Kids Not Testing

In an op-ed published in today’s CTMirror, Robert Cotto, Jr., a lecturer in educational studies at Trinity College and one of the only elected member of the Hartford Board of Education makes the case for dumping the corporate education reform industry’s obsession with standardized testing.

Robert Cotto opens his commentary pieces with;

“As the debate over Connecticut’s state budget looms, the legislature must consider smart ways of maintaining support for our state’s children and families. They must also figure out how to save while doing the least harm.

Reducing the number of standardized tests that kids take could be a way to save more for what matters most in education.

For years, Connecticut required students to take tests in only grades four, six, eight, and ten. In order to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Connecticut began giving tests to all children in grades three through eight and ten. Twice the number of children tested and new tests equaled more money spent. State spending for the tests more than doubled from $5.3 million in 2005 to $13.4 million in 2006.

Recently, the State of Connecticut allocated more than $18 million each year for tests. However, this amount does not reflect the hidden costs of spending on test preparation. With Connecticut’s No Child Left Behind waiver, both the amount of testing, consequences, and funds to impose the controversial “Common Core” will likely increase.

Reducing the tests that students take in each subject to only grades four, six, eight, and ten could save millions of dollars. The funds saved could help limit any budget cuts that will affect communities across the state, particularly for the most vulnerable children and families.  Cutting testing in this way could also result in yearly savings of up to $9.5 million. That’s half of current state spending to administer the tests.

At best, the evidence is mixed regarding the impact of spending more on testing and ratcheting up punishments.

And Cotto adds;

“Children best develop their abilities, talents, and interests when their schools, parents, educators, and communities support them together. In school, this would mean focusing on quality teaching and leadership, building on children’s academic strengths and interests, developing balanced and culturally relevant curriculum, confronting racial and economic isolation, and standardizing fairness in resources and support.

Outside of schools, this means supporting the well-being of children and families. In places likes Finland, the investment in children and families health and well-being, in addition to fairness in school resources and quality, has resulted in educational equity and shared prosperity. Instead of building up our system of testing, we must build up our system of support for communities.

Helping kids inside and outside of school. That’s a winning strategy.

With limited testing, there could be more time and funds for supporting kids’ academic progress and development. Time not used for testing could go towards building on children’s academic strengths and talents. Funds saved could mitigate cuts to schools, like the disappearing library, and supports for communities’ economic progress, health, and well-being.

With less testing, we can focus on support for students and develop better methods to assess the goals of public education. Maybe we can save even more as we recognize that public education will be better with more attention to learning and support for communities, but limited testing every two or three grades.”

Take the time to read his entire piece at:  http://ctmirror.org/op-ed-smart-money-is-on-children-not-testing/

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.

Malloy misleads teachers, parents, public school advocates and taxpayers – again!

Pelto Media Statement in Response to Governor Malloy’s Press Release:  GOV. MALLOY: MILLIONS IN ADDITIONAL FUNDING WILL ASSIST STRUGGLING SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Malloy misleads teachers, parents, public school advocates and taxpayers – again!

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, just issued a press release that began with the following:

HARTFORD, CT) — Governor Dannel P. Malloy, joined by Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, today hat Alliance Districts are set to receive a total of $132,901,813 in additional funding for the 2014-15 academic year to help implement academic improvement plans.  To date, 28 of 30 Alliance District Year Three plan amendments have been approved, with the final approvals expected in the coming weeks.

In typical fashion, the Governor and Commissioner of Education have used their announcement as a way to further mislead Connecticut’s teachers, parents, public school advocates and taxpayers.

Malloy claims that his “initiative” is providing Connecticut’s 30 most struggling school districts with another $132 million in state aid, but the truth is that this year’s increase is only about $45 million and that in order to get those funds, school districts were required to accept a series of new mandates and programs aimed at further implementing Malloy’s corporate education reform agenda and diverting scarce public dollars to private companies.

For example, some of the new money is being used to pay for pet projects such as Achievement First, Inc.’s “Residency Program for School Leadership.”

As Connecticut has come to know, Achievement First, Inc. is the charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

And thanks to Malloy and Pryor, Achievement First, Inc. has received more new funding than any other charter school operator in Connecticut.

While most school districts in Connecticut have effectively been flat funded, Achievement First, Inc. has benefited from a massive increase in per pupil funding, more charter school seats, and additional resources from various grants that were once reserved for Connecticut’s real public schools.

And if that windfall wasn’t enough, hidden inside this so-called “new” money for Connecticut’s poorer school districts is yet another special deal for Achievement First, Inc.

