Education School Deans in CT make national headlines with powerful commentary piece

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Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public education advocate, whose blog gets as many as 800,000 hits a month has highlighted the courageous stand taken by a number of college and university deans at schools of education in Connecticut.

The anti-testing, pro-teacher position these college deans are taking is especially important in light of the fact that Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration has been engaged in an effort to force the University of Connecticut to turn its School of Education over to the Corporate Education Reform Industry.  The Malloy administration’s State Department of Education has also been working to undermine some of the schools of education in the Connecticut State University System, especially targeting the program at Southern Connecticut State University.

In a recent Hartford Courant commentary piece, education deans from Connecticut’s independent colleges and universities step forward on behalf of teachers, the teaching profession, teacher preparation and public education in Connecticut.

Covering the news, Diane Ravitch posted a story entitled, “Connecticut: Ed School Deans Call for Common Sense and an End to Teacher-Bashing,”

Diane Ravitch writes;

Kevin G. Basmadjian, Dean of the School of Education at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, wrote a powerful article in the Hartford Courant in collaboration with other deans from across the state.

Connecticut’s students are among the highest on the NAEP, yet its policymakers insist that its schools and teachers are unsuccessful. The politicians want more charter schools and Teach for America.

He writes:

“As a nation and a state, we have clearly failed to address the inequalities that disproportionally impact many urban school districts where kids are poor and segregated. Sadly, for the first time in 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students now come from low-income families. But instead of addressing this crisis, we have demonized teachers for failing to solve problems our government cannot, or will not, solve. Poverty, homelessness and the dangerously high levels of emotional and psychological stress experienced by low-income students — these are the problems many of our nation’s public school teachers face every day.

“Our nation’s obsession with standardized test scores will not solve these problems, and they put our country at great risk intellectually as well as economically. As educational researcher Yong Zhao writes, countries with which we are often compared — such as Singapore, Japan and South Korea — are moving away from a focus on testing in their public schools. Why? Because they have learned from the history of the United States that a great education and nation is one that rewards creativity, originality, imagination and innovation….

“The most recent scapegoat for our nation’s shameful achievement gap is teacher preparation programs, for failing to produce a steady stream of what the U.S. Department of Education abstractly calls “great teachers” to work in our neediest public schools. By blaming teacher preparation programs, the department can yet again divert public attention from the most crucial barrier to achieving educational equality: poverty.

There is a need for more “great teachers” who will commit themselves to our state’s neediest public schools. But achieving this goal will take more than naive slogans or punitive measures levied against teacher preparation programs that do not successfully persuade graduates to teach in these schools. The U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations for teacher preparation — with its emphasis on standardized test scores — work against this goal because of the overly technical, anti-intellectual portrait of teaching they endorse. We in Connecticut need to make these jobs more attractive to prospective teachers through increased respect, support and autonomy rather than criticism, disdain and surveillance.”

The entire commentary piece authored by the deans can be found here: Stop Blaming Teachers And Relying On Tests.

The authors of the powerful piece are Kevin G. Basmadjian, the dean of the School of Education at Quinnipiac University. Also participating in writing this piece were: James Carl, dean of the Isabelle Farrington College of Education at Sacred Heart University; Allen P. Cook, dean of the School of Education at the University of Bridgeport; Sandy Grande, chair of the Education Department at Connecticut College; Robert D. Hannafin, dean of the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions at Fairfield University; Ann Monroe-Baillargeon, dean of the School of Education at the University of Saint Joseph; Nancy S. Niemi, chair and professor in the Education Department at the University of New Haven; and Joan E. Venditto, director of education programs at Albertus Magnus College.

Breaking News: State employee layoffs coming to UConn

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Updated with statement from UConn spokesperson (see end of blog post)

According to high-ranking UConn administrators, who asked to remain anonymous due to concerns about retaliation, a series of layoff notices will be going out soon to state employees at the University of Connecticut, including unionized employees.

