experience with Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges to even know what a successful plan would look like.

The wrong approach to developing the plan:

When announcing their decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group to develop the plan to transform the state university and community college system in April 2014, Regent President Gray said he was confident that the private company with 81 offices in 45 countries had the credentials to do the job.

At the same time, an “Executive Steering Committee” was named to oversee the process, a group whose membership failed to include any faculty, staff, students or alumni members.

Instead, the Transform CSCU 2020 Executive Steering Committee consisted of Board of Regents Chairman Nicholas Donofrio; Board of Regents President Dr. Gregory Gray; The Boston Consulting Group lead Partner on the project, J. Puckett; Catherine Smith, Malloy’s Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development; and John Rathgeber, President of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

While having business interests at the table is certainly appropriate when developing a comprehensive plan for Connecticut’s state universities and colleges, a successful system of public higher education requires more than just a business orientation.

In fact, the notion that something as large, complex and important as the Connecticut state universities and community colleges can be “transformed” from the top down, led by an all business sector Executive Steering Committee that lacks faculty, staff, student or alumni is, in and of itself, a sign that Malloy’s appointees lacked the vision, wisdom and understanding to do the job right.

Transform CSCU 2020:  The Wrong High- Cost Consultants:

Regent President Gray and the Board of Regents’ decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group was also wrong from the start.  The Boston Consulting Group record makes it absolutely clear that it does not understand and respect the culture and environment surrounding education.

The Boston Consulting Group’s plan for the Philadelphia Public Schools provides clear and convincing proof of that problem.  In Philadelphia, the Boston Consulting Group’s recommendation including a plan to “essentially wipe out collective bargaining,” including removing tenure for public school teachers and allowing administrators to hire and fire at will.  The BCG report also recommended “outsourcing maintenance and transportation services,” including getting rid of those who belonged to SEIU Local 32BJ District 1201 unless they gave up their collective bargaining rights.  At its core, the Boston Consulting Group plan for Philadelphia was about replacing public education with publicly funded charter schools.

You can read more about BCG’s dismal approach in Philadelphia via the following links;

Report detailing Boston Consulting Group findings and recommendations released; BCG ‘collective bargaining reform’ and what it would mean for teachers; More About the Boston Consulting Group: Read It and Weep; Ethics complaint accuses Boston Consulting Group, William Penn Foundation of violating lobbying code; Put the Boston Consulting Group where it belongs – before the public; Boston Consulting Group has been a driving force on labor talks, school closings, and charters

And as if that was  not proof enough of the inappropriateness of choosing the Boston Consulting Group, the Board of Regents should have simply read the articles written by the Boston Consulting Group’s lead consultant for the Transform CSCU 2020 plan, J. Puckett. Puckett is the Boston Consulting Group’s “senior partner and managing director” in their Dallas office and is the leader of their “global Education practice.”

Puckett’s articles, including “An Education in Making a Difference,” “The State of Public Education in New Orleans, 2008 Report and “Can Technology Revolutionize Education?.”  They paint the picture of a true champion of the corporate education reform industry.

When writing about the future of public education, Puckett writes, “There are several successful U.S. role models, such as New Orleans and Dallas,” adding, “The turnaround in New Orleans has been especially sharp.”

But of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

As we are painfully aware of here in Connecticut, the work of Paul Vallas and the other corporate education reform industry elite has been disastrous from Chicago to Philadelphia to New Orleans to Bridgeport.

Equally revealing is when the Boston Consulting Groups’ J. Puckett opines about the benefit of technology in the classroom saying, “Several providers, such as K12 and Connections Academy, offer a full range of products, including digital curricula, lesson plans, instructional tools, and teacher training. School systems can take advantage of these resources at greatly reduced costs, rather than go it alone.”

He adds, “Rocketship Education, a charter school network near San Francisco, with national expansion plans, is reinventing how learning takes place in the classroom, asking its students to spend 25 percent of each day in a “learning lab,” where they work on customized, computer-delivered material. During this time, the students are supervised by monitors, rather than teachers, saving significantly on costs.”

