Budget Cuts – Round #1, More to Come

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On Thursday, Governor Malloy’s budget director announced a series of significant budget cuts to existing state programs.  The problem is not only the damage the cuts will do but that they solve only a portion of this year’s growing state budget deficit which is now projected at about $100 million.  However, the magnitude of the budget deficit is closer to twice that number, a fact that Malloy can’t keep secret for more than another month or two.

Still Malloy’s initial cuts fly in the face of his repeated promises that Connecticut’s fiscal health is good and that we do not need to cut vital services if the voters of Connecticut granted him a second term in office.

But his actions tell a very different story.

Topping his list of budget cuts was, as expected, Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, along with critically important human services.

CT Mirror has the details at “Malloy’s emergency budget cuts fall on social services, education,” CTNewsJunkie at “Malloy Makes Cuts To DCF, Higher Ed,” and the Courant at “Malloy Makes $47.8M In Budget Cuts To Ease Deficit.”

The most revolting of Malloy’s budget cuts are aimed at Connecticut most vulnerable citizens, children facing severe challenges and those with developmental disabilities.

Malloy cut $9.2 million from the Department of Children and Families and $5.5 million from the Department of Developmental Disabilities.  Since there are only seven months left in the fiscal year, these cuts will hit key programs especially hard.

As reported by CT Mirror and others, Malloy has been limiting access to DCF’s residential treatment programs (group homes for extremely troubled children).   His latest cut will effectively close the door on new placements and lead the closure of even more DCF group homes.

While a Malloy official explained away the problem to the CT Mirror by saying that DCF was, “committed to maintaining youth in their communities in the least restrictive settings that can meet their needs,” the reality of the situation is that there are many parents and children that desperately need residential options.  In far too many cases, the failure to provide a residential placement puts the family and child in danger.

However, in what only can be described as an immoral move, the Malloy administration turns its back on these Connecticut families and children.  If Malloy’s action is not illegal, it should be.

In an equally inappropriate blow, Malloy is cutting the Department of Developmental Services including day services and employment programs for those with developmental disabilities.  Sad and ironic that Malloy reduces residential treatment options and then reduces options for those who need day treatment and employment services.

Malloy’s human service cuts also include $3.2 million cut from the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The cuts to that agency will mean vitally important positions will go unfilled, leaving remaining employees unable to meet the present demand for services.

At the same time the governor is going after human services, he is also cutting an additional $6.5 from Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, this despite the fact that Malloy has already made the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s system of public higher education.

Rather than speak out against these dramatic cuts, the spokespeople for the universities and colleges rolled over in appeasement, thereby assuring that Connecticut students and their parents will be paying even more and getting even less from UConn, CSU and the community colleges.

As Malloy pretends to claim that he is adhering to his “no new taxes” pledge, Connecticut college students and their parents will be paying higher tuition – which is nothing more than a user tax.

But perhaps the most offensive move of all is Malloy’s failure to come clean about the magnitude of the budget problem, even though the election is safely behind him.

While the present budget deficit is officially pegged at about $100 million, Malloy’s budget office is holding back evidence of additional budget problems.  The reality of the situation is that this round of cuts solves less than half of the documented budget deficit and more like 25 percent of the real budget problem facing the state.

Even in victory Malloy remains unable or unwilling to tell the people of Connecticut the truth.

Malloy must take responsibility for many of the these hospital layoffs

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When Governor Malloy proposed his bait and switch “provider tax” strategy he promised hospitals that they would be “held harmless.”  The goal he said was simply to maximize federal reimbursement rates.

But two years later, the impact of Malloy’s decision to renege on that promise is leading to massive layoffs and undermining many of Connecticut’s hospitals.

The news headlines have been shocking;

“The state’s 30 acute care hospitals have shed 1,400 jobs in the past year”

“Hartford HealthCare is eliminating 350 jobs”

“Nearly 70 positions at The William W. Backus and Windham hospitals will be eliminated”

“List shows 176 Connecticut layoff notices so far (Norwalk Hour)”

“116 positions will be eliminated as a result of state budget cuts (Danbury News-Times)”

St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center is reducing the staff at its pediatric and adolescent clinic

“The layoffs announced Monday are the second round in the last seven months.  In November, Hartford HealthCare laid off 179 employees, including 10 each at Backus and Windham.”