Note that in today’s press release, Malloy and Stefan Pryor brag about how 28 or the 30 “Alliance District Year Three Plans” have been approved.

What Malloy and Pryor don’t explain is that in order to get approved, towns were required to include certain education reform initiatives, including forcing Connecticut’s largest school districts to participate in Achievement First, Inc.’s “Residency Program for School Leadership.

As part of the program, Connecticut taxpayers will not only pay Achievement First, Inc., for their “services,” but Connecticut school teachers, paid for by Connecticut taxpayer funds, will be sent to teach in Achievement First schools.  This means that in addition to paying the charter school chain $11,500 per student, paying for all of their transportation costs and all of their special education costs, Achievement First, Inc. will be will be further subsidized thanks to having taxpayer-funded public school teachers working in their privately-run charter schools.

Achievement First, Inc. calls their “Residency Program” a “unique opportunity.”

There is no doubt about that, it is a unique opportunity for Achievement First to get more of our public funds.

When more and more questions are being raised about the lack of oversight of Connecticut’s charter schools, Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor are diverting record amounts of public money to charter schools.

While Malloy claims he is investing another $132 million into Connecticut’s poorest schools, the truth is that Connecticut taxpayers are being forced to waste even more money on Malloy’s failed education reform policies.

All this while our public school students continue to be left without the support they need and deserve.

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

Libraries are so overrated… (Not)

My children’s high school has a library and full-time library staff.  Their middle school had a library and a full-time librarian; even their elementary school had a library with a librarian.

But as a result of inadequate state funding (and outright stupidity on the part of some of our elected officials), many Connecticut children are attending schools that don’t have libraries or librarians.

In her latest CTNewsjunkie commentary piece entitled, College, Career and Democracy ready? Not without a trained librarian, fellow public-education advocate Sarah Darer Littman reveals the growing crisis of libraries in public schools.

Sarah Darer Littman opens here incredible piece with the following,

I had a conversation recently with a Connecticut politician in which I’d asked him if we truly care about literacy and improving reading skills, why are we spending so much money on testing while schools that most need functioning libraries don’t have any? Or if they do have a school library, why don’t they have up-to-date materials or a qualified media specialist to put the right book in the hands of a child at the right time?

When I’d asked the question, this politician asked me if research existed to justify the salary of a media specialist.

Littman goes on to examine the research about the efficacy of libraries, collects updates from Connecticut school librarians and reports that,

The sad fact is that in the districts that need them most, we are seeing school libraries underfunded or zero funded, and endorsed school librarian hours cut or eliminated.

Business leaders want our kids to be “college and career ready.” I want that but more, I want them to be life ready, with the socio-emotional and media literacy skills that they’ll need to be good citizens in our democracy.

It doesn’t look like our kids will be getting these skills under the self-styled, “Education Governor.”

The truth is that Sarah Darer Littman’s commentary piece should be required reading for every public official.

Why?

Because as Littman explains

Students can’t be ready for college, career, and democracy without being taught these important [library] skills. Handing them a shiny Chromebook and testing them more isn’t going to do the trick. Politicians from Washington on down need to recognize that current education policy is deeply flawed and must be revised before we waste more taxpayer money and send more children into the world woefully unprepared.

Take the time to read this important piece at:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_college_career_and_democracy_ready_not_without_a_trained_librarian/

Hey at least we’re not Rhode Island…

Connecticut may not have a governor who supports fair and adequate funding of our public schools, but at least we have a State Supreme Court that is willing to step  up and ensure Connecticut’s children get the quality education that they need and deserve.

The citizens of Rhode Island are not so fortunate.

Here in Connecticut, the State Supreme Court determined that the state DOES HAVE a constitutional obligation to adequately fund Connecticut’s public schools.  The Supreme Court sent the case, called Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding [CCJEF] v. Rell, back to the trial court for a full hearing on what would an adequate state funding formula would entail.

As Mayor of Stamford, Dan Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs behind this landmark lawsuit, a case that would lead to more state support for public schools and reduced pressure on local property taxpayers to pay those costs.

However, after getting re-elected on a promise to support the case, Governor Dannel Malloy joined Attorney General George Jepsen in trying to have this critical lawsuit dismissed and swept under the rug.

Thankfully the presiding in the case would have none of Malloy’s irresponsible maneuver and ordered that a full trial in the case against the State of Connecticut will begin later this year.

Unfortunately for the children, parents and teachers of Rhode Island, they don’t even have a state supreme court that is willing to stand up and ensure the politicians there don’t destroy their system of public education.

Diane Ravitch recently reported the news in an article entitled, “Rhode Island Supreme Court Rejects Equality of School Funding: Sorry, Kids!

