TROUBLED SCHOOLS ON TRIAL: The MUST READ series by the CT Mirror

CT Mirror reporter Jacqueline Rabe has written a MUST READ series of seven stories about the controversies surrounding Connecticut’s public school system.

As her CT Mirror biography notes,

Rabe has won two first prizes from the national Education Writers Association for her work in 2012 – one in beat reporting for her overall education coverage, and the other, with Keith Phaneuf, in investigative reporting on a series of stories revealing questionable monetary and personnel actions taken by the Board of Regents for Higher Education. Before coming to The Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. She has also worked for Congressional Quarterly and the Toledo Free Press. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Jacqueline is in the public policy master’s program at Trinity College.

Here are links to Rabe’s recent series on education in Connecticut.

WHEN POVERTY PERMEATES THE CLASSROOM (Part 1)
http://ctmirror.org/2016/12/07/troubled-schools-on-trial-when-poverty-perme…

THE BROKEN FORMULA FOR STATE SCHOOL AID (Part 2)
http://ctmirror.org/2016/12/08/troubled-schools-on-trial-a-broken-formula-f…

A BUILDING BOOM, PENSIONS LOCK IN BIG COSTS (Part 3)
http://ctmirror.org/2016/12/09/troubled-schools-on-trial-a-building-boom-pe…

WHO’S IN CHARGE? STATE VS. LOCAL CONTROL (Part 4)
http://ctmirror.org/2016/12/12/troubled-schools-on-trial-whos-in-charge-state-vs-local-control/

WHAT DOES A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA PROVE? (Part 5)
http://ctmirror.org/2016/12/13/troubled-schools-on-trial-what-does-a-high-s…

SPECIAL EDUCATION DRIVING COSTS AND CONTROVERSIES (Part 6)
http://ctmirror.org/2016/12/14/troubled-schools-on-trial-special-education-…

WILL A SCATHING COURT DECISION LEAD TO ACTION? (Part 7)
http://ctmirror.org/2016/12/15/troubled-schools-on-trial-will-a-scathing-co…

In illegal move, Malloy administration misleads public (again) on budget deficit

State law requires that on the 20th of every month, the Governor’s administration MUST inform the State Comptroller about any known budget deficit.  The State Comptroller, in turn, uses that information to help guide his mandated monthly report that is issued on the first of each month.

In October, Malloy’s budget division told State Comptroller Kevin Lembo that the budget was in balance, but as it turns out, that was a lie.

As Keith Phaneuf at the CT Mirror is reporting today;

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration last month warned dozens of state agency heads of a significant shortfall in the current budget — but continues to officially report that finances remain in balance.

The $133 million revenue shortfall disclosed to agency heads on Sept. 6 was excluded 14 days later from the last official monthly budget forecast submitted to Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo.

Malloy’s top budget chief told Malloy’s commissioners that there was a deficit, yet day later, sought to mislead Lembo about the problem.  Lembo, in turn, provided the public with a report that wasn’t accurate.

Early last summer Governor Malloy and the Democratic members of the Connecticut General Assembly adopted an austerity budget that cut vital services.  Governor Malloy swore the budget was balanced when he signed it.  Months later, when they knew there was a budget deficit appearing, they decided to overlook that fact when issuing their required financial report.

Six weeks before this critical election, Team Malloy choose to mislead the public.

As the CT Mirror explains;

Shortly after the budget was approved, analysts noted that summer income, sales and corporation tax receipts were weaker than anticipated. Since then, administration plans to save money from layoffs have progressed much more slowly than anticipated, further raising concerns about whether the new budget was balanced.

Still, the administration has reported no problems with the budget since the fiscal year began on July 1. It’s last monthly budget projection, filed Sept. 20 with Lembo’s office, held that finances were in balance and that revenues for the General Fund — which covers most operating costs in the budget — were coming in as anticipated.

Yet two weeks earlier, in a Sept. 6 memo imploring all agency heads to keep their spending requests lean in the next budget, Barnes estimated that General Fund revenues in the current budget would total $17.75 billion — $133 million less than the amount needed to balance the current budget.

What is the public to think when the governor of the state of Connecticut lies to the public about the size of the budget deficit?