So why are people being thrown out of their jobs when access to quality healthcare is more important than ever?

Malloy’s “provider tax” budget gimmick is a major factor.

When Malloy proposed his $1.5 billion tax increase in 2011, the plan also included an additional $350 million “provider tax” on hospitals.  Malloy claimed it wasn’t really a tax because the hospitals would get all the money back and the federal government would reimburse the state for a portion of that money.

Of course, to the self-pay patient, it was a tax.

And to the health insurance company it was yet another cost to be passed on to the people who pay for health insurance.

But the General Assembly approved Malloy’s plan anyway.

As part of his state budget coverage, CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf wrote last year,

“And then there’s really bad news: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy would cut their state funding by one-fifth over the next two years.

Put it all together, hospitals say, and at best, they will cut jobs and services. At worst, some will shut their doors. And facilities in the state’s poor northeastern corner say they are particularly at risk.”

The fact is that while the Malloy administration did pay the hospitals back the first year, his budget REDUCED the amount Connecticut hospitals received by about $27 million in the second year, $134 million the third year and $269 million in this year’s budget.

Overall, as a result of Governor Malloy’s budget strategies, while hospitals are being paid for additional Medicaid services, the State of Connecticut has reduced funding for its 32 chronic care hospitals by about $400 million dollars in the last two years alone.

The massive number of layoffs are proof that the “chickens are coming home to roost.”

And, none of this is a surprise to Malloy and the legislature.

As the Vice President of the Connecticut Hospital Association said,

“In short, what started 18 months ago as a scheme to help balance the state budget … has been converted to an unadulterated tax on hospitals…It’s one thing not to help hospitals, it’s something completely different when you harm hospitals.  “Taking patient care revenue to balance the state budget is just plain wrong.”

The state cuts to hospitals garnered some notoriety last spring when Malloy lost his temper on the WNPR radio show, “Where We Live,”

The CT Mirror reported at the time,

When Malloy appeared on May 6 on WNPR’s public affairs show “Where We Live,” he responded quickly when host John Dankosky asked about the hospital funding reductions the governor’s own budget staff wrote about in his budget.

“Let me stop you right there,” Malloy told Dankosky about four minutes into the program. “There aren’t cuts to hospitals.”

The administration insists that while the hospitals lose $400 million in tax reimbursements, they will make it back. But to do so, hospitals will have to treat thousands more poor patients covered through Medicaid.

“It is time for people to trim their sails, to find ways to deliver great service at less expense,” the governor said, adding that all hospital-related state spending should be $1.7 billion next fiscal year, just as it is this year. “We’re not cutting, we’re funding.”

What Malloy forgot was the evidence of the cuts was part of his own budget documents.

Again quoting the CT Mirror,

When the administration unveiled its latest budget plan in February, it initially referred to those changes in hospital reimbursements as spending cuts.

“The decision to reduce hospital funding was not an easy one,” the governor’s budget introduction states.

While the overall policy is rather complex, the impact has been pretty simple.  The way Malloy has handled the state budget is a primary factor behind the hospital layoffs that are taking place across the state.

The families that are being devastated by these hospital layoffs and the communities being impacted by reduced levels of services should tell Governor Malloy that at the very least, he must take responsibility for the actions he took that are now leading to many healthcare workers losing their jobs.

You can read the CT Mirror’s coverage of this issue here:  http://ctmirror.org/hospitals-warn-budget-cuts-will-cut-jobs-and-services-maybe-close-doors/ and here http://ctmirror.org/semantics-malloys-no-tax-pledge/

School Districts thrown under the bus as Commissioner Pryor ends successful technical services program

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Last Friday, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education quietly ended what has widely been recognized as one of the State Department of Education’s most important and successful programs.

For years, a variety of Connecticut school districts have been receiving vital technical assistance from a group of retired superintendents and senior school administrators through a program housed at the State Department of Education.