Diane Ravitch writes,

Almost sixty years to the day of the U.S. Supreme court’s historic Brown decision, the Rhode Island Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit against the state’s inequitable funding system. The court said it was “deeply concerned” and acknowledged that the funding disparities hurt poor urban children most, but passed the buck. “Not our problem,” the court said.

Here is a summary from the Education Law Center.

RI SUPREME COURT IS “DEEPLY CONCERNED” BUT DENIES RELIEF TO SCHOOL CHILDREN

May 15, 2014

On May 3, 2014, the Rhode Island Supreme Court dismissed the fair school funding case, Woonsocket v. State. The Court concluded that conditions in the plaintiffs’ schools “make a strong case” against the current funding system. Nonetheless, the justices denied plaintiffs the chance to present their evidence in a trial on the merits of the case.

The Court wrote, “We emphasize that we are deeply concerned by the conditions of the schools in Pawtucket and Woonsocket as alleged by plaintiffs, as well as by the alleged predicaments of those municipalities regarding their inabilities to allocate the funding required to meet state mandates. Installing a means of providing adequate educational opportunities to every child in the state is not only an admirable goal; it is ‘perhaps the most important function of state and local governments.’” (quoting the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education)

In its written opinion, the Court summarized plaintiffs’ allegations, which detail the state’s adoption of higher and higher standards while failing to align funding to those standards. Insufficient resources mean students do not have the opportunity to reach the standards, plaintiffs assert. More recently, the state went so far as to cap local taxing authority so that municipalities attempting to make up for state shortfalls were not allowed to do so, plaintiffs add.

The Court also quoted plaintiffs’ complaint with regard to the most recent funding formula adopted by the state in 2010, noting that the formula “fails to provide adequate resources to allow children, especially in poor, urban communities, to obtain a quality education [and] a reasonable opportunity to meet the [state’s] academic standards.” The Court summarized plaintiffs’ description of the dire state of school facilities, books, and supplies, and the low test scores that flow from the state’s allegedly inadequate funding.

The state defendants filed a motion to dismiss this case, and the Court explained that its decision on the motion depended on interpretation of the Rhode Island Constitution’s Education Clause, which states that:

“The diffusion of knowledge, as well as of virtue among the people, being essential to the preservation of their rights and liberties, it shall be the duty of the general assembly to promote public schools, and to adopt all means which they may deem necessary and proper to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education.”

Although earlier precedent held that the Rhode Island General Assembly has exclusive authority over school funding, plaintiffs argued that repeal of a particular clause in the state constitution rendered that precedent irrelevant for the Woonsocket case. Plaintiffs also claimed that changes since the earlier precedent meant the state had replaced local control with state mandates. However, after an analysis of the impact of that repeal and other changes, the Supreme Court ruled that the General Assembly’s broad discretion in how it complies with the Education Clause was not impaired.

The Court indicates that the political branches could solve the problem of school funding without a court order by improving the states’ system. But the justices appear to ignore the General Assembly’s history of allocating inadequate funding for schools in low-wealth communities.

Based on that history and the current ruling, it appears that meaningful relief and educational opportunity will come to the students in under-resourced Rhode Island communities only if and when voters amend and strengthen the state constitution’s education clause. Only then will future plaintiffs with similar claims finally be granted their day in court. Some education advocates are proposing such an amendment.

You can read more about the case via the Education Law Center at: http://www.edlawcenter.org and http://www.educationjustice.org

Meanwhile, since we already have a Supreme Court on the correct side of this issue, all we need is a Connecticut governor who will be dedicated to fulfilling our moral and constitutional responsibilities to our children and future generations.  With that we could really start the task of putting Connecticut back on track.

No Really… Nothing more for instruction, but plenty for Common Core compliant computers

A Wait, What? blog post earlier this week entitled, “Malloy/Pryor Common Core Strategy – Hey, but we’ve got some computers!” outlined the fact that while many of Connecticut’s urban schools are woefully underfunded,  Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were able to find $25 million in state bonding to buy computers so that more of Connecticut’s students can be forced to take the ill-conceived Common Core Tests.

Some districts are having students take the new Common Core Tests this year while all public schools will be required to make students take the Common Core Tests next year … despite the fact that districts have yet to develop full Common Core curricula for their schools.

This means, as many public school teachers already know, Connecticut students will be required to take tests that attempt to measure things the students have yet to learn.

When New York State implemented this same strategy, the percent of students at goal dropped from 75% or so to about 25% or less, thus creating the artificial impression that New York’s schools were failing.

