Don’t Read It – Just Pass It! (Where things stand as of March 19, 2012)

Proponents are saying – Just Pass the Bill!

But what about Section #18?  It is bad public policy, immoral and parts of it are probably illegal.

JUST PASS THE BILL!

If you watch their TV ads, get their emails, listen to their paid Telephone “Robo Calls” or read their quotes in the media, the proponents of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” plan  say the solution to Connecticut’s education problems and challenges is really quite simple –  just pass Senate Bill #24.

Just this past weekend, yet another commentary piece appeared from the “reformers” saying exactly that.

Greenwich millionaire Steve Simmons, a cable television entrepreneur, and chairman of the Connecticut business community’s brand-new “Education Reform” lobbying group summed up his argument by saying “For the sake of Connecticut’s children and our economy, the time to act is now.  Let’s get S.B. #24 passed.”

But what about Section #18?

Over the last few weeks a number of us have pointed out problems with a number of different sections of Malloy’s bill.

The response from groups like ConnCAN, the company set up by Achievement Fist (which is itself a major charter school management company and one of the biggest financial beneficiaries of this bill) has publicly and repeatedly said that anybody raising concerns about the Malloy’s bill is part of “the coalition of the status quo” and is using “a communications tactic that centers on spreading misinformation about S.B. 24. Outright lies are being spread to intentionally confuse people, play upon the fears of hard-working teachers, and attempt to scare our policymakers into stopping much-needed reforms.”

But actually, that IS NOT what we are doing.

We are talking about what is actually in Senate Bill #24, the single most significant proposed changes to Connecticut education policy in our lifetimes.

It is a process call Democracy and it gives people the tools so they, in turn, can decide whether they would support or oppose such an extraordinary bill.

Governor Malloy’s proposals will come up for a final vote by the Connecticut General Assembly within the next 50 days, but the impact will be felt for years and decades to come.

In the last couple of weeks we’ve learned about some of the incredible, absurd and bizarre provisions that have been put inside Senate Bill #24.

ConnCAN and the reformers can whine as much as they want – but here is the TRUTH about yet another section.

Section #18:  The “Commissioner’s Network,”

Continue reading “Don’t Read It – Just Pass It! (Where things stand as of March 19, 2012)”

O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive! – Sir Walter Scott

ConnCAN CEO Patrick Riccards (Photo courtesy of New Haven Independent)

The ConnCAN approach – Don’t let the truth get in your way…

Last week, ConnCAN, the pro-charter school and “education reform” advocacy group was trumpeting the results of a survey that they had conducted of Connecticut teachers.

The problem is that ConnCAN’s report on their own survey is nothing short of a lie – and yet these are the people who are saying that Connecticut’s legislators should vote for the “education reforms” that they are proposing.

The anti-tenure reformers claimed that their survey proved that (1) “More than four out of five Connecticut public school educators say schools and districts ought to be able to dismiss teachers and administrators with a documented history of poor performance.”  And (2) “Nearly 60 percent say educators should be promoted and receive tenure based on their success with increasing student achievement growth.”

After reading their press release and related PR about their survey an observer would be left to believe that Connecticut educators support the positions being put forward by ConnCAN and Governor Malloy.

But not surprisingly, in this day and age of being loose with the facts and misrepresenting the results to get the headline, their own data doesn’t back up the claims they are making.

In fact there isn’t even a question that would allow ConnCAN to intellectually claim that “nearly 60 percent say educators should be promoted and receive tenure based on their success with increasing student achievement growth.”

How ConnCAN makes that claim reveals much about their level of honesty.

Continue reading “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive! – Sir Walter Scott”

Trumpets Please: Connecticut’s Corporate Giants Know the Way Forward on Education Reform

Governor headed to the Connecticut Science Center to speak about “education reform” at an event hosted by corporate leaders.

Calling themselves the “Connecticut Council for Education Reform “ top executives from New Alliance Bank, The Hartford Insurance Company, UBS Private Wealth Office,  Yale New Haven Hospital System, Webster Bank, The Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, Nestle Waters North America, First Niagara Financial Group, Yale University, the Travelers Companies, Inc., The Connecticut Business & Industry Association, United Illuminating Holdings Corporation and GE Asset Management are pushing to take center stage in  this year’s education reform debate.