Despite a 6.5 percent increase in tuition and fees that have already been approved for next year, inadequate state support will mean that a significant number of UConn employees will be receiving layoff notices, the first time there have been a substantive number of layoffs at the University in at least 20 years.

The UConn administrators report that the initial round of layoffs will be hitting the School of Law, the School of Social Work and at other major programs at UConn.

Governor Malloy’s record cuts to Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education have already been taking a tremendous toll.  As the State of Connecticut reduces its state budget support for UConn, the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges, students and their parents are being told they must pay more and get less.

In a related move to cut spending, the Connecticut Board of Regents is blindly rushing to approve a “Transform CSCU 2020” plan that will dramatically diminish the Connecticut State University and Community College System.

The disturbing news of impending layoffs comes on the heels of the decision by Governor Malloy’s political appointees on the UConn Board of Trustees to dramatically increase UConn President Susan Herbst’s salary and compensation package.

Voting at a special board meeting on December 29, 2014, the UConn Trustees approved a new compensation package that will push President Herbst’s  salary to $831,000 by 2019.  Herbst’s new contract increases her salary by 5 percent each year and provides that the UConn Board of Trustees or a committee shall review her salary annually and may increase, but not decrease her compensation package.  In addition, Herbst will receive an $80,000-a-year “deferred compensation” payment, along with a $38,000 “supplemental retirement benefit.”  The new contract also promises her a $40,000 performance bonus each year and guarantees her two “retention bonuses” totaling $200,000, one in 2016 and one in 2019.

But when the Trustees met at the specially called meeting to approve the UConn President’s new compensation package, they failed to reveal that a plan to layoff state employees at the University of Connecticut was already taking shape.

The news that UConn is facing a massive budget crisis is not news, but the use of layoffs is in stark contrast to Governor Malloy’s campaign message, which was that if re-elected, he would not raise taxes or cut vital services and would not need to engage the State’s public employee unions in any negotiations about concessions.

The state employee unions used that commitment to support a massive political effort that helped Malloy beat his Republican opponent by about 40,000 votes.

Despite Malloy’s rhetoric, state employees, including those at UConn, will be feeling the devastating impact of the projected $1.4 billion budget deficit in next year’s state budget.

As the CT Mirror reported last March, “The University of Connecticut is facing a $46.2 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1 — a 4 percent shortfall in the funding needed to continue existing programs.”

The CT Mirror added, “Further tuition increases, cuts to research funding, scaling back financial aid and stalling faculty hiring have not been ruled out to close the gap, a university spokeswoman said.”

According to reports produced by the University of Connecticut, State funding for UConn has decreased by more than $55.3 million a year since Malloy took office.

The Malloy budget cuts take the University of Connecticut back to 1995 when a New York Times article entitled, “UConn Plans Tuition Rise And Layoffs,” reported that, “Tuition at the University of Connecticut will rise 10 percent in 1994-95 and some part-time faculty members will lose their jobs this fall, the school’s trustees have decided.”

The New York Times added, “This is the sixth consecutive year that the university has called for a double-digit tuition increase. Over five years, tuition has doubled and the university has trimmed about one-fifth of its faculty and staff.”

In 1995, the State of Connecticut provided a block grant to the University of Connecticut that covered 32 percent of the University’s total operating budget.

Thanks to Malloy’s on-going cuts, the State of Connecticut’s operating grant now only provides 18.7 percent of UConn’s total operating costs.

It has been twenty years since those disastrous cuts, yet the on-going lack of state support for the University of Connecticut is jeopardizing the quality of the University and putting a UConn education more and more out of reach for Connecticut families.

As noted previous, the result of these constant budget reductions has resulted in a tremendous shift onto the backs of students and their parents.  The cost of tuition, room and board for an in-state student has at UConn has gone from $9,784 in 1995 to $23,496 this year.

And now UConn students are being told that although they will need to cough up 6.5 percent more to go to the University of Connecticut next fall, they can expect fewer staff and reduced programs.