As proof of where Malloy and Pryor’s warped Common Core Testing plan is taking Connecticut one need only look across the nation to California where it was announced that this year the State of California is providing schools with $1.25 billion for computers, bandwidth and training to install Common Core standards.

California, like Connecticut has been facing extraordinary budget problems that have resulted in raising taxes, laying off teachers and cutting instructional programs in public schools.

But like Connecticut, at least they will have common core compliant computers…

Go figure…

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

And on Education Funding… Malloy misleads audience… again…

According to an article published in the CT Mirror and entitled,Malloy makes no promises to increase school funding further,” when speaking to the right-wing American Enterprise Institute yesterday, Governor Malloy wasnoncommittal Monday when asked during a forum in Washington, D.C., if he would further increase education funding again next year.”

In what has now become typical fashion, Malloy failed to tell the audience the whole truth.

In fact, what little funding Governor Malloy has provided for Connecticut public schools over the past three years has come with such extensive strings that it failed to provide local towns with real or meaningful options.

Even more importantly, Malloy’s new unfunded state mandates for far more standardized testing and the warped teacher evaluation program will cost Connecticut communities tens of millions of dollars.  Since the state is not reimbursing towns for most of these new costs, Malloy’s proposals will actually force most Connecticut towns to increase local property taxes and reduce existing education programs as they divert scarce resources to pay for Malloy’s untested and inappropriate programs.

But like so many other things associated with the Malloy tenure, the Malloy administration has refused to provide the public with honest information about its proposals.

As Connecticut taxpayers may recall, Malloy’ mantra of “shared sacrifice” was associated with a $1.5 billion tax proposal that included higher income tax rates for everyone EXCEPT those making more than $1 million.  However, Malloy’s successful effort to coddle the super-rich was never openly discussed by policymakers.

And yesterday, following the standard script, when he was asked about additional school funding Malloy responded with, “I think that it’s a little early to tell.”

What Governor Malloy failed to do was provide Connecticut voters with an honest assessment of the fiscal disaster that his administration has already created and will become increasingly apparent… especially after the next gubernatorial election.

According to the non-partisan Connecticut Office of Fiscal Analysis, Malloy’s tax and spending programs have created a situation in which Connecticut will face:

  • A $1.1 billion budget deficit in the fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2015,
  • A $1.2 billion budget deficit in the fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2016,
  • And a $1.4 billion budget deficit in the fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2017.

Equally appalling is the fact that even this year’s state budget is balanced by using one-time revenues and budget gimmicks that Malloy promised he would not utilize when he was running for governor.

By refusing to lay out the true nature of Connecticut’s financial problems, Connecticut citizens won’t have the information necessary to engage in an honest and thoughtful discussion about the challenges and issues facing the state.

Yesterday’s speech reminds us that the Malloy administration’s consistent lack of honesty and transparency will prove to be its most notable legacy.

You can read the CT Mirror story here: http://www.ctmirror.org/political-mirror/2013/12/02/malloy-makes-no-promises-increase-school-funding-further

Bridgeport: Where “truth” is sometimes fiction

Paul Vallas likes to brag that he “balanced” Bridgeport’s school budget during the two years he ran Bridgeport’s schools.

Mayor Bill Finch likes to brag that he is making a huge “investment” in Bridgeport schools.

Every time Paul Vallas speaks about his budget success he fails to mention that he didn’t actually balance last year’s Bridgeport School Budget, the taxpayers of Connecticut did.

When Bridgeport’s Education budget was still facing a $3.4 million deficit, Governor Malloy proposed, and the legislature adopted special language providing Bridgeport with a $3.4 million “forgivable” loan.

And what did Connecticut taxpayer’s get in return if the loan was “forgivable”?

If Paul Vallas left his job as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools – which he is now doing – Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, would be responsible for “approving” Vallas’ successor.  The wording is actually, “As a condition of making such loan under this section, the commissioner shall require the selection of a superintendent of schools or chief financial officer of the Bridgeport school district from a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner.”

Vallas, Finch, Malloy and Pryor seem to forget that the “deal” is forever preserved in Public Act No. 12-1 of the June 12 Special Session (see complete language below).

And now, despite his bragging about his massive investment in Bridgeport’s schools, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch has now cut a secret deal with the Malloy Administration that will allow Bridgeport to take a pass on the law that requires Connecticut communities to maintain a minimum contribution to their local school budget in order to qualify for state funds.

When Mayor Finch presented this year’s Bridgeport City Budget he announced, “Thanks to the actions of my administration and the City Council, we are working more closely with the Board of Education to provide better educational opportunities for our children than ever before.”