The real evidence about K12 Inc. and Rocketship Charter Schools is hardly positive, but anyone familiar with the needs of students would recognize the inherent problem with the notion that, “students are supervised by monitors, rather than teachers, saving significantly on costs.”

Finally, in a 2014 email Puckett makes it clear just what the Boston Consulting Group is doing.

Writing about a new partnership between Boston Consulting Group, the pro-education reform Gates Foundation and Harvard Business School, Puckett writes,

“The BCG-Gates-HBS PK-12 research focuses on best practices for partnerships between business leaders and educators to accelerate improvement in America’s schools. The research has identified three high-leverage ways in which business leaders can engage with educators to bring about significant change for the better:

* Laying the policy foundations for education innovation
* Scaling up proven innovations that boost student outcomes
* Reinventing the local education ecosystem in cities and regions

“It is our pleasure to share with you two joint research reports on these important topics. We hope the first report, Lasting Impact: A Business Leader’s Playbook for Supporting America’s Schools, will inspire business and education leaders to work together on the urgent task of transforming the nation’s education system. The second report, Partial Credit: How America’s School Superintendents See Business as a Partner, summarizes the findings of a nationwide study on U.S. competitiveness and business’ role in education.

Considering the long and proud history of the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges, the Boston Consulting Group should never have been hired for the job of developing Transform CSCU 2020.

A Board of Regents that lacks the necessary or appropriate experience:

Finally, as if the inappropriate top-down approach and selection of Boston Consulting Group wasn’t enough to undermine the legitimacy of the “Transform CSCU 2020” effort, there is the fact that Governor Malloy’s appointees to the Connecticut Board of Regents lack the necessary experience to properly oversee policies that impact the 92,000 students who attend the 17 diverse public universities and colleges that make up the Board of Regents CSCU system.

Many of these political appointees can claim successful careers as corporate executives or business people, but they lack of real-world experience and the experience with these institutions to lead the mission of creating a long-term plan for Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges.

Malloy’s Board of Regent Trustees includes:

Regent Chairman Nicholas M. Donofrio, a former high ranking IBM executive who graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Syracuse University.  He continues to sit on the Board of Trustees for those two institutions.

Regent Vice- Chair Yvette Meléndez, the Vice President of Government and Community Alliances for Hartford Hospital. As her Regent biography proudly claims, “Her experience also includes roles at the State Department of Education, where she led Connecticut’s entry into the charter school movement.”    Her degrees come from Brooklyn College and  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Dr. Lawrence DeNardis, the President Emeritus of the University of New Haven and a former United States Congressman.  His academic experience included time as an Associate Professor at Albertus Magnus College.  His degrees come from College of the Holy Cross and New York University.

Matt Fleury, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Science Center, having previously served as the Center’s Executive Vice President and COO.  His degree comes from the University of Connecticut School of Business.

David R. Jimenez, a shareholder of the law firm of Jackson Lewis. His Regent bio reports that he provides counsel to employers on a variety of strategic matters including HR compliance, outsourcing/in-sourcing HR initiatives, code of conduct development and organizational compliance, and management of employment law exposures.  His degrees are from University of Texas and Hofstra University School of Law,

Craig Lappen, the President of 21st Century Financial Advisors with degrees from Ohio Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut.

Bill McGurk, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Rockville Bank.  He is a graduate of Holy Cross College.

JoAnn H. Price, the co-founder and managing partner of Fairview Capital Partners, Inc. She is a graduate of Howard University.

Elease E. Wright, a former executive at Aetna Inc.  She graduated from the University of Connecticut and served on the Board of Directors for the UConn Foundation.

There are hree other Trustees who do have significantly more CSU or Community College experience, including former Speaker of the House and Lobbyist Richard J. Balducci, former Chair of the House Education Committee Naomi K. Cohen and former President of Charter Oak State College, Merle Harris, but like all good political appointee they have to be extremely cognizant of the wishes of the Malloy administration and their operatives.  The Board of Regents also includes two student representatives.