In response to a request for a comment, UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz issued the following statement, it provides an interesting spin on how the University is going to explain the upcoming cuts.

“At this time, any workforce reductions at the university are very limited in number, affecting very few employees, and are due to reorganizations within a particular office, department, or school, not because of financial need or any reduction in state support.”

ALERT – The on-going effort to destroy CSU and the Community Colleges

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The CT Mirror had an excellent article last Friday entitled, CSCU leader says balking faculty will eventually praise transformation plan.” It highlights some of the issues surrounding the uproar about Governor Malloy’s “Transform CSCU 2020” plan.

It would appear that the basic problem with the Transform CSCU 2020 “initiative” can best summed up by the naïve comment of Regent President Gregory Gray who told the CT Mirror,

“All of this [plan] is very supportable…I think the faculty, when they really learn more about it, and participate before it becomes a final plan, I do believe they are going to praise it.”

Like a true champion of corporate education reform, Gray appears committed to the notion that a “post-modern,” corporate oriented approach to public higher education is a “simple” solution to providing Connecticut’s residents with the higher educational opportunities they need and deserve in today’s complex world.

Like so much of the corporate education reform movement, the rhetoric sounds great, but the product produced is the antithesis of what is best for students, faculty and the society at large.

It is a sad commentary, although not surprising, that when you turn public primary, secondary and higher education over to the corporate elite and their well-paid consultants, you end up with a “business plan” that appears financially attractive but lacks the sophistication necessary to produce an education system that recognizes that all students can learn and thrive, but not all students learn and thrive at the same time or in the same way.

Most importantly, these corporate driven plans tend to think of educators as if they are the greeters at Wal-Mart, the re-stockers at Target or the checkout workers at the Dollar store.

While all of those positions are vital to the success of an advanced capitalist retail establishment, the model is not transferable to the “education sector,” although the corporate reformers are either unable or unwilling to recognize that truth.

The CT Mirror piece lays out the key issues underlying the failure of the Transform CSCU 2020 plan including;

  • “An unpopular merger of the bachelor-degree granting Connecticut State Universities with the state’s online and community colleges created a 90,000-student system and left many faculty uneasy.
  • A cut in the portion of funding provided by the state legislature challenged the 16-campus system that was already facing significant shortfalls.
  • A trio of serious missteps by the new system’s first president led to his dismissal and further damaged faculty confidence in the organization’s leadership.”

But in the end, the botched development and roll-out of Transform CSCU 2020 rests with the President of the Board of Regents, the Board of Regents and their $1.8 million consultants.

The plan to transform Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges was driven by a consulting company called Boston Consulting Group (BCG).  As CT Mirror notes, the plan is a “long list of ‘road maps’ for implementation; and used language that to faculty was strange, bureaucratic and off-putting, referring to such things as collecting ‘payroll and staffing data’ to ‘identify key opportunities’ with the goal of ‘program optimization.’”

Observers shouldn’t be surprised by the junk delivered by the Boston Consulting Group. While $1.8 million might sound excessive, the Regent President and the Board of Regents got exactly what they paid wanted and paid for…or at least they got exactly what they should have expected.

The Boston Consulting Group is a massive, multi-national consulting company whose fame comes, in part, from helping companies transform themselves into international competitors by outsourcing every possible function and laying off Americans in the process.

The Boston Consulting Group is also infamous for its unending commitment to the corporate education reform industry agenda of privatizing schools, undermining teachers and the teaching profession and recommending that progress can only be achieved by crushing unions and rolling back collective bargaining rights.

Topping their list of “successes” is their present plan to privatize much of Philadelphia‘s public school system.  Their proposal, for which they were paid millions of dollars, has been to lay off teachers, dramatically expand the number of privately run, but publicly funded charter schools, out-source services and replace people with technology.

As the CT Mirror story notes in its story, Regent President Gray now says that he was surprised by the backlash against the plan that he and the Board of Regents developed in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group.

If Regent President Gray was really surprised, then that – as we say – says it all!

