Why would Norwalk hire one of Malloy’s key witnesses against fair school funding for Norwalk

There are many questions about why the Norwalk Board of Education would hire the extremely controversial and combative Steven Adamowski to be the community’s next superintendent of schools.

Adamowski has left a trail of destruction behind him.  One need only ask parents, teachers, school administrators and taxpayers in Windham, New London and even Hartford.

But above all else, not only is Adamowski one of Governor Dannel Malloy’s closest advisors and allies when it comes to education, Adamowski – who is presently on the payroll of Malloy’s Department of Education – is one of Malloy’s star witnesses in the effort to derail and destroy the critically important CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Lawsuit.

In fact, when the CCJEF v. Rell case finally goes to trial later this year, Steven Adamowski will be there.

But Adamowski won’t be there to testify on behalf of Connecticut’s public school students, teachers, parents and schools.  And he won’t be there to testify on behalf of Connecticut’s property taxpayers.

And he certainly won’t be there to testify on behalf of the best interests of Norwalk.

He will actually be there to testify against all of those people.

Instead, Steven Adamowski will be there to testify on behalf of Governor Dannel Malloy and his effort to stop Connecticut’s judicial branch from finally requiring that the state of Connecticut to design and adopt a fair and equitable school funding system.

The truth is that Steven Adamowski has already given a deposition in support of Malloy’s position and against the interest of Norwalk and all the other communities that are fighting so hard to force Connecticut’s elected officials to adopt a fair, equitable and constitutional school funding formula.

Here at Wait, What? I’ve called the CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit the single most important court case of our lifetime.   There are almost as many posts about the CCJEF case as there are against Adamowski.

CCJEF v. Rell is the case that correctly argues that Connecticut’s school funding system is unconstitutional and that Connecticut’s Governor and General Assembly have a fundamental duty to adopt a school funding formula that finally ensures that towns get the financial aide they need to ensure that ensure that every Connecticut child has the opportunity to succeed.

The CCJEF v. lawsuit is also proof that that there are some issues that are so important that the partisan divide that is undermining our nation is put aside.

It is an issue that is so vital to the future well-being of our citizens that Democrats and Republicans are actually willing to work together for the common good.

And it is a lawsuit that would probably benefit the children and taxpayers of Norwalk more than any other town in Connecticut.

And yet, the Norwalk Board of Education appears to be on the verge of handing control of their public schools over to someone who has is a star witness for Governor Malloy’s on-going attempt to undermine and defeat this critically important lawsuit.

For those who don’t know what the CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit is all about they may want to start by reading some of the Wait, What? posts on the issue.  See: NEWS FLASH: Kids win, Malloy/Jepsen lose as judge rules school funding trial to begin this summer and Whatever you do, don’t mention school funding and the school funding lawsuit! and Jepsen, Malloy and playing politics with the law…

Those who already know how important the case is and how hard Governor Malloy has been working to undermine the case should look to Norwalk’s own media coverage on the topic.

Start with the article written by the Norwalk Hour’s Korey Wilson who just a year ago published an article entitled, “Lawsuit against state aims to revamp educational funding formula,”

NORWALK — A lawsuit filed against the state nearly 10 years ago, which calls for a revamping of the Education Cost Sharing Formula, will finally go to trial in September.

The plaintiff in the suit is the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF), a nonprofit organization launched in 2004 by the mayors of several cities and now includes municipalities, boards of education, professional education associations, teachers and parents.

Read the Hour’s story entitled, “Rilling named to Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding; school funding lawsuit goes to trial in September,” which explained,

NORWALK — A landmark lawsuit by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding to revamp school funding statewide will go to trial in September and Norwalk will have a strong stake in the proceedings and outcome.

Mayor Harry W. Rilling was recently appointed the to coalition’s steering committee.

“This is a way that we can fight for equal funding for our schools and our children,” Rilling said. “It’s my hope that we will prevail and that we will be able to reduce significantly the tax burden off the shoulder’s of our homeowners, who are being overly taxed for our educational system.”

The Education Cost Sharing Formula allocates state money to local school districts based, among other things, upon a city’s or town’s tax base, poverty and the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

Local officials, from both sides of the political aisle, have long labeled the formula unfair to Norwalk. Norwalk is not alone in that belief.

Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF), a nonprofit organization, was launched in 2004 by the mayors of several cities and now includes municipalities, boards of education, professional education associations, teacher and other unions, parents and others.

In 2005, CCJEF filed suit against the state. In CCJEF v. Rell, the coalition alleges that “the state’s failure to suitably and equitably fund its public schools has irreparably harmed thousands of Connecticut schoolchildren.”

And definitely read about how Norwalk’s Mayor has been working so hard on behalf of the case in the article entitled, Rilling vows to obtain more state aid for schools

NORWALK — Mayor Harry W. Rilling on Monday vowed to become more active in the litigation aimed at getting more state aid for Norwalk schools.