As the debate about Transform CSCU 2020 continues, the fact is that it could have been a powerful vision to create an even more vibrant state universities and community colleges, but that opportunity has been wasted with the work done to date.

You can read the CT Mirror story here: CSCU leader says balking faculty will eventually praise transformation plan

More on the controversial Transform CSCU 2020 can also be found in the Wait, What? blog entitled, “The stench coming from the Board of Regents.”

The stench coming from the Board of Regents

16 Comments

The October 9th Wait, What? post was entitled, “There is something very, very wrong going on at Connecticut’s Board of Regents.

But no, it was not a blog post about the growing controversy surrounding the effort to jam through the ill-conceived and damaging “Transform CSCU 2020” plan that is being pushed by Regent President Gregory Gray and the members of the Connecticut Board of Regents.

The Wait, What? blog with that title was posted more than two years ago (October 2012) and dealt with the myriad of problems that surfaced when the previous president of the Board of Regents, Robert Kennedy, illegally hand out nearly $300,000 in pay raises to employees in the central office despite state law and the SEBAC labor agreement that prevented such a maneuver.  Three days later, Kennedy submitted his resignation and was gone.

But the sad and shocking reality is that the notion that “there is something very, very wrong going on at Connecticut’s Board of Regents” is even truer today than it was two years ago.

In fact, the action being pursued by the Board of Regents and its current president may well be the worst proposal for public higher education in Connecticut history.

Rather than improve the quality and accessibility of a college education for tens of thousands of Connecticut students, their new plan, would leave Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges a sad empty shadow of what they once were and could be with the proper leadership and support.

To begin to understand the situation, all you have to do is read some of the recent news stories in the CT Mirror and Hartford Courant.

Faculty decry provost’s departure, president’s plan for CSCU’s future and ECSU faculty union gives president’s plans an F and Faculty push back on president’s plans for Connecticut State Universities and Regents Provost Resigns Abruptly After Less Than 8 Months and ECSU Faculty OK Organizing ‘No Confidence’ Vote On Regents President and Smart Classrooms Discussed At Board Of Regents Meeting

But the real problem behind the proposed “Transform CSCU 2020” is far more serious than the media coverage has yet explained.

When William Cibes served as the Chancellor of the Connecticut State University System and Mark Herzog served as the Chancellor of the Connecticut Community & Technical Colleges, the two not only worked to include faculty, staff, students, alumni and the greater community in the decision-making, but they stood as strong advocates for their institutions, rather than tools of any sitting governor.

When push came to shove, these higher education administrators understood that while they were part of the state government, their primary duty was to serve their institutions and their respective missions.

However, the focus of the leadership all changed when Governor Malloy decided to merge the two systems into one entity called the Board of Regents.

Malloy’s disastrous proposal would not have passed but for the lobbying effort of Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman who called Democratic members of the Education Committee to tell them to overrule their chairperson, State Representative Roberta Willis, who was rightly demanding significant changes to the legislation.

The merger of CSU and the Community Colleges was a bad idea to begin with and the situation has only gotten worse over the last three years.

Rather than recognize the importance of both systems, including the growing quality of the Connecticut State University System and the vital importance of the Community College System, the Malloy administration – through its state budgets and appointments to the Board of Regents – has consistently undermined the fundamental mission of those institutions.

The plan to “transform” CSU and the community colleges is but the latest and most profound reminder of Malloy’s disastrous approach to public higher education in Connecticut.

Instead of appointing people who appreciate and understand the vital role that the Connecticut State University and the Community Colleges play, the Malloy administration and the people appointed to the Board of Regents have been engaged in a full-scale effort to limit the institutions’ ability to succeed while transferring the costs of running these public institutions onto the backs of the students and their families.

The problem is that the “Transform CSCU 2020” plan was developed by people who don’t appreciate the role these colleges and universities play in the fabric of Connecticut.

Incredibly, the Board of Regents appears equally blind.