The program has functioned thanks to a grant through EASTCONN, the Regional Education Service Center.  The program has funded four State Department “Leaders in Residence,” along with three retired school superintendents.  Together these people have been giving school districts across the state with critically important helpg on a wide variety of projects.

Together, former superintendents Mike Wasta (Bristol), Patrick Proctor (Windham), Jim Mitchel (Groton) and Leaders in Residence, Rosanne Daigneault, Warren Logee, Robert Pitocco and Salvatore Randazzo have more than 250 years of combined expertise on the cutting edge of making schools succeed.  Their expertise ranges from Special Education, to improving teaching to financial management.  Some have Ph.Ds. while others have Education Doctorates.  All have spent their lives here in Connecticut helping improve our schools.

And now, as a result of Pryor’s most recent decision, towns will be losing the very help and expertise they so desperately need.

What is particularly disturbing is that Malloy and Pryor have repeatedly claimed their goal is to help school districts, especially the poorest school districts, succeed.

The hallmark of Malloy’s education reform law, Public Act 12-116, was the creation of so-called “Alliance Districts.”  According to Malloy’s bill, the Alliance District program was developed to focus support and funds on the 30 districts with the “lowest district performance index scores statewide.”

These are the districts that have the highest rates of poverty, the largest number of students who come to school with English language challenges and the communities that have the greatest number of children with special education needs.

And these very districts were among those that benefited the most from the state’s technical assistance programs.

But in a complete reverse of priorities, one of Commissioner Pryor’s top aides at the State Department of Education called these experts together last Friday to inform them, that despite the extraordinary success of their program, the Commissioner was putting an end to their contracts. More

ESPN announces layoffs as part of Malloy’s “Jive Five” Economic Development Program

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The Urban Dictionary defines “jive” as a “colorful form of speaking” that is “sometimes hard to follow.”

In the real world here is how it works;

On August 2, 2011 Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced that, in return for creating 200 new jobs over the next five years, the taxpayers of Connecticut would give ESPN $17.5 million toward the construction of a new building and at least $300,000 to train the new workers.  Malloy explained, “ESPN’s needs are not going to be ignored.”

That corporate welfare package brought the total Connecticut taxpayer support for ESPN to over $100 million in state tax breaks and grants over the past twelve years.

Then yesterday, May 20, 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported that ESPN, “was in the process of laying off a few hundred workers… a sign that the hugely profitable sports cable-TV powerhouse is responding to the rising fees it pays to air games as well as other changes in the media industry…ESPN said some of the job cuts are coming through attrition, or unfilled open positions, and didn’t disclose the precise number or types of workers who are being let go.”

Associated Press added, “ESPN is cutting its workforce, the latest Disney division to reduce staff…’We are implementing changes across the company to enhance our continued growth while smartly managing costs,’ the sports media giant said in a statement Tuesday. ‘While difficult, we are confident that it will make us more competitive, innovative and productive.’”

The AP explained that the ESPN layoffs follow 300 layoffs that occurred at LucasArts and LucasFilms after Disney acquired the companies for $4.1 billion.

As AP noted, “Still, Disney has been on a roll financially, beating or matching earnings per share estimates for the last eight quarters. After it reported a 32 percent gain in net income for its fiscal second-quarter earnings two weeks ago, more than a dozen Wall Street analysts raised their price targets on Disney stock to an average of nearly $72.”

So in essence, despite being an extraordinarily financially successful subsidiarity of an extraordinarily, financially successful company that is doing extraordinarily financially well in this extraordinarily financially successful Wall Street market, ESPN accepted almost $20 million in scarce taxpayer funds and promised to create 200 jobs but is now intentionally keeping vacancies open and laying off Connecticut residents, so that it can appear even more extraordinarily financially successful.

Despite this development, according to the Hartford Courant, when asked about it, a spokesman for the Malloy administration said that ESPN will not be forced out of the First Five program as a result of its layoff plan because it is still intending to add at least 200 jobs during the period starting in August, 2011 when the Governor gave them the public funds.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut General Assembly continues to consider major cuts to some of the most significant and vital human and healthcare services.

Now if that jive is not a “colorful form of speaking” that is “sometimes hard to follow,” I don’t know what is.