But now, the secret deal he has cut with Governor Malloy’s operation means the City of Bridgeport DOES NOT HAVE TO PROVIDE their schools with $3,281,703 that would otherwise have been required under Connecticut law.

You can read about the new Finch/Malloy Bridgeport deal in yesterday’s Wait, What? post: Secret Deal for Malloy Political ally turns Education Funding Formula into a joke.

So Vallas didn’t balance the school budget last year, Connecticut taxpayer’s picked up the cost of the $3.4 million deficit.

And this year, a new deal between Malloy and Finch will mean that Bridgeport is excused from having to put $3.2 million into their school budget.

But hey, at least Malloy’s Commissioner of Education gets to require that the selection of a Bridgeport superintendent of schools is from “a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner.”

Here is the language of Section 289 of Public Act No. 12-1 of the June 12 Special Session.

Sec. 289. (Effective July 1, 2012) (a) The sum of $ 2,300,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for Personal Services, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(b) The sum of $ 700,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for Sheff Settlement, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(c) The sum of $ 500,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for OPEN Choice Program, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(d) The Commissioner of Education may, upon approval by the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, provide a loan of up to three million five hundred thousand dollars to the city of Bridgeport for the purposes of inclusion in the budgeted appropriation of education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, to cover education expenditures incurred during such fiscal year. As a condition of making such loan under this section, the commissioner (1) shall require the selection of a superintendent of schools or chief financial officer of the Bridgeport school district from a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner, and (2) may require additional process or outcome targets and objectives to be included in the alliance district plan submitted by the board of education pursuant to section 34 of public act 12-116. The city of Bridgeport shall repay such loan not later than June 30, 2015. The commissioner may permit the city of Bridgeport to repay such loan by reducing the equalization aid grant received pursuant to section 10-262h of the general statutes, as amended by this act, in each fiscal year of such repayment. The commissioner may, upon approval from the secretary, forgive all or a portion of such loan if the city of Bridgeport has complied with the conditions of such loan and the commissioner has approved the alliance district plan submitted by the board of education pursuant to section 34 of public act 12-116.

Jepsen/Malloy move to destroy most important school funding lawsuit in modern times

Next Monday, on September 16, 2013, Attorney General George Jepsen, with the help and support of Governor Dannel Malloy, will go before a Connecticut Superior Court judge in what could be termed a despicable attempt to dismiss the most important school finance lawsuit in nearly five decades.  In fact, the case, CCJEF v. Rell, may well be the most important school finance lawsuit in Connecticut history.

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.

Long before Malloy became governor, before governors Rell, Rowland, Weicker, O’Neill and Grasso, there was the famous Connecticut lawsuit of Horton v. Meskill, a case designed to force Governor Meskill and the Connecticut General Assembly to adopt a fair school financing system.  In 1977, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled, “that the right to education in Connecticut is so basic and fundamental that any intrusion on the right must be strictly scrutinized.” The Court said that “public school students are entitled to equal enjoyment of the right to education, and a system of school financing that relied on local property tax revenues without regard to disparities in town wealth and that lacked significant equalizing state support was unconstitutional. It could not pass the test of strict judicial scrutiny.”

The court ordered the executive and legislative branches to develop a new school funding system.

Now, nearly four decades later, Connecticut still doesn’t have a fair and equitable school financing system.

But the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, a statewide coalition of municipalities, local boards of education, education associations, unions, pro-education advocacy organizations, parents, public schoolchildren and taxpayers, are working to change that once and for all.

Founded in 2004, the coalition filed a lawsuit against the state of Connecticut in 2005.  That suit is called CCJEF v. Rell and it charges that Connecticut has failed to “adequately and equitably fund the public schools in accordance with its constitutional obligation.”

In March of 2010, the Connecticut Supreme Court took up CCJEF V. Rell and ruled all public school students in Connecticut have the constitutional right to an effective and meaningful (quality, adequate) education and CCJEF’s claim for a new public financing system was appropriate.

The Connecticut Supreme Court sent the case back to the Superior Court for a full trial on the merits and the trail is scheduled for July 2014.

But whether Governor Malloy and Attorney General Jepsen have reversed themselves and no longer believe in the constitutional right of Connecticut’s children or are simply trying to push the case past the next gubernatorial election, the duo have asked the Connecticut court to dismiss the case entirely.

Their move is an insult to every student, parent, teacher and taxpayer in the state of Connecticut.

It is hard to conceive that Jepsen and Malloy, two long-time Democrats, would be wasting time and scarce taxpayer resources in an attempt to dismiss this case.

The children of Connecticut deserve better.

More information on CCJEF go to:   http://ccjef.org/