Faced with the need to develop a strategic plan for these public institutions, the Board decided to overlook the expertise here in Connecticut or properly include the input of the faculty, staff, students and alumni of the universities and colleges.

Instead, President Gray and the Board of Regents paid $1.8 million to a multi-national consulting company called the Boston Consulting Group.

The Boston Consulting Group is an entity dedicated to the notion of privatization and implementing “efficiencies.”

One of the Boston Consulting Group’s “claims to fame” is the recent plan to privatize Philadelphia’s public school system, a plan that was adopted by a right-wing governor and has led to the closure of public schools across that city and the rapid expansion of privately-owned, but publicly-funded charter schools.

Some are rightly focused on the question of why the Boston Consulting Group would be allowed to develop such a disastrous “Transform CSCU 2020” plan?

But an equally important question is why the Board of Regents would even hire the consulting group in the first place and whether the majority of the board even knew about the Boston Consulting Group’s history or the appearance of what could be considered serious conflicts of interests?

Insiders at the Board of Regents report that Boston Consulting Group came via the endorsement of President Gray and Nicholas M. Donofrio, the chairman of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.

When announcing their decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group to develop the plan to transform the state university and community college system in April 2014, Regent President Gray said he was confident that the private company with 81 offices in 45 countries had the credentials to do the job.

An Executive Steering Committee was also named to oversee the process, a group whose membership failed to include any faculty, staff, students or alumni members.  Instead the Executive Steering Committee consisted of Board of Regents Chairman Nicholas Donofrio; Board of Regents President Dr. Gregory Gray; J Puckett, Boston Consulting Group Partner and Managing Director; Catherine Smith, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development; and John Rathgeber, President of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

As the controversy surrounding the Boston Consulting Group plan grows, the role of the Board of Regents, and especially its Chairman Nicholas Donofrio, become increasingly important.

The question now is whether the Board will stand up for what is in the best of the state and its citizens or will it continue to align itself with the corporate junk being delivered by the Boston Consulting Group.

The answer may very well rest with Nicholas Donofrio, the Chairman of the Board of Regents.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy nominated Nicholas Donofrio, a former high-ranking IBM executive, to the Board of Regents when the Board was created in 2011 and made him Chairman of the Board on December, 12, 2013.

Despite Connecticut’s Campaign Finance System that was supposed to keep pay-to-play and big money out of politics, Donofrio is what could best be described as one of Malloy’s “super donors.”

After Donofrio was put on the Board of Regents, he and his wife donated $20,000 to the Connecticut Democratic Party’s “federal account,” the entity that Malloy and his campaign operation used to funnel $4.6 million into his re-election campaign on top of the $6.5 million he got from the taxpayer funded State Elections Fund and the $15 million in out-of-state money that was spent to support Malloy’s candidacy this year.

After Donofrio was named chairman of the Board of Regents, he donated another $20,000 to the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee’s “federal account,” making him one of Malloy’s largest donors.  During the same period, Donofrio and is wife also gave the Democratic National Committee more than $103,000.

At the time Malloy appointed Donofrio to serve as the Chairman of the Board of Regents, he praised him for his connections to the “business community” noting that “Donofrio consults and speaks nationally and internationally on a broad range of topics including innovation, technology and education for a broad range of clients and audiences.”

What Malloy didn’t explain was the depth of Donofrio’s real or potential conflicts of interests when it came to serving as the chair and as a guardian of Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges.

Some of those issues might explain how Boston Consulting Group got a lucrative $1.8 million contract to develop a plan that is counter to what is in the best interests of Connecticut and its citizens.

But the record fails to indicate whether Malloy or Donofrio even informed the Board of regents about the potential conflicts of interest.

It turns out that Nicholas Donofrio not only serves as Chairman of the Connecticut Board of Regents but he is a twenty-year veteran of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Board of Trustees and a long-time member of Syracuse University’s Board of Trustees.   He also chaired a special committee that recommended that the University of Vermont have more private trustees and fewer appointed by public officials.