Heck, with an average age of 75, retired teachers may not even remember it was Malloy’s proposal

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Last month, in a post entitled, Define fiscally and morally irresponsible? Malloy’s plan for older, retired teachers. Wait, What? readers had a chance to learn about Governor Malloy’s budget proposal to eliminate the state’s contribution to the retired teacher’s health insurance fund. 

The fund pays a portion of the health insurance premiums of retired teachers.  The bulk of the cost still rests on the individual teachers.

The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee will be holding a public hearing on Malloy’s proposal tomorrow.

Malloy’s plan would force the Connecticut Teacher Retirement Board to spend the existing fund down to almost zero over the next two years.

According to an article in yesterday’s CTMirror, while Malloy’s plan would “save the state” $70.7 million in the upcoming FY14-FY15 biannual budget, but it would “put the plan’s funding at a ‘dangerous level in two years.”

Why take such a fiscally irresponsible action you ask?

Because eliminating the contribution would make the state budget look more balanced during the next gubernatorial election cycle, although the “rob Peter to pay Paul” approach would require a massive boost in the state contribution to the teacher’s retirement fund in FY 16, the year after the next election. More

Hold on…Now let me see if I understand what you are saying….

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Pick up any newspaper and you are bound to see at least one story about the impact of budget cuts and another about how state governments are giving money away to private companies in an attempt to convince them to create or retain jobs.

It is quite a commentary about our times.  A lack of adequate funding means people who work for schools, hospitals and nonprofit providers of human services are or will be losing their jobs, while taxpayer continue to provide the money that is being used to try and persuade businesses to pledge that they will create or keep private sector jobs.

True, it may not be the notoriety that we want, but you certainly can’t say that Connecticut hasn’t become the epitome of this paradox.

For example, earlier this week, Wait What? readers were provided an opportunity to read two posts, one entitled Has it come to this…? and another entitled And while cutting essential services, Malloy gives $100,000 to a Stamford Brewery.

The first post reported on a recent Hartford Courant commentary piece by a father lamenting Governor Malloy’s cut to essential programs that help Connecticut’s developmentally disabled residents while the second was about the Governor’s visit to a brew pub in Stamford to celebrate a $100,000 taxpayer-funded grant that the Malloy Administration was giving to help the brew pub expand.

The two stories served to enlighten readers about the reality of our times or the juxtaposition between an era where we are cutting vital services while providing private companies with what some would call economic development incentives and what others would refer to as corporate welfare.

What I failed to report was that, in addition to the brew pub, Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), Catherine Smith, were actually visiting three other companies around the state that day.  All four of the companies were receiving funds thanks to the State’s Small Business Express Program (EXP).

Over the past eighteen months, the Small Business Express Program has given out more than $80 million.  According to state officials, the program has helped “create and retain more than 7,600 jobs.” The Legislature will soon be voting to give the Governor an additional $60 million for this program.

In addition to Stamford’s Half Full Brewery, Malloy was visiting Atlantic Canvas and Awning (a company that received a loan of $50,000 and a matching grant of $10,000); Automotive Core Recycling (a company that recycles and sells catalytic converters and other auto parts and received a $250,000 loan) and Katalina’s (a cup cake bakery that received a loan of $30,000 to add equipment and furnishings to their new retail shop).

According to the Department of Economic and Community Development, the $50,000 loan and $10,000 grant “support the creation of three new jobs and retained four,” the $250,000 loan translated into one new position and retained 8 jobs, while the $30,000 loan to the bakery “created one full time job and retained two full time and two part time jobs.”

The Governor’s press release that day announced that the Small Business Express Program has already created or retained more than 1400 jobs in 2013.

Meanwhile that distraught and frustrated father, along with the others who care for Connecticut’s developmentally disabled, try to cope with Governor Malloy’s $6 million cut to employment and day service programs.

Actually, that $6 million cut was part of a much bigger list of cuts Governor Malloy ordered last November 28, 2012.   That day, back in November, Governor Malloy announced $170 million in budget rescissions.