The corporate CEOs and Presidents have set up a website, retained lobbyists and hired a staff including their new Executive Direct, Rae Ann Knopf, who served as Vermont’s Deputy Secretary of Education from 2006 until she left to take the position the Connecticut Council for Education Reform.

Continue reading “Trumpets Please: Connecticut’s Corporate Giants Know the Way Forward on Education Reform”

ConnCAN Releases Poll Claiming that Connecticut Teacher’s support ConnCAN’s Education Reforms

Well the results don’t actually back up that statement but it certainly makes a good headline – a “spin” they are using today with Connecticut’s media outlets.

A cursory review of the poll reveals that (1) the company conducting the survey is very good at wording questions and (2) that in ConnCAN rush to “get what they wanted” from the poll they’ve left out some pretty interesting results from the survey.

Opinion polling is art as well as a science.

Having conducted numerous polls through the years I’m well aware that polling can be incredibly accurate but it can also be used to find the results that the client is looking for.

Following a detailed review of their poll I’ll add more commentary – but here is the primary point to keep in mind when reviewing ConnCAN’s new poll:

Continue reading “ConnCAN Releases Poll Claiming that Connecticut Teacher’s support ConnCAN’s Education Reforms”

Does it Matter Whether Malloy Spoke at an NESC Annual Meeting or an NESC Annual Gala?

My post last Wednesday, about Governor Malloy’s attendance at a Gala honoring Jonathan Sacker, the charter school champion and founder of Achievement First, ConnCAN and 50CAN generated quite a stir.

Later that same day, the Hartford Courant’s Rick Green responded with a blog that began with the line “One-time Democratic playmaker Jonathan Pelto’s journey to the outer limits continues…”

Green’s piece included a response from Malloy’s chief advisor who claimed, among other things, that I was “delusional”, “unstable” and that perhaps I was being paid to “peddle” misinformation.

Yesterday, Colin McEnroe utilized his Sunday Courant column to come to my defense (more or less) and weighed in on the Malloy Administration’s bullying tactics.

Continue reading “Does it Matter Whether Malloy Spoke at an NESC Annual Meeting or an NESC Annual Gala?”

The Great Charter School Conspiracy

The Hartford Courant headline read – “The Great Charter School Conspiracy.”

Well actually it read “Jonathan Pelto and The Great Charter School Conspiracy”.

The column described a recent Wait, What? piece I wrote as a “rambling blog post that suggests that Malloy, charter school proponents and wealthy investors are part of a vast conspiracy to destroy public education.”

I’m not exactly sure what was meant by that sentence but I get the sense it wasn’t a compliment.

Continue reading “The Great Charter School Conspiracy”

Wait, You are Against Binding Arbitration? Really?

[The education reform issues have attracted so much traffic that in the coming week I’ll continue Wait, What? but will create a parallel blog that will focus exclusively on education reform issues – suggestions for a name are welcome]

Binding Arbitration:  The process by which the parties to a dispute submit their differences to the judgment of an impartial person or group appointed by mutual consent or statutory provision.

Some “education reformers” are calling for an end to the teacher seniority system or want to “reform tenure as we know it,” but actively opposing binding arbitration?

That’s a new one for me.

Here in Connecticut it’s been a while since we’ve heard legitimate advocacy groups call for an end to binding arbitration.

Binding arbitration has been universally recognized as an appropriate and successful way to resolve contract disputes without strikes or lockouts.  It’s a system that ensures that, even if there is a contract dispute, government services, including schools, will continue to function.

More than 36 years ago, Connecticut adopted a system of binding arbitration for municipal employees.  Binding arbitration was then expanded in 1979 to cover all teachers and in 1986, with a Democratic Governor and the Republicans in control of both chambers of the General Assembly, binding arbitration was extended to cover state employees.

As a freshman state legislator I remember watching as the great Otto Neumann of the 62nd House District, a respected, common-sense Republican, rose to address the House Chamber as to why Republicans and Democrats had come together to institute a fair arbitration system that would ensure that the public received the services it was entitled to even in the face of contract disagreements between the state and its unions.

Negotiation, mediation and if absolutely necessary, arbitration would put an end to public employee strikes.  Children would return to classes at the beginning of the school year no matter what.  Just look around at some other states to see the sad alternative.

While some have talked about “tinkering” with the actual arbitration process, it has been widely recognized as a huge success.