As reported in early Wait, What? blog posts, the problems with the Transform CSCU 2020 are not new.

Transform CSCU 2020 started with the wrong approach to developing a comprehensive plan, utilized the wrong consultants and was backed by a Board of Regents who don’t have the understanding or experience with Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges to even know what a successful plan would look like.

The wrong approach to developing the plan:

When announcing their decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group to develop the plan to transform the state university and community college system in April 2014, Regent President Gray said he was confident that the private company with 81 offices in 45 countries had the credentials to do the job.

At the same time, an “Executive Steering Committee” was named to oversee the process, a group whose membership failed to include any faculty, staff, students or alumni members.

Instead, the Transform CSCU 2020 Executive Steering Committee consisted of Board of Regents Chairman Nicholas Donofrio; Board of Regents President Dr. Gregory Gray; The Boston Consulting Group lead Partner on the project, J. Puckett; Catherine Smith, Malloy’s Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development; and John Rathgeber, President of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

While having business interests at the table is certainly appropriate when developing a comprehensive plan for Connecticut’s state universities and colleges, a successful system of public higher education requires more than just a business orientation.

In fact, the notion that something as large, complex and important as the Connecticut state universities and community colleges can be “transformed” from the top down, led by an all business sector Executive Steering Committee that lacks faculty, staff, student or alumni is, in and of itself, a sign that Malloy’s appointees lacked the vision, wisdom and understanding to do the job right.

Transform CSCU 2020:  The Wrong High- Cost Consultants:

Regent President Gray and the Board of Regents’ decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group was also wrong from the start.  The Boston Consulting Group record makes it absolutely clear that it does not understand and respect the culture and environment surrounding education.

The Boston Consulting Group’s plan for the Philadelphia Public Schools provides clear and convincing proof of that problem.  In Philadelphia, the Boston Consulting Group’s recommendation including a plan to “essentially wipe out collective bargaining,” including removing tenure for public school teachers and allowing administrators to hire and fire at will.  The BCG report also recommended “outsourcing maintenance and transportation services,” including getting rid of those who belonged to SEIU Local 32BJ District 1201 unless they gave up their collective bargaining rights.  At its core, the Boston Consulting Group plan for Philadelphia was about replacing public education with publicly funded charter schools.

You can read more about BCG’s dismal approach in Philadelphia via the following links;

Report detailing Boston Consulting Group findings and recommendations released; BCG ‘collective bargaining reform’ and what it would mean for teachers; More About the Boston Consulting Group: Read It and Weep; Ethics complaint accuses Boston Consulting Group, William Penn Foundation of violating lobbying code; Put the Boston Consulting Group where it belongs – before the public; Boston Consulting Group has been a driving force on labor talks, school closings, and charters

And as if that was  not proof enough of the inappropriateness of choosing the Boston Consulting Group, the Board of Regents should have simply read the articles written by the Boston Consulting Group’s lead consultant for the Transform CSCU 2020 plan, J. Puckett. Puckett is the Boston Consulting Group’s “senior partner and managing director” in their Dallas office and is the leader of their “global Education practice.”

Puckett’s articles, including “An Education in Making a Difference,” “The State of Public Education in New Orleans, 2008 Report and “Can Technology Revolutionize Education?.”  They paint the picture of a true champion of the corporate education reform industry.

When writing about the future of public education, Puckett writes, “There are several successful U.S. role models, such as New Orleans and Dallas,” adding, “The turnaround in New Orleans has been especially sharp.”

But of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

As we are painfully aware of here in Connecticut, the work of Paul Vallas and the other corporate education reform industry elite has been disastrous from Chicago to Philadelphia to New Orleans to Bridgeport.

Equally revealing is when the Boston Consulting Groups’ J. Puckett opines about the benefit of technology in the classroom saying, “Several providers, such as K12 and Connections Academy, offer a full range of products, including digital curricula, lesson plans, instructional tools, and teacher training. School systems can take advantage of these resources at greatly reduced costs, rather than go it alone.”