Of course, the sad reality is that this isn’t the first time Malloy and his team have mislead voters about the budget in order to hide the truth for political purposes.

Remember, this is the governor who refused to admit there even was a deficit in 2014 until 10 days after he was re-elected to a second term in office. It was only then that the public was told about the growing fiscal crisis that lead to this year’s disastrous budget deal.

 

Democrats – Time to stop coddling the rich

As a result of Governor Dannel Malloy’s failure to get Connecticut’s fiscal house in order, his proposed state budget includes disastrous cuts to vital state services and programs while continuing the policy of coddling the rich and unfairly burdening the middle class. While Malloy’s state budget proposal includes tens of millions more for wasteful and destructive programs like the Common Core, the Common Core SBAC testing and charter schools, Malloy put forward a budget that reduces funding for education and cuts deeply into programs that directly benefit Connecticut’s children. According to CT Voices for Children, a Connecticut based research organization, more than half of Malloy’s budget cuts (54%) are aimed at Connecticut’s children.  Add in the cuts for those with developmental disabilities, mental health challenges and the other budget cuts aimed at the state’s other vulnerable citizens and the legislature is forced to deal with a budget that Malloy and his administration should be ashamed of. At the same time, Malloy’s plan demands that the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly continue to undermine the state’s middle class and the economic well-being of their own constituents in order to “protect” Connecticut’s wealthiest residents. The data highlighting Connecticut’s regressive tax system is clear, concise and extremely disturbing. After federal income tax deductions, Connecticut’s wealthiest taxpayers pay an average of 5.5 percent for their income in state and local taxes, compared to 10.5 percent for middle-class families and more than 11.0 percent for the state’s poor. Rather than a progressive tax system, or even a flat tax system, Connecticut has developed a state and local tax system that allows the rich to skate free, while leaving the burden of balancing state and local budgets onto those who make far less. Keith Phaneuf reported the situation accurately when he wrote in today’s CT Mirror,

“Just before the income tax’s enactment (1991), the state taxed capital gains at 7 percent, and dividends and major interest income at rates as high as 14 percent. Those rates went away when the income tax was enacted. Earnings from these sources instead were subject to the top income tax rate, which stood in 1991 at 4.5 percent. The top rate has risen just three times in the 24 years since then – to 5 percent in 2003, 6.5 percent in 2009 and 6.7 percent in 2011 – and still remains below the old capital gains and dividends rates.”

The harsh reality is that Connecticut’s state and local tax system is designed to punish middle and lower income families. But Democratic legislators could push back against Malloy’s unfair budget policies. Connecticut’s top “marginal income tax rate” is 6.7 percent, a rate that is much lower than that in New York (8.82%) or New Jersey (8.97%).  Increasing the marginal income tax rate on Connecticut’s wealthiest taxpayers (those making more than $1 million) to bring it in line with New York State would bring in over $400 million a year. Eliminating a number of the useless sales tax exemptions that lobbyists have pushed through for their clients would raise another $400 million a year and ending some of the corporate welfare (tax expenditures) that Malloy has been doling out would mean that Connecticut could have a balanced budget that doesn’t destroy vital state services. The solution to Connecticut’s budget crisis is actually not hard to identify, but it does require conviction and honesty on the part of Connecticut’s elected officials…and that apparently is exactly what they are lacking. The next six weeks will determine what side of the battle the members of the Connecticut General Assembly will take.  The choice is simple.  Continue to follow Governor Malloy’s disastrous policies or actually come down on the side of their constituents and make the rich pay their fair share.

CT Capitol Report Headline Reads – The Oracle: Pelto: Told you so…

While some tend to fall back on the phrase, “I told you so” much too often, the truth is that rarely does one get a chance to point to someone else confirming an individual’s claim that that they really were right when others were wrong….

So with that as the backdrop and propelled by an opportunity to brag, tempered by an appropriate dose of humility, I am proud to report that ctcapitolreport, the state’s leading news aggregation website, is sporting a headline that reads – The Oracle: Pelto: Told you so…

The reference is to my long-standing and on-going observation that in order to balance next year’s Connecticut state budget, provide sufficient revenue to fund critical services and begin to reduce the unfair tax burden on Connecticut’s middle class, Connecticut’s elected officials must find the courage to actually do what is necessary and that means appending Connecticut’s tax code to require that the state’s wealthy begin to pay their fair share of taxes.