In addition to his relationship with other universities that recruit students from Connecticut,  Donofrio serves on a long list of corporate boards including of The Bank of New York, Wigix, Inc., The MITRE Corporation, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., Liberty Mutual Holding Company, Inc., TopCoder, Inc., Sproxil, Inc. and Delphi Automotive PLC.  He also serves on the boards of StarVest Partners, L.P, Atlas Research LLC., and O’Brien & Gere Limited.

Interestingly, this year State Treasurer Denise Nappier used her voting authority as head of the state pension fund to cast votes for Donofrio for the lucrative board positions on Delphi Automotive plc, The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.  The State Treasurer did the same thing in 2012.

Donofrio also served as one of the members of the Bush administration’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, thanks to the appointment he received from Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

Thanks to a number of these positions, Donofrio has had extensive contact with Boston Consulting Group and those associated with the company.

For example, after leaving her position as Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings formed an education consulting firm and now serves as a senior adviser to the Boston Consulting Group.

Donofrio’s role on the board of The MITRE Corporation also puts him in contact with another senior Boston Consulting Group adviser, Michèle Flournoy.

And other companies Donofrio is affiliated with have retained the services of the Boston Consulting Group, including Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. who brought in the Boston Consulting Group to advise the company on strategy when it decided to restructure and lay off thousands of employees.

While these connections may or may not rise to a conflict of interest, the decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group to “transform” CSU and the Community Colleges is extremely troubling.

And the decision is made worse because of the unlikelihood that Regent President Gray or Regent Chairman Donofrio will do the right thing and throw out this flawed proposal so that a proper plan can be developed with the true input from faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community.

Perhaps even more troubling is Malloy’s conflict of interest.

For someone who claims to be right even when he is wrong, there is ample reason to believe that he won’t demand that the Board of Regents do the right thing when one of his biggest donors is Nicholas Donofrio, who as Chairman of the Board of Regents appears committed to the flawed “Transform CSCU 2020” plan.

Malloy and Democrats eviscerate “Transform CSCU 2020” in the new State Budget

4 Comments

It was with great “fan-fare” that Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy traveled to Manchester Community College this past January to announce his “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative.

Malloy claimed that his plan would provide Connecticut’s State Universities and Community Colleges with an extra $60.2 million in funding.   Governor Malloy stated at the time,

“This is only a down payment… I’m making a personal commitment, and I hope future governors will make a personal commitment to make sure that this program continues.”

At the press conference, the President of Manchester Community College declared,

“We’re here today to celebrate the governor’s goal to support student success by his investment…It’s this investment that will better position us to be on the leading edge with our academic programs and will increase public higher education’s role in sustaining and expanding economic vitality for this state of Connecticut.”

But unfortunately, like so many of Governor Malloy’s “initiatives,” the reality of his plan failed to match the rhetoric delivered at his press conference… In fact, the plan didn’t match the rhetoric at all.

As a result of Malloy’s historic cuts to higher education, Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges are facing a very real and a very serious $42 million shortfall for the coming fiscal year.

This projected budget deficit means that the four Connecticut State University campuses and the twelve community college campuses need $42 million just to maintain the existing level of reduced services, let alone provide additional services to Connecticut’s college students.

Yet rather than confront the budget deficit that resulted from his previous actions, Governor Malloy tried to portray his new proposal as an effort to enhance and expand Connecticut’s public colleges and universities.

By calling his $60 million initiative, “Transform CSCU 2020,” Malloy’s plan was little more than a public relations ploy since realistically, the $42 million of the $60 million of the “new” money is need simply to maintain existing services.  The remaining $20 million was all that would have been available to actually enhance or “Transform” existing programs at these public universities and colleges.

Almost immediately, questions about Malloy’s plan were raised.  Here is a link to the CT Mirror’s story entitled, “Malloy’s CT state college plan:

But even Malloy’s initial gimmick was not to be.

By the time the Connecticut General Assembly was ready to take up the proposed state budget, Malloy’s $60 million “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative, and its complex revenue intercept plan, was gone and replaced with a simple $47 million allocation to the Board of Regents.