Rilling said he has traveled to Hartford three times and has spoken with state budget Director Benjamin Barnes about changing the Education Cost Sharing formula but concluded the matter shouldn’t be left solely for the General Assembly to decide.

“We will also need a state constitutional mandate to make sure the educational needs of our children will be met,” Rilling said. “Therefore, I will continue to support the education funding lawsuit by maintaining Norwalk’s membership in the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding that was initiated by Mayor (Alex) Knopp and continued by Mayor (Richard) Moccia.”

The mayor said he plans to seek a more active role in the coalition by volunteering membership on the organization’s steering committee.

And then, after you understand just how important this lawsuit is to Norwalk and the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers of Connecticut, ask yourself…

Why on earth would the Norwalk Board of Education turn control of Norwalk’s schools over to someone who is not only on Malloy’s payroll but is actually one of Malloy’s most outspoken witnesses in a case that would benefit the children AND taxpayers of Norwalk.

For more about Norwalk’s history with this important case read, also consider reading the following articles from Nancy on Norwalk.

Norwalk bemoans inadequate state education funding

‘Unfair’ Connecticut education formula to be challenged this fall

Letter: The next fight for education funding

Norwalk Mayor’s Night Out focuses on finances

Questions that teachers (parents, public school advocates and all voters) should be asking…

Over the next week, the leadership of the Connecticut Education Association will be deciding whether to follow the lead of the American Federation of Teachers and endorse Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest school districts or whether they will endorse another candidate or whether they should make no endorsement in this year’s gubernatorial election.

Here are some of the issues that Connecticut’s public school teachers should be mulling over;

Issue #1:  As has been noted repeatedly, no other Democratic governor in the nation has proposed doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the poorest and lowest performing public schools.   At a candidate debate earlier this month, Malloy tried to clarify his infamous observation that teachers need only show for four years to get tenure by saying,

I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure… I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

Wait, What? … Malloy’s comment wasn’t about teachers, “It was about tenure?

If Malloy thought he deserved the support of Connecticut’s teachers, why hasn’t he publicly renounced his anti-tenure, anti-collective bargaining proposal?

 

Issue #2:  Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative requires teacher evaluation programs to be linked to standardized test scores despite the fact that standardized tests scores are primarily influenced by poverty, language barriers, and the lack of special education services for students rather than teacher performance.  On the other hand, there are multiple teacher evaluation models that do not tie teacher evaluations to unfair, inappropriate and misleading standardized test results.

If Malloy wanted to show he understands the challenges facing teachers and public education why hasn’t he said that, if re-elected, he will decouple the mandated teacher evaluation system from unfair standardized testing?

 

Issue #3:  When running for governor in 2006 and 2010, Malloy admitted that Connecticut’s present Education Cost Sharing Formula is outdated and inadequate.  As Mayor of Stamford, Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in the critically important CCJEF v. Rell court case, but as governor he has spent the last four years trying to get the case dismissed and then postponed until after this year’s election.

If Malloy believes he deserves the votes of teachers (and parents and taxpayers), why won’t he simply say that if he gets a second term in office he will settle the CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit and use the CCFEF Coalition’s expertise to fix Connecticut’s broken school funding system?

 

Issue #4:   As Governor, Malloy has increased state funding for privately-run charter schools by 73.6% while providing Connecticut’s public schools with only a 7.9% increase in support.  Virtually all of the new funding was allocated to the state’s 30 so-called Alliance Districts (with major strings attached).  The result has been a loss of local control for Connecticut’s poorest towns and no meaningful support for middle-class towns that have become even more reliant on regressive local property taxes.

If Malloy wants teachers, parents and public school advocates to vote for him, why hasn’t he announced that he will institute a moratorium on additional charter schools and devote scarce public resources to where they belong…Connecticut’s real public schools?

 

Issue #5:  COMMON CORE AND THE COMMON CORE TESTING SCHEME

The Common Core and its associated massive Common Core Testing Scheme have become particularly controversial.  Tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on the massive standardized testing program.  In addition, the Malloy administration has repeatedly lied and mislead parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the new tests.

If Malloy wants a second term, why hasn’t he ordered his State Department of Education to be honest with parents (and teachers) and tell parents that they DO HAVE A RIGHT TO OPT THEIR CHILDREN OUT OF THE COMMON CORE TESTING SCHEME and why does he continue to support the implementation of the Common Core and its massive Common Core Testing program?

These and many other important education issues will face the individual who is elected in November.

Before endorsing or supporting or voting for any candidate, Connecticut’s public school teachers (and every other Connecticut voter) should ask why Malloy has failed to adequately address these important issues.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Governor Malloy’s record on state funding for public schools

A blog post that highlights the problem (see the Part I) and starts to lay out the solution (see Part II.)

PART I:  The problem

Malloy’s record on state funding of public schools.

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy likes to brag that he has increased funding for Connecticut schools.  While he did raise taxes, in part to increase funding for education, he fails to mention how he played favorites with those funds.