The Connecticut Legislature’s bi-partisan Program Review & Investigations Committee conducted a major study about the impact of binding arbitration and released their report in 2006.

The investigation found that binding arbitration was used in about 10 percent of teacher contracts and only 4 percent of the time in municipal employee contracts.

Over the years, when it came to salary increases, the last best offers for towns and unions were about 1% apart.  In the time period studies these differences actually ranged from 0.7 percent to 1.2 percent.

As for arbitration awards for teacher contracts, arbitrators came down on the side of the boards of education and teachers at about the same rate.  Teacher unions were a bit more successful when it came to salary increases while towns were more successful when it came it came to the important contract language.

The final report concluded that “Overall, the committee found no evidence that arbitration has driven up costs.  For the period analyzed, higher general wage increases were not found in arbitration awards in comparison to negotiated contracts.”

With that as the background I was really surprised to find that when the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) calls for an end to the seniority system which they say requires districts to lay off teachers based solely on seniority without regard to any factors of job performance” they go on to demand that binding arbitration be reformed “to ensure that future collective bargaining agreements better account for the interests of children.”

Unfortunately, there appears to be no reference as to what ConnCAN means when it comes to “reforming binding arbitration.”

However we can get a better sense of what is meant when we look to ConnCAN’s sister organization RI-CAN.  As their website explains, RI-CAN is part of “50CAN: The 50 State Campaign for Achievement Now, which aims to bring ConnCAN-style campaigns and ConnCAN-style success to states across the country.”

Readers may recall that in 2005 a group of Achievement First’s Directors set up ConnCAN and the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc., ConnCAN serves as the “education” arm of the operation while the second company spent the next five years paying over half a million dollars to lobby Connecticut’s executive and legislative branches of government.  It wasn’t until last year that ConnCAN started paying the bill for the lobbyists, which, by that time had reached $95,000 a-year.

Meanwhile, one of the Achievement First/ConnCAN directors formed yet another group called 50CAN which “was created to bring this proven model [ConnCAN] to new states, starting with Rhode Island, Minnesota, New York and Maryland and reaching half the country by 2015.  One will note that 50CAN’s organizing plan tracks nicely with Achievement First’s strategic plan.

So two years ago, RI-CAN was formed in Rhode Island to do what ConnCAN has been doing in Connecticut.

RI-CAN’s Executive Director Maryellen Butke, who is the equivalent to Patrick Riccards, ConnCAN’s new Executive Director here in Connecticut, is far clearer about how the CAN organization sees binding arbitration.

Despite the fact that binding arbitration has been recognized as a great success, RI-CAN’s Butke recently said that “Binding arbitration would be a disaster for students, localities”

In a commentary piece in the Providence Journal last June she stakes out RI-CAN’s position saying “Rhode Island has made great leaps forward in the past few years in the effort to transform our schools. Binding arbitration would be a costly step backwards that would reverse much of the progress we have made. Our message to the General Assembly is simple: Do what’s best for kids and reject binding arbitration.”

In addition, a group of anti-union activists created the Rhode Island Coalition against Binding Arbitration last summer with RI-CAN as its first member organization.

In Connecticut ConnCAN may call it “reforming” binding arbitration; in Rhode Island they call it a disaster and are lobbying against it.

It makes me wonder what some of ConnCAN’s Advisory Board Members would say.

Are they opposed to binding arbitration.  Do they know they are on the advisory board to a group that does?

If you see any of the following individuals ask them whether they too, as advisers to ConnCAN, oppose binding arbitration:

Lorraine M. Aronson (Former Vice President and CFO, University of Connecticut and Former Connecticut Deputy Commissioner of Education)

Timothy Bannon (Former Chief of Staff for Governor Dannel Malloy)

William J. Cibes (Former Chancellor, Connecticut State University System and Former Secretary, Office of Policy and Management)

William Ginsberg (President and CEO, Community Foundation for Greater New Haven)

Janice M. Gruendel, Ph.D., M.Ed. (Deputy Commissioner, Department of Children and Families)

Dr. Richard C. Levin (President, Yale University)

Dr. Julia M. McNamara (President, Albertus Magnus College)

Anthony P. Rescigno (President, Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce)

Dr. Theodore Sergi (Former Connecticut State Commissioner of Education)

Allan B. Taylor (Chairman, Connecticut State Board of Education)