The press release didn’t actually quote Governor Malloy. Instead the task of explaining the cuts was left to Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget director.  Barnes wrote, “Many of these cuts are very difficult to make, especially now when so many residents continue to struggle in a tough economy, But as painful as they are, cuts are necessary to keep this year’s budget in balance.  State government needs to live within its means.”

The November list included a wide variety of reductions including a $53,000 cut to the Division of Criminal Justice’s Shooting Task Force; a $200,000 cut to the Jobs First Employment Service Program, a $488,000 cut to the state’s Environmental Quality Program; a $335,000 cut to the Department of Health’s Community Health Services Program and $41,000 cut to their Genetic Diseases Program; a $433,000 cut to the state’s Community Mental Health  Centers, a $2.3 million cut to home care services that keep people out of more expensive nursing homes and hospitals and the list goes on and on.

More recently, the state budget plan that Governor Malloy proposed a month ago continued those cuts.  In fact, his new budget makes even deeper cuts to a variety of vital and essential services.

So how is it possible that a Governor would be instituting record budget cuts while giving away record amounts of taxpayer funds to private businesses?

Truth be told, it is the difference between how the State operating budget works compared to the way the State Capital or Bond budget functions.

Even in the desperate times, the Capital budget continues to pump out cash.

The State’s operating budget is paid for with tax dollars.  The State’s Capital Budget is funded via the state’s credit card.

Because we are borrowing the money and then paying the amount (plus interest) back over twenty years, the argument is that cutting the Capital Budget won’t help to balance this year’s operating budget.  This year’s operating budget is still facing a $135 million plus deficit despite the terrible cuts instituted by the Governor and the additional cuts approved by the General Assembly.

Although Connecticut already has the highest per capita debt burden in the nation, since the word “deficit” applies to the operating budget and not the Capital Budget, we end up with a situation in which vital services are cut at the same time money is being handed out.

In fact, if Governor Malloy gets his way, we’ll see more cuts to essential services and more layoffs of hospital and human service workers in the coming months, and at the same time, the General Assembly will be allocating even more money for the Governor to hand out to the private sector.

And while cutting essential services, Malloy gives $100,000 to a Stamford Brewery

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In a tribute to modern American politics, while Sunday’s newspaper featured the article by the father of the 28-year-old intellectually disabled daughter who wrote, “Amid Stark State Cuts, A Father’s Plea: Who Will Care for Katie?”; the Monday paper featured a photo-op of Governor Dannel Malloy in his hometown of Stamford celebrating a grant for $100,000 to the Half Full Brewery.

Thanks to Malloy’s $100 million Small Business Express Program, in which the state borrowed $100 million to give away operating grants to various businesses, the Stamford beer pub got a helping hand from Connecticut’s taxpayers.

Billed as a way to provide “working capital” to small business, the program effectively picks winners and losers, all funded at taxpayer expense.

While supporting small business is probably a better economic development strategy then giving away tens of millions to corporate giants, the actual benefit of many of the grants remains doubtful.

With the legislation approved in October 2011, the Malloy administration has funded 598 applications to the tune of about $80 million.

Despite the record budget cuts included in his new budget, the Governor is proposing to borrow another $60 million for the corporate welfare program.  While the Stamford brew pub is undoubtedly appreciative of the $100,000 gift, there was no word from the state’s other small beer manufactures (23 of them) or the state’s hard cider manufactures (8 of them) or the state’s apple brandy manufacturers (3 of them) or the state’s liquor manufactures (12 of them).

You can catch the story and a picture of Malloy at the beer tasting at: http://stamford.dailyvoice.com/business/gov-dannel-malloy-gets-taste-stamford-brewery

 

Has it come to this…?

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Over the weekend, there was a heart-wrenching commentary piece in the Hartford Courant that was written by the father of a 28-year-old intellectually disabled daughter.

His daughter’s name is Katie and he wrote, “She lives at home with my wife, Donna and me. She is the love of our lives and we embrace the gifts she brings to us and to all who know her.”

His piece was entitled, “Amid Stark State Cuts, A Father’s Plea: Who Will Care for Katie?”