In fact, Malloy poured tens of millions of dollars into Connecticut’s privately-run charter schools while leaving the primary burden to pay for the costs of running Connecticut’s public schools on the backs of local property taxpayers.

EXAMPLE #1:  Charter Schools vs. Public Schools:  

The amount and percent change in funding as a result of Malloy’s budgets (in millions of dollars)

FY11 FY15 % CHANGE
Charter Schools  $          53  $          92 73.6%
 ECS  $    1,889  $    2,039 7.9%

 

Since Governor Malloy took control of the state budget, state funding for privately-run charter schools has increased by an incredible 73.6% [from $53 million to $92 million].  And that doesn’t even count the millions more in special grants and bonding funds that the Malloy administration has thrown at charter school companies like Achievement First Inc. and Jumoke Academy.

EXAMPLE #2:  Failure to adequately fund Connecticut’s Public Schools while doctoring the Education Funding Formula.  

And while Connecticut’s charter schools were wallowing in their 73.6% increase in taxpayer funds, Connecticut’s public school districts were provided with only a 7.9% increase in support over the four fiscal years that Malloy has controlled the state budget.

Malloy’s failure to provide adequate funding for Connecticut’s public schools is not only unconstitutional, but means that the burden of paying for public schools in Connecticut has shifted even more onto the backs of local property taxpayers.

Equally noteworthy is the way the Malloy administration was able to manipulate Connecticut’s school funding formula to benefit particular towns.  While the Education Cost Sharing Formula is supposed to help poorer towns more than wealthier towns, even a cursory review of the change in funding reveals that some poorer towns “won” while others didn’t do so well.

What is also clear is that Malloy’s education funding policies have been particularly unfair to most of Connecticut’s middle income school districts.

The following chart highlights the change in state education funding for a cross-section of Connecticut towns since Malloy became governor.

 

TOWN FY11 FY15 % CHANGE
(In millions)      
Stamford  $         8.0  $       10.6 32.5%
Hamden  $       23.0  $       27.0 17.4%
East Hartford  $       42.0  $       49.0 16.7%
New Britain  $       74.0  $       85.0 14.9%
West Hartford  $       16.0  $       18.2 13.8%
Manchester  $       30.6  $       34.5 12.7%
Bridgeport  $    164.0  $    180.0 9.8%
New Haven  $    142.0  $    154.6 8.9%
East Haven  $       18.7  $       20.0 7.0%
Hartford  $    188.0  $    201.0 6.9%
Glastonbury  $         6.2  $         6.6 6.5%
Wethersfield  $         8.0  $         8.5 6.3%
Rocky Hill  $         3.4  $         3.6 5.9%
Naugatuck  $       29.2  $       30.8 5.5%
Stratford  $       20.5  $       21.4 4.4%
Southington  $       19.8  $       20.4 3.0%
Plainville  $       10.1  $       10.4 3.0%
Torrington  $       23.9  $       24.6 2.9%
Watertown  $       11.7  $       12.0 2.6%
Wallingford  $       21.4  $       21.8 1.9%
Thomaston  $         5.6  $         5.7 1.8%
South Windsor  $       12.8  $       13.0 1.6%
Wolcott  $       13.5  $       13.7 1.5%
Plainfield  $       15.4  $       15.6 1.3%

 

The candidates running for governor need to be asked – What are they going to do to properly fund Connecticut’s public schools?

  • Hint:  Candidates – Here is part of the answer:

Part II:  The Solution to Connecticut’s School Finance Crisis:

Connecticut’s governor is the one who must be responsible for taking the lead in revamping Connecticut’s school funding system.  The only true, honest and effective solution is to develop a funding system that reflects the real cost of delivering quality education for every child.

With the critical assessment in place, the Governor and the state of Connecticut must then take dramatic steps to improve the level of state resources going to local school districts.  In that way, the state can ensure that there is real equity across districts lines and that all of Connecticut’s public schools have the resources necessary to provide the equal educational opportunities that are mandated by Connecticut’s constitution and required by a just society.

The truth is that school funding improvements are imperative for closing the unconscionable achievement gap and securing the kind of society and competitive workforce that all our residents need and deserve.

A 21st century school system cannot be achieved through the corporate education reform industry’s agenda of more standardized testing, the privatization of our public schools and the unwarranted and inappropriate attack on our public school teachers.

Instead it requires proper leadership and adequate funding.  The lion’s share of responsibility for funding public schools in Connecticut must be shifted to the state level, where it constitutionally belongs.  A primary benefit of this shift will be to significantly reduce our reliance on Connecticut’s regressive property tax system.

Revenue rebalancing that entails changing the way schools are funded means that all tax/revenue streams will have to be reexamined through the lens of equity, adequacy, and sustainability.

The burden can no longer be unfairly shouldered by struggling middle income and working family homeowners, senior citizens, or others living on modest, fixed incomes.

Rather the burden must be fairly shared by all sectors of the State’s economy, including the wealthy who are simply not paying their fair share.