Longer term Wait, What? readers will recall that this blog does cover issues other than the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing Scheme.

In fact, another primary focus of this blog has traditionally been Connecticut’s irresponsible fiscal policies that have resulted in a truly regressive tax system in which the state’s lowest income families pay about 12 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the middle class pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes and the wealthy, who have been coddled by both Democrats and Republicans, only pay about 5 to 6 percent of their income in state and local taxes.

While the inequities in Connecticut’s tax system have been growing for decades, the problem has become particularly severe as a result of Governor Dannel Malloy’s unending fiscal gimmicks and his unprecedented dedication and addiction to irresponsible fiscal policies.

The article the website www.ctcapitolreport.com  is referring to is a news story posted early today by Connecticut’s premier budget reporter, Keith Phaneuf of the CTMirror.

Phaneuf has written another MUST READ story for those who want to understand Connecticut’s state budget and how Governor Dannel Malloy lied his way through the 2014 gubernatorial campaign by claiming there was no state deficit and that if he was re-elected we would eliminate the projected $1.4 billion projected deficit for next year without having to raise taxes or cut services.

Keith Phaneuf’s latest article is entitled “Tax hike ideas abound at the Capitol,” and can be found at: http://ctmirror.org/2015/03/23/tax-hike-ideas-abound-at-the-capitol/

The CT Mirror piece concludes with the following;

Former state Rep. Jonathan Pelto, D-Mansfield, who tried unsuccessfully to petition onto the 2014 gubernatorial ballot, predicted last summer that the big budget deficits projected for the next two fiscal years would eventually force a progressive income tax debate this spring.

“Requiring the wealthy to pay their fair in state income tax is the only responsible way to balance the state budget and begin to reduce the heavy and inappropriate burden on Connecticut’s middle-income taxpayers,” Pelto said last week. “Failure to require the rich to pay their fair share will mean unacceptable cuts in vital services and hurting the middle class and all working families by shifting even more of the tax burden onto local property taxpayers.

Or, in other words, “I told you so.”

Hey CT Mirror when did education fall off the list of “Pressing Issues”

Earlier this week the “independent” news organization known at CT Mirror posted the news, “Mirror announces ‘Policy Pairings Series’ — Four Issues, Four Breweries.”

The CT Mirror article explained,

Four Connecticut homegrown breweries will serve as the backdrops for discussion of pressing state issues as The Connecticut Mirror launches its first “Policy Pairings Series.” Two events are scheduled for April and two for May at locations across the state.

Tickets are available starting today at ctmirrorpairings.org.

All events will be moderated by Mirror staff and are scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. The dates, locations and topics are:

Thursday, April 23 – Shebeen Brewing, Wolcott (Taxes)
Tuesday, April 28 – Two Roads Brewing Company, Stratford (Road transportation)
Tuesday, May 12 – Thomas Hooker Brewing Company, Bloomfield (Business climate)
Tuesday, May 19 – Half Full Brewery, Stamford (Rail transportation)

The series is sponsored by the CT20x17 campaign, a non-partisan coalition of business, professional, and community organizations working together to strengthen Connecticut’s economy.

The CT Mirror noted that events are intended to be discussions “of the pressing state issues” and that the effort is the kickoff of the Connecticut Mirror’s new “Policy Pairings Series.”

Following the link provided by the CT Mirror – http://www.ctmirrorpairings.org/ – one finds a page highlighting the fact that the events are sponsored by “CT20x17: Build A Brighter Economic Future for Everyone,” along with the disclaimer;

The Connecticut Mirror is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization. Even though donors and corporate sponsors may underwrite events, they play no role in determining the content or line of questioning.

Did the CT Mirror really just say that donors and corporate sponsors, “play no role in determining the content?”

According to its webpage, “CT20x17 is a coalition of residents, associations, and businesses all dedicated to achieving the benefits for everyone of making Connecticut a top 20 state for economic competitiveness by 2017.”

The organization adds,  “Organizations from around the state have thrown their support behind the CT20x17 campaign and its framework of commonsense policies.”