Katie’s father reported that “Last November, the governor exercised his rescission authority and, without notice, reduced funding for people with disabilities who receive residential and day services. Making these cuts permanent, as proposed, delivers a body blow to vital assistance Katie receives from the Department of Developmental Services through organizations such as HARC. The latter is a long-respected family organization that provides critical services for people like Katie. It was founded by parents like me as a self-help group, at a time when institutionalization was the only choice for help. The splendid people at both these agencies are a blessed lifeline for my daughter and others.”

While every Connecticut resident, and especially every elected official should read the full article, it is easy to understand his core message.

There are useful state services, there are important state services, there are vital state services and then there are essential state services.

The services that Katie and her family receive are truly essential.

These services are essential, not only because we hold ourselves out to be a humane and caring society, but because the cost of respite and day services allow thousands of our fellow citizens to live at home rather than in far more costly institutions.

These are services that government provides because it is the right thing to do.

There are also services that when cut define the notion of being pennywise and pound foolish.

No governor, Democrat or Republican should have cut those services, but Governor Malloy did.

No Legislature, Democrat or Republican should have allowed those cuts to go forward, but Connecticut’s legislature did.

Reasonable people can have reasonable discussions and debates about appropriate levels of taxes and services, but a stunning large number of the cuts in Governor Malloy’s rescission package and the deficit mitigation package that he proposed and the legislature passed with bi-partisan support were not reasonable.

Those cuts passed because few legislators took the time to study the package and fewer still had the courage to stand up and say no to this governor.

Over the next 90 days the Connecticut General Assembly will be reviewing Malloy’s budget proposal for the next two fiscal years.

There is truly no excuse for aspects of what Malloy has proposed and even fewer excuses for the legislature to accept them.

Take a moment to read this father’s piece and  know that it is just one example of budget cuts that have been made or are being contemplated that leave some of our most vulnerable fellow residents without the help and support they so deeply need and deserve.

Government officials will only respond when they know that their constituents will hold them accountable for their actions.

It is essential that our elected officials understand that that is exactly what we are going to do.

You can read the commentary piece at:  http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-duffy-who-will-care-for-katie-0303-20130301,0,7996231.story

Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan – even worse than we thought (by Wendy Lecker)

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When you take a break from digging out from the “Great Blizzard of 2013,” I strongly urge you to take a moment today to read Heart Newspaper columnist and fellow blogger, Wendy Lecker’s, latest commentary piece entitled “Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan – even worse than we thought.”

Wendy’s article is the clearest description to date of the dishonest, disastrous and counter-productive evaluation system that Governor Malloy, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and his State Board of Education are trying to foist upon the teachers, administrators, students and parents who are part of Connecticut’s public education system.

The waste of time, energy and money associated with this abomination is staggering.

Even in a time of unlimited public resources, the program the Malloy and his Department of Education is pushing would be inappropriate, but now, as Connecticut continues to struggle through the greatest economic troubles of our times; their plan is nothing short of a criminal waste of taxpayer funds.

As Wendy Lecker writes;

“It turns out state’s proposed teacher evaluation program is far worse than I originally believed it to be.

Connecticut’s plan involves using “indicators of student growth” to form 22.5 percent of an evaluation. For grades and subjects covered by the CMTs or CAPTs, teachers must use those scores as a basis for their evaluation.

In my previous columns, I wrongly assumed that Connecticut would use the unreliable “value-added” model (VAM) as the foundation of this 22.5 percent. However, it has come to light that Connecticut’s model is much worse.

The value-added model would be bad enough. VAM is a flawed attempt to isolate the teacher effect on a student’s test scores. We have all heard that a teacher is “the most important in-school influence on students.”

There is no denying that teachers have a profound influence on students’ ways of thinking, their emotional development and other crucial aspects of children’s intellectual growth that cannot be measured on standardized tests. However, those who trumpet this claim refer to a teacher’s influence on a student’s test scores.

But decades of evidence prove that out-of-school factors account for the vast majority of a student’s test scores. Even those claiming teachers’ outsize influence on test scores only attribute 7.5 percent to 8.5 percent of a test score to variation in teacher quality.