The critically important CCJEF v. Rell school finance lawsuit, scheduled to go to trial after the election, would accomplish all these goals.  The solutions outlined in the CCJEF lawsuit are the very solutions that will ensure that Connecticut can provide all of its children with the knowledge, skills and training they will need to live more fulfilling lives.

Rather than fighting Connecticut’s schools, students, parents, teachers and property taxpayers in the courtroom, Governor Malloy (and Attorney General George Jepsen) should have settled the CCJEF case and used that coalition’s expertise to help fix the broken school funding system.

The voters of Connecticut can now do what Governor Malloy refused to do.

The voters can pick a candidate for Governor who commits to settling the CCJEF lawsuit because that will be the candidate who understands what must really be done to properly fund our public schools and put Connecticut back on track.

NEWS FLASH: Kids win, Malloy/Jepsen lose as judge rules school funding trial to begin this summer

In a stunning defeat of Governor Malloy’s political strategy to push off CCEJF v. Rell school funding debate until after the 2014 gubernatorial election, a superior court judge ruled today that the trial will begin as scheduled.

The trial date for the CCEJF .v Rell was scheduled to begin July 2014 beck in December 2011, but since then Governor Malloy, Attorney General George Jepsen, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the Malloy administration wasted thousands of hours, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to have the critical case dismissed.

And when that strategy failed, Malloy and Jepsen had the unmitigated gall to try and delay the trial for fifteen months until after the 2014 gubernatorial.

But in a move that proves some members of the judicial branch of government still believe in fulfilling their constitutionally sworn duties, Superior Court Judge Kevin Dubay rejected the state’s effort and ordered the trail to begin as scheduled this summer.

In response the attorney’s representing Attorney General Jepsen and Governor Malloy said that the plaintiffs should expect the trail to do for months.

An easy threat to make considering the state’s attorneys are paid for by the Connecticut taxpayers while the people bringing the lawsuit on behalf of Connecticut’s school children are trying to put the case together with limited resources and donated legal assistance.

How Malloy and his administration have handled the CCEFJ v. Rell school funding case should be one of the most important voting issues of the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

For those who don’t know that much about the case, here is the Wait, What? article that was posted yesterday.

Whatever you do, don’t mention school funding and the school funding lawsuit!

The Malloy administration will be back in a Connecticut courtroom tomorrow, January 16, 2014, in their unending effort to destroy, derail or delay the court case known as Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell.

CCJEF v. Rell is not only the most important school funding lawsuit in Connecticut history, it is safe to say that it is one of the most significant cases since Connecticut’s State Constitution was updated and adopted in 1965.

The case, which was filed in 2005, has already been to the Connecticut’s Supreme Court where the state’s highest court ruled that Connecticut’s State Constitution requires the state to provide every child will a quality public education.

When the Supreme Court reached its decision, it sent the case back to the trial court to determine what actions the state of Connecticut must take to fulfill that Constitutional responsibility.

Although Governor Dannel Malloy, when he was Mayor Dan Malloy, was an original plaintiff in the case and campaigned for governor on a platform of resolving the case, upon being sworn as Governor Malloy he did a “180” on the issue and with the help of Attorney General George Jepsen has been trying to get to the case dismissed.

But late last year a Connecticut Judge threw out every motion Malloy and Jepsen had submitted and ordered that the full court trial on the case begin on July 1, 2014.

But July 1, 2014 is in the middle of the 2014 gubernatorial campaign and the last thing that Governor Malloy wants in the news is coverage of his failed education policies.

So Malloy and Jepsen have taken the incredible step of trying to get the case “delayed” until after the election.

You can read more about the CCEJF case in the following Wait, What? posts.

The CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Case: The incredible transformation of Malloy and Jepsen

As the CT Mirror reported in a recent article entitled, “State seeks to delay education-funding trial until after election,” The state is asking that the trial over whether Connecticut is spending enough money on education be pushed back until after the gubernatorial election in the fall.”

Attorney General Jepsen, with Malloy’s help and support, has submitted a motion to delay the trial until October 2015.

According to their brief, the Malloy administration is arguing, “The stakes in this case are enormous…When the stakes are this high, the defendants, on behalf of the taxpayers in Connecticut, are entitled to know and understand the plaintiffs’ case, not as it existed four or more years ago, but as it will actually be presented at trial.”

This comes from the people who were responsible for delaying the case in the first place.

As the CT Mirror reports, Malloy and Jepsen want the case delayed until after the election because, “the plaintiffs -– a group of mayors, parents and leaders of teachers’ unions — need to update their complaint and experts’ reports to reflect the current educational landscape, which warrants delaying the trial.”

In response, as the CT Mirror explains;

“‘Defendants are responsible for delay,’” attorney Helen V. Cantwell writes on behalf of the plaintiffs. “’The interests of justice would be better served by a scheduling order that preserves the July 1, 2014 trial date.’”

Cantwell points out that their experts can testify about the current condition of the educational funding structure at trial, that the State Department of Education continues to reject their requests for information so they can prepare for trial, and that the state has blown through several deadlines for reporting their expert witnesses.”