He adds, “Rocketship Education, a charter school network near San Francisco, with national expansion plans, is reinventing how learning takes place in the classroom, asking its students to spend 25 percent of each day in a “learning lab,” where they work on customized, computer-delivered material. During this time, the students are supervised by monitors, rather than teachers, saving significantly on costs.”

The real evidence about K12 Inc. and Rocketship Charter Schools is hardly positive, but anyone familiar with the needs of students would recognize the inherent problem with the notion that, “students are supervised by monitors, rather than teachers, saving significantly on costs.”

Finally, in a 2014 email Puckett makes it clear just what the Boston Consulting Group is doing.

Writing about a new partnership between Boston Consulting Group, the pro-education reform Gates Foundation and Harvard Business School, Puckett writes,

“The BCG-Gates-HBS PK-12 research focuses on best practices for partnerships between business leaders and educators to accelerate improvement in America’s schools. The research has identified three high-leverage ways in which business leaders can engage with educators to bring about significant change for the better:

* Laying the policy foundations for education innovation
* Scaling up proven innovations that boost student outcomes
* Reinventing the local education ecosystem in cities and regions

“It is our pleasure to share with you two joint research reports on these important topics. We hope the first report, Lasting Impact: A Business Leader’s Playbook for Supporting America’s Schools, will inspire business and education leaders to work together on the urgent task of transforming the nation’s education system. The second report, Partial Credit: How America’s School Superintendents See Business as a Partner, summarizes the findings of a nationwide study on U.S. competitiveness and business’ role in education.

Considering the long and proud history of the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges, the Boston Consulting Group should never have been hired for the job of developing Transform CSCU 2020.

A Board of Regents that lacks the necessary or appropriate experience:

Finally, as if the inappropriate top-down approach and selection of Boston Consulting Group wasn’t enough to undermine the legitimacy of the “Transform CSCU 2020” effort, there is the fact that Governor Malloy’s appointees to the Connecticut Board of Regents lack the necessary experience to properly oversee policies that impact the 92,000 students who attend the 17 diverse public universities and colleges that make up the Board of Regents CSCU system.

Many of these political appointees can claim successful careers as corporate executives or business people, but they lack of real-world experience and the experience with these institutions to lead the mission of creating a long-term plan for Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges.

Malloy’s Board of Regent Trustees includes:

Regent Chairman Nicholas M. Donofrio, a former high ranking IBM executive who graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Syracuse University.  He continues to sit on the Board of Trustees for those two institutions.

Regent Vice- Chair Yvette Meléndez, the Vice President of Government and Community Alliances for Hartford Hospital. As her Regent biography proudly claims, “Her experience also includes roles at the State Department of Education, where she led Connecticut’s entry into the charter school movement.”    Her degrees come from Brooklyn College and  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Dr. Lawrence DeNardis, the President Emeritus of the University of New Haven and a former United States Congressman.  His academic experience included time as an Associate Professor at Albertus Magnus College.  His degrees come from College of the Holy Cross and New York University.

Matt Fleury, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Science Center, having previously served as the Center’s Executive Vice President and COO.  His degree comes from the University of Connecticut School of Business.

David R. Jimenez, a shareholder of the law firm of Jackson Lewis. His Regent bio reports that he provides counsel to employers on a variety of strategic matters including HR compliance, outsourcing/in-sourcing HR initiatives, code of conduct development and organizational compliance, and management of employment law exposures.  His degrees are from University of Texas and Hofstra University School of Law,

Craig Lappen, the President of 21st Century Financial Advisors with degrees from Ohio Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut.

Bill McGurk, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Rockville Bank.  He is a graduate of Holy Cross College.

JoAnn H. Price, the co-founder and managing partner of Fairview Capital Partners, Inc. She is a graduate of Howard University.

Elease E. Wright, a former executive at Aetna Inc.  She graduated from the University of Connecticut and served on the Board of Directors for the UConn Foundation