Therefore, VAM’s goal is to tease out that 8.5 percent. As I have previously shown, a large and growing body of evidence proves that VAM fails at this task. VAM ratings based on test scores have a 50 percent misclassification rating, with a variance based on the test, the year, the class and even the statistical model used. It is dangerous to use this measure for even 22.5 percent of a rating because it is so unstable. Because it varies so wildly, the test-score-based rating will become the tipping point in most evaluations, despite its small percentage. Moreover, being a so-called hard number, it will inevitably be the main focus of evaluations.

Apparently, in thinking that state education officials would use VAM, I was giving them too much credit.

Connecticut is not using VAM. Instead, Connecticut is using something much worse: a “student growth” model.

Here is how it works. At the beginning of the year, a teacher in a subject covered by the CMTs or CAPTs chooses a goal. It can be that X percent of the class will move from proficiency to goal. Or, it can be that the average vertical-scale score of the class will increase by X percent. (Recall from an earlier column that vertical-scale scores basically only measure whether a child is a good test-taker.) Testing experts use statistical models to predict test-score increases. Teachers, I guess, are supposed to use their intuition — about children they have just met. Then, the teacher will be evaluated on whether she meets that goal.

Let us put aside the lunacy of having a teacher predict score increases and focus on Connecticut’s model. Unlike VAM, which tries and fails to isolate teacher effect, “student growth models” do not even attempt to isolate that 8 percent. There is no mechanism in Connecticut’s system that even tries to distinguish between all the factors affecting student test scores and the one factor upon which a teacher’s job will depend.

Lecker provides even more details in her latest commentary piece.

In the coming weeks we’ll dig even deeper into this absurd plan, but if you want to get a basic primary on how the education reformers are wasting our tax dollars, undermining the teaching professional and destroying our public schools, I urge you to start by reading – and then re-reading Wendy Lecker’s great piece.

Wendy Lecker: Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan – even worse than we thought

Find it at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Connecticut-s-teacher-evaluation-4263492.php#ixzz2KQco2hL8

Malloy presents his blueprint for Connecticut: Record borrowing, cuts to vital services and non-tax tax increases

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There are a lot of things I don’t agree with Senator John McKinney about, but in this case he is absolutely right. Governor Malloy’s proposed budget is a sham and a shame. It is an embarrassment that a Democrat proposed such an irresponsible budget and the Democrats in the Legislature will need to start from scratch.

As Senator McKinney put it, “”There’s so many gimmicks. I don’t know where to stop…This is the most dishonest budget I’ve seen.”

He is sadly correct in his assessment.

Governor Malloy told the Connecticut General Assembly;

“The budget I am proposing today keeps Connecticut moving forward… [and is] “an honest, balanced budget [that emphasizes] living within our means.”

But, in fact, it is a proposed state budget that;

  • Coddles the rich by refusing, once again, to require them to pay their fair share in taxes
  • Includes the largest gas tax increases in state history
  • Shifts tens of millions in municipal aid to the state’s credit card
  • Includes more than $250 million in cuts to vital social services
  • Cuts $146 million in state aid for Connecticut hospitals (on top of the $103 million cut)
  • Eliminates Medicaid coverage for thousands of poor parents who are now covered by the program that covers their poor children
  • Eliminates the Charter Oak Health Plan, an insurance program for those who can’t get affordable healthcare elsewhere
  • Reduces the state’s new Earned Income Tax Credit from 30 percent of the federal EITC to 25 percent (retroactive to Jan. 1), thereby removing a portion of the incentive that seeks to keep the working poor working as opposed to going on welfare.
  • Creates a new tax on power plants and continues a surcharge on the corporation tax — both of which were set to expire next fiscal year
  • Borrows $750 million replace the plan he never implemented to move the state to GAAP financing
  • Creates a $631 million state budget deficit in FY16
  • And MOST IMPORTANTLY balances the budget by delaying repayment of $1 billion that Connecticut borrowed in 2009 under Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

For more on this absurd plan read:

http://ctmirror.org/story/19035/malloy-avoids-big-tax-hikes-uses-borrowing-social-service-cuts-balance-new-budget

http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/budget_increases_spending_9_percent_proposes_radical_changes_to_municipal_f/

http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-state-budget-20130205,0,746324.story

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