The article concludes with a prepared statement from Attorney General George Jepsen’s office which reads;

“Of primary concern, the plaintiffs rely on expert witnesses whose opinions are based on the educational and funding system as it was years in the past. The state is entitled to know before trial what those experts think of the current state of education and the impacts on it of the Governor’s comprehensive education reforms. We have no interest in delaying this case for delay’s sake, but we do insist that the state’s taxpayers are entitled to receive a fair hearing.”

The CCEJF v. Rell case, perhaps more than any other issue that has developed during Malloy’s tenure, highlights Malloy’s approach to politics and policy.

And meanwhile, the children of Connecticut be damned.

Whatever you do, don’t mention school funding and the school funding lawsuit!

The Malloy administration will be back in a Connecticut courtroom tomorrow, January 16, 2014, in their unending effort to destroy, derail or delay the court case known as Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell.

CCJEF v. Rell is not only the most important school funding lawsuit in Connecticut history, it is safe to say that it is one of the most significant cases since Connecticut’s State Constitution was updated and adopted in 1965.

The case, which was filed in 2005, has already been to the Connecticut’s Supreme Court where the state’s highest court ruled that Connecticut’s State Constitution requires the state to provide every child will a quality public education.

When the Supreme Court reached its decision, it sent the case back to the trial court to determine what actions the state of Connecticut must take to fulfil that Constitutional responsibility.

Although Governor Dannel Malloy, when he was Mayor Dan Malloy, was an original plaintiff in the case and campaigned for governor on a platform of resolving the case, upon being sworn as Governor Malloy he did a “180” on the issue and with the help of Attorney General George Jepsen has been trying to get to the case dismissed.

But late last year a Connecticut Judge threw out every motion Malloy and Jepsen had submitted and ordered that the full court trial on the case begin on July 1, 2014.

But July 1, 2014 is in the middle of the 2014 gubernatorial campaign and the last thing that Governor Malloy wants in the news is coverage of his failed education policies.

So Malloy and Jepsen have taken the incredible step of trying to get the case “delayed” until after the election.

You can read more about the CCEJF case in the following Wait, What? posts.

The CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Case: The incredible transformation of Malloy and Jepsen

As the CT Mirror reported in a recent article entitled, “State seeks to delay education-funding trial until after election,” The state is asking that the trial over whether Connecticut is spending enough money on education be pushed back until after the gubernatorial election in the fall.”

Attorney General Jepsen, with Malloy’s help and support, has submitted a motion to delay the trial until October 2015.

According to their brief, the Malloy administration is arguing, “The stakes in this case are enormous…When the stakes are this high, the defendants, on behalf of the taxpayers in Connecticut, are entitled to know and understand the plaintiffs’ case, not as it existed four or more years ago, but as it will actually be presented at trial.”

This comes from the people who were responsible for delaying the case in the first place.

As the CT Mirror reports, Malloy and Jepsen want the case delayed until after the election because, “the plaintiffs -– a group of mayors, parents and leaders of teachers’ unions — need to update their complaint and experts’ reports to reflect the current educational landscape, which warrants delaying the trial.”

In response, as the CT Mirror explains;

“‘Defendants are responsible for delay,’” attorney Helen V. Cantwell writes on behalf of the plaintiffs. “’The interests of justice would be better served by a scheduling order that preserves the July 1, 2014 trial date.’”

Cantwell points out that their experts can testify about the current condition of the educational funding structure at trial, that the State Department of Education continues to reject their requests for information so they can prepare for trial, and that the state has blown through several deadlines for reporting their expert witnesses.”

The article concludes with a prepared statement from Attorney General George Jepsen’s office which reads;

“Of primary concern, the plaintiffs rely on expert witnesses whose opinions are based on the educational and funding system as it was years in the past. The state is entitled to know before trial what those experts think of the current state of education and the impacts on it of the Governor’s comprehensive education reforms. We have no interest in delaying this case for delay’s sake, but we do insist that the state’s taxpayers are entitled to receive a fair hearing.”

The CCEJF v. Rell case, perhaps more than any other issue that has developed during Malloy’s tenure, highlights Malloy’s approach to politics and policy.

And meanwhile, the children of Connecticut be damned.

You can read the CT Mirror story here:  http://www.ctmirror.org/story/2014/01/08/state-seeks-delay-education-funding-trial-until-after-election

Malloy can tell it to the judge (By Wendy Lecker)

Fellow public school advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker has written yet another “must read” column for the Stamford Advocate.   

While candidate “Dan” Malloy ran on a platform of supporting public education, Governor “Dannel” Malloy has pushed an agenda that has systematically undermined Connecticut’s public schools.  Rather than solve Connecticut’s unconstitutional school funding formula, as he promised, Malloy has repeatedly worked to destroy the very lawsuit that he helped bring on behalf of Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers.

His education “reform initiative” is the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-local control legislation of any Democratic governor in the nation.