CT20x17 adds that these organizations, “recognize that despite making progress in developing a talented future workforce, reducing energy costs, and cutting government red tape, our economic recovery has not kept pace with the national and regional economies. It is critical that we break that pattern and unlock the state’s enormous potential.”

Hooray for unlocking the State’s enormous potential!

And so the group is sponsoring a series of sessions about unlocking the “State’s enormous potential.”

But the independent CT Mirror could find no place in a discussion about unlocking Connecticut’s enormous potential to discuss the vital issues surrounding primary, secondary and higher education in Connecticut or about Connecticut sad record of inadequate funding for the one thing that would actually unlock the state’s enormous potential?

Hey CT Mirror, what gives?

It turns out that CT20X17 – The group dedicating to “unlocking the state’s enormous potential” – doesn’t even have an educator or public education proponent on its Steering Committee.  In fact, the committee is exclusively made up of Connecticut’s corporate elite or their representatives.

The CT20x17 Steering Committee includes;

  • John DiCarlo, Public Policy and Economic Development Manager, Waterbury Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Bill Ethier, CEO, Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Connecticut, Inc.
  • Oz Griebel, President & CEO, MetroHartford Alliance
  • Jennifer Jackson, President & CEO, Connecticut Hospital Association
  • Cliff Leach, Vice President, Government Affairs, The Hartford
  • John O’Toole, Board of Directors, Connecticut Economic Development Association
  • Tim Perra, Director, Global Communications, Stanley Black & Decker
  • Kim Sirois Pita, Kim Pita Peaces
  • Jeff Pugliese, Vice President, Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce
  • Bill Purcell, President, The Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce
  • Tony Rescigno, President,Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce
  • JoAnn Ryan, President & CEO, Northwest Connecticut’s Chamber of Commerce
  • Paul Timpanelli, President & CEO, Bridgeport Regional Business Council

So here comes a corporate sponsored series of forums on Connecticut’s pressing issues and yet no discussion of education…

And adding insult to injury, the CT Mirror informs readers that its kick-off session, sponsored by CT20X17, will focus on the “THE FUTURE OF CONNECTICUT’S TAX POLICY,” yet there isn’t even a panelist at the tax forum who will argue that Connecticut actually needs a fair, progressive tax structure in order to provide the range of services and programs that will address all of the challenges facing Connecticut.

Instead, the panelists who are participating in the forum, while undoubtedly experts and well meaning, are either part of the existing dysfunctional and regressive tax system that haunts Connecticut or are dedicated to the corporate sponsored rhetoric of lower taxes, especially for the wealthy and elite within the business community.

According to the CT Mirror’s promotional materials, the discussion on the The Future of Connecticut’s Tax Policy will be led exclusively by;

Sen. Scott Frantz (R-36th District) – Ranking Member, Finance, Revenue & Bonding
William Dyson (D) – Co-Chair, State and Local Tax Structure Review Panel
Stephen LaRosa – Senior Director, State & Local Tax, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Let’s be clear.

We all recognize that the newspaper industry is virtually extinct and the new world of cyber-based media outlets means that entities like the CTMirror must find significant sources of revenue, other than from advertising dollars, but it is extremely disturbing to think that the CT Mirror would claim corporate sponsors have no role in determining content when the evidence is exactly the opposite.

Just this past week the CT Mirror bragged about a major corporate sponsorship that will allow them to host a discussion about the “pressing issues” of our time…

But then we learn that education is not deemed a pressing issue and even the discussion of taxation is limited in scope to ensure there is no meaningful opportunity to discuss the reality that we need to require the wealthy to start paying their fair share and that we must dramatically alter our present tax code so that we can change Connecticut’s unfair and regressive tax structure into one that is fairer, more progressive, provides the resources necessary to fund government functions, including education, and promotes rather than destroys the middle class.

Rather than misleading readers by claiming  that, “Even though donors and corporate sponsors may underwrite events, they play no role in determining the content…,” perhaps the CT Mirror should be more transparent by simply appending the following to their site….

“Paid for and authorized by our corporate sponsors.”

In that way, at least Connecticut citizens would have a fighting chance to know that this “platform of independence” is compromised by the need for operating funds.