And when the budget was actually voted on last Saturday, the “Transform” initiative had dropped again, from $47 million to $42 million —- just enough to fill the budget deficit created by Malloy’s earlier budget cuts.

The truth is that what was left of Malloy’s “Transform” plan left nothing at all for new programs at CSU or the community colleges.

Yet, in a grotesque failure to be honest, Malloy and the General Assembly continued to call the reduced allocation, “Transform CSCU 2020,” leaving many legislators and interested observers thinking that it was the same initiative Malloy had proposed in January.

Also, in typical fashion, Malloy didn’t even properly fund the $42 million budget allocation.

The new state budget actually allocates $23 million in state funds to the Board of Regents to help fill their budget deficit and transfers another $19 million from the financial assets of the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation to the Board of Regents so that it can close the rest of its budget deficit.

Of course, by using one-time revenue, Malloy has assured that the public colleges and universities start the following year with a $19 million deficit and counting…a deficit that will be part of Malloy’s $1.3 billion dollar state deficit that must be cleaned up by the state’s next governor.

Truth be told, in its final form, Malloy’s Transform CSCU 2020 is nothing more than an effort to backfill the budget deficits Malloy’s own plans created.

As an aside, Malloy’s decision to raid the assets of the Connecticut State Loan Foundation wasn’t limited to the $19 million for the State Universities and Community Colleges.

The Governor, with the support of the legislature’s Democrats, also grabbed $4,400,000 of the financial assets of the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation for the “CHET Baby Scholars Program” and $1,600,000 of the financial assets of the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation to pay for the Office of Higher Education’s “Governor’s Scholarship Program.”

Irresponsible budgeting doesn’t even begin to describe what Malloy has done with this new state budget.

There goes another $1.8 million to an out-of-state corporate education reform consulting company

14 Comments

Once again you can hear the high-priced consultants laughing their way to the bank with our tax dollars.

Over the three years, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, has been busy signing contracts with out-of-state consulting companies that are costing Connecticut taxpayers millions of dollars.  The goal has been to bring in private companies that will push Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform agenda.

Now comes the disturbing news that, not to be outdone, Malloy’s Board of Regents is following suit.

The Malloy administration is moving forward with a $1.8 million contract with the Boston Consulting Group to develop its “Transform CSCU 2020” program.  The initiative has been billed as the vehicle to remake the Connecticut State University and Community College System.  (This is not to be confused with the multi-million dollars contract two years ago that was supposed to “remake” the Connecticut State University and Community College System.)

This time the corporate winner is The Boston Consulting Group.

The Boston Consulting Group is one of the nation’s most lucrative corporations when it comes to getting contracts designed to develop anti-teacher, anti-union and anti-public education strategies.

One of The Boston Consulting Group’s claims to fame is that they are the consultants that were retained to help privatize the Philadelphia school system.

As part of their contract in Philadelphia, The Boston Consulting Group recommended that the state oversight board running the Philadelphia public school system close an additional 60 public schools, while handing many of them over to privately run charter school companies.  Their plan will “transform” Philadelphia’s public school system into one in which 40 percent of the city’s public school students will be attending privately run charter schools.

The Boston Consulting Group’s went on to recommend that management of Philadelphia’s public schools be turned over to what they called “achievement networks.”

As Education Week reported at the time,“the transformation blueprint proposes closing one-fourth of the district’s schools while dramatically expanding the number of students enrolled in charter schools.”

Now the same company is coming to “transform” Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges.

Looking at this corporate consulting group’s track record, those who support our public colleges and universities should be very, very worried.

You can read more about this developing story in the Hartford Courant article: http://articles.courant.com/2014-04-17/news/hc-regents-consulting-contract-0418-20140417_1_president-gregory-gray-connecticut-state-colleges-universities-transform-cscu?fb_action_ids=977555005196&fb_action_types=og.recommends

Connecticut to end non-credit remedial courses at public colleges

24 Comments

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

16 Comments

“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”

2 Comments

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

13 Comments

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…

3 Comments

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

Older Entries