And his Commissioner of Education has so mismanaged the Connecticut Department of Education that a significant number of school superintendents are actually talking about a vote of no confidence in Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

With that as the background, Wendy Lecker has written a piece appropriately entitled, “Malloy can tell it to the judge.”

In it she writes:

Connecticut recently was treated to two contradictory pictures of education in our state: one was fantasy and the other, reality. The magical thinking was provided by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at a speech at the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute on Dec. 2. There, he trumpeted the success of his 2012 education “reform legislation.” Two days later, Judge Kevin Dubay of Connecticut Superior Court provided a dose of reality about Malloy’s grand, but empty, pronouncements, in his decision to deny Malloy’s motion to dismiss the CCJEF v. Rell school funding suit.

At his AEI speech, Malloy shockingly dismissed the need to provide all children with educational opportunities as “old rhetoric.” His focus is not on educational opportunity, he claimed, but rather “educational success.” Malloy trumpeted his 2012 education “reform” legislation as providing the path to educational success.

Contrary to Malloy’s contention, educational opportunity is not just “old rhetoric.” The concept of educational opportunity has a specific constitutional meaning in Connecticut. Under our constitution, Connecticut must provide all children with “suitable educational opportunities.” Connecticut’s highest court has defined those opportunities as schools with sufficient resources to provide an education that prepares Connecticut’s children to participate in democratic institutions, attain productive employment and otherwise to contribute to the state’s economy, or to progress on to higher education.

As mayor of Stamford, Malloy understood the constitutional significance of educational opportunity. He was a founding member of the CCJEF coalition and one of the original plaintiffs in the suit demanding the state fulfill its legal obligation to provide fair and adequate funding to all Connecticut public schools.

However, as governor, Malloy would like to pretend that Connecticut’s children can achieve academic success while he deprives them and their schools of the basic educational resources necessary to provide constitutionally required educational opportunity. Indeed, the governor’s faulty approach was the linchpin of his most recent failed attempt to get rid of the CCJEF case.

In his motion to dismiss the CCJEF case, Malloy claimed there was no need to continue with this case because his 2012 education reforms cured all the constitutional deficiencies in Connecticut’s educational system. The judge disabused the governor of the fantasy that his reforms have actually improved Connecticut’s schools. He ruled that Malloy and the state presented no evidence to prove that his 2012 reforms were enacted to correct the constitutional inadequacies of Connecticut’s educational system or state school funding.

Malloy’s 2012 education legislation was not designed to provide Connecticut’s children with equal educational opportunity. As he admitted in his AEI speech, educational opportunity is no longer the governor’s focus. He would rather push unproven “reforms” that bear no relationship to what our highest court and our constitution recognize that our children need.

Another incredible claim made by Malloy at the AEI appearance was that his 2012 education legislation, for the first time in Connecticut history, directed copious amounts of money to Connecticut’s neediest districts.

A few hard numbers may help bring Malloy back to this planet. According to CCJEF’s expert’s analysis, updated to 2012 dollars, East Hartford’s school district is owed $6,131 per child in state funding. Malloy’s 2012 legislation gave them an increase of $214 per pupil. Bridgeport’s school district is owed $7,505 per child, but only received an increase of $209 per pupil in the 2012 legislation. The state owes New Britain’s children $10,185 per student. The 2012 legislation provided them with a whopping $245 per pupil increase. The list goes on and on. Moreover, as a condition for each tiny increase in ECS funding, these districts were saddled with costly mandates.

By contrast, charter schools, which educate 1 percent of Connecticut’s public school children and 90 percent of which serve a less needy population than their host districts, received an increase of $2,600 per pupil over three years in the 2012 legislation. Diverting state funding to 1 percent of public school children, who are often not the neediest, is likely to increase educational resource inequity in the state, especially when our neediest schools are getting so little.

The governor’s empty political posturing about the success of his education reforms may work at think tanks in Washington. However, here in the Constitution state, facts matter, and Judge Dubay made clear that, so far, Malloy has failed to provide any. The judge ordered that the CCJEF case proceed to trial where, one way or another, Malloy will have to put his money where his mouth is.

You can read Wendy Lecker’s column here: Lecker: Malloy can tell it to the judge

Updated: Malloy, Pryor and Jepsen get slapped down by Court on education case

A Connecticut Superior Court judge has rejected the state’s request to throw out a lawsuit charging that Connecticut has failed to provide enough money to its poorest school districts and that Connecticut must revise its school funding formula because it is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit known as CCJEF v. Rell was brought by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, a coalition of municipalities, boards of education, unions and other groups.  In a statement CCJEF called the court’s most recent action a “a major win” for public school children, adding, “The opinion sets the stage for students of Connecticut to finally get their day in court, nine years after the case was initially filed.”

The case has already been before the Connecticut Supreme Court which ruled three years ago that Connecticut’s school funding formula is unconstitutional and sent the case back to the superior to conduct a full trial and determine what the state must do in order to meet its constitutional duty to provide Connecticut students with an “adequate” education.

With this latest ruling a full trial should finally begin on July 1, 2014.

Not only is the case extremely important because it will force the state to re-do its school funding system, but the lawsuit has significant political ramifications.

Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in the case court aimed at forcing the State of Connecticut to implement an adequate school funding formula.

Candidate Dan Malloy campaigned on a promise to settle the case and help Connecticut’s local property taxpayers by requiring the state to provide more funds for local schools

But Governor Dannel Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen switched their positions after getting elected and have been working hard to have the case dismissed.

They want the case eliminated despite, as noted above, the fact that the Connecticut Supreme Court has determined that Connecticut’s system of funding its schools is unconstitutional and it was the Supreme Court that sent the case back to the superior court for a full trial on the issue.

But even then Malloy and Jepsen have been trying to prevent the trial that the Connecticut Supreme Court demanded.

As the CT Mirror reported;

“When asking that the case be dismissed, the state’s top attorneys argued earlier this year that such a trial would be premature. The state’s education commissioner told the court that the education reforms that became law in 2012 needed a few years to roll out before the changes they made would be realized.

But the attorneys for the plaintiffs called the reforms championed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy “trivial.” Those reforms to date include the state intervening in 11 low-performing schools, launching new teacher evaluations based on student performance and the state providing more money to struggling districts.”

Now Superior Court Judge Kevin Dubay has thrown out Malloy and Jepsen’s motion to dismiss the case and ordered the trail to go forward.

Judge Dubay wrote, “The extent to which these reforms impact the adequacy of the state’s education system in the context of constitutional standards, however, remains unascertainable at this stage.”

Judge Dubay added, “The plaintiffs should be given an opportunity to prove the allegations set forth in the complaint, specifically that the education system remains unconstitutional in spite of the 2012 reforms.”

The defeat for Malloy and Jepsen is a stunning development considering the two incumbents were trying to get the case dismissed or at least postponed until after the next election cycle.

Now, rather than being able hide from their about-face on the critical issue of school funding, Governor Malloy and Attorney General Jepsen will be facing a court trial on Malloy’s failure to deal with Connecticut’s unconstitutional school funding system right in the middle of the election.

More about the developing story can be found at the CT Mirror:  http://www.ctmirror.org/story/2013/12/05/trial-guaranteed-ct-school-funding-and-reforms,  CT Post: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Judge-won-t-dismiss-education-funding-lawsuit-5039666.php, Courant: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-school-lawsuit-1206-20131205,0,7241082.story

Common Core fails to meet Connecticut constitutional standards (By Wendy Lecker)

Wendy Lecker, fellow pro-public education advocate and commentator, has a stunningly profound piece in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate and in other Hearst Media newspapers about the new Common Core standards and their inappropriateness for Connecticut.

Andrea Conway, a fellow pro-public education warrior here in Connecticut read the piece and observed This is the absolute BEST explanation of what is wrong with Common Core and the money making reasoning of its creators.”

Andrea is absolutely right.  Read Wendy’s piece and you’ll understand just how badly our elected officials have done when it comes to Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and school.

Common Core fails to meet constitutional standards

The Common Core State Standards, national standards adopted by Connecticut in 2010, promise to reflect “the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.”

This promise alone raises questions: Which colleges: Community? Non-selective? Selective? And which careers: Plumber? Beautician? Hedge fund manager? Physicist? Can one set of standards really encompass this wide spectrum of education and work?

There is an even more fundamental and pressing question, though: Is “college-and-career-ready” an adequate standard, as measured by Connecticut’s constitution? The answer is a resounding “no.” In the pending school funding case, CCJEF v. Rell, Connecticut’s Supreme Court ruled that our constitution “guarantees Connecticut’s public school students educational standards and resources suitable to participate in democratic institutions, and to prepare them to attain productive employment and otherwise to contribute to the state’s economy, or to progress on to higher education.”

The drafters of the Common Core ignored Connecticut’s primary goal for public education: capable participation in democratic institutions. Sources involved in the Common Core’s development process confirm that citizenship was never the focus. In fact, the Common Core’s foundational document mentions “economy” more than 100 times, while the word “citizen” appears only once — in a footnote.

Ironically, although the sole focus of the Common Core was the ability to compete in the global marketplace, the most serious threat to our national and global economy is our government’s current dysfunction. The recent government shutdown cost the nation $24 billion and 120,000 jobs. The International Monetary Fund warns that if Congress cannot agree to raise the debt ceiling, the world might plunge into another recession.

Given the failure of our democratic institutions, our most urgent goal should be to ensure that our children learn the lessons of democracy. Yet the architects of the Common Core disregarded this fundamental purpose of public education.

Perhaps if the Common Core standards were developed in a democratic fashion in our state, Connecticut’s goals would have been considered.

From their inception, the drafting and adoption of Connecticut academic standards was an inclusive, public process. The State Department of Education invited teachers from across the state to collectively draft standards in their areas of expertise. SDE would then solicit public comment from all sectors, including parents, teachers, school administrators, superintendents and school boards. There could be as many as 50 iterations, and the process could take as long as three years.

Since this process was directed by a state agency, it was subject to open meeting and Freedom of Information laws. The product was an educational framework that was created by Connecticut educators with input from everyone connected to our public schools.

The Common Core State Standards, by contrast, were developed behind closed doors by two private, non-governmental organizations: the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. There was no public comment. The organizations even refused to release the drafters’ names until there was public outcry. The entire development process remains shrouded in secrecy. NGA and CCSSO are not subject to any sunshine laws that governmental bodies must obey.

The members of Common Core validation committee were required to sign confidentiality agreements. This committee was ostensibly charged with ensuring that these standards that were about to be used in schools across America were valid. It is shocking that the public would be prevented from knowing what this committee discussed.

When the standards finally reached Connecticut in 2010, they were presented as a fait accompli to state officials, who were given two months to adopt them — under threat of being disqualified from federal Race to the Top money if they failed to do so. Rather than question the inadequacy of these standards as measured against Connecticut’s constitutional requirements, the State Board of Education, here in “the Constitution State,” acquiesced to federal pressure and adopted these substandard standards; just months after the Connecticut Supreme Court decision in CCJEF v. Rell.

The Common Core State Standards were developed in a rushed and undemocratic process, far from Connecticut’s students, parents, educators, and officials. It is no wonder, then, that the standards themselves do not reflect Connecticut’s values or constitutional mandates.

At a time when the biggest threat to our economy and society is the glaring lack of governing skills by our leaders, our duty is to ensure that our children are able to function in a democratic society. Sadly, we cannot count on the Common Core State Standards, which fail to fulfill Connecticut’s basic constitutional requirements, to help us meet this challenge.

Wendy Lecker is a columnist for Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity project at the Education Law Center.

You can read Wendy’s commentary piece here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Common-Core-fails-to-meet-constitutional-4947484.php#

The CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Case: The incredible transformation of Malloy and Jepsen

Today, as explained in a Wait, What? blog post last Friday, Attorney General George Jepsen, with the help and support of Governor Dannel Malloy, is asking a Connecticut Superior Court judge to dismiss the most important school finance lawsuit in nearly five decades.  As noted in that blog, the case, CCJEF v. Rell, may well be the most important school finance lawsuit in Connecticut history.

Friday’s post, entitled “Jepsen/Malloy move to destroy most important school funding lawsuit in modern times,” points out that once upon a time, when Governor Dannel Malloy was Mayor Dan Malloy of Stamford, he not only supported the CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit but was an original plaintiff in the historic battle to force the State of Connecticut to fulfill its constitutional obligation to the children of Connecticut.

As a candidate for governor, Malloy repeatedly proclaimed that he would implement a solution to Connecticut’s school finance crisis and end the need for the CCJEF v. Rell case.

But now with Malloy’s support, Connecticut’s attorney general is trying to dismiss this important case altogether.

Governor Malloy and Attorney General Jepsen have the opportunity of a lifetime to put Connecticut’s school funding system on track, not only for this generation, but for generations to come.   Instead of rising to the occasion, they are squandering the opportunity to make a profound difference for Connecticut and its children.

To understand the depth of their failure on this vital issue, read some of the previous Wait, What? blogs on this topic;

The Dan to Dannel transformation on the most important education lawsuit in Connecticut history  (April 5)

Despite having promised their support for the lawsuit, they are now not only trying to get the case dismissed, but are asking the court to prevent the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding [CCJEF], a broad coalition of towns, schools, parents and public school advocates, from even serving as the plaintiffs in the case.

They are taking this unholy action despite the fact that the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered the lower court to hear the case.

And perhaps worst of all, this destructive action is being perpetrated by people who not only said they supported the lawsuit, but used that support to deceive the people of Connecticut into voting for them.

Dan Malloy and the education lawsuit of our lifetime;

On November 22, 2005, Stamford Mayor and Gubernatorial Candidate Dan Malloy issued a press release entitled “Malloy Supports Lawsuit Challenging Education Funding System…says that reforming the education funding system is an issue of ‘fundamental fairness.’”

Jepsen/Malloy Continue to Squander the Opportunity of a Lifetime; (Feb 7)

Sometimes you’re just left shaking your head; wondering what on earth has happened to our “Leaders.”

A few months ago, Attorney General George Jepsen, with the direct approval of Governor Dannel Malloy, filed a legal motion in an attempt to ensure that Early Childhood Education was not included in the definition of what the Connecticut Supreme Court called the “adequate education” that is guaranteed in the Connecticut Constitution.

Now, Attorney General Jepsen has filed an unprecedented subpoena seeking tens of thousands of pages of documents belonging to ten of the school districts that brought the now-famous CCJEF vs. Rell lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to define what an “adequate education” meant. Continue reading “The CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Case: The incredible transformation of Malloy and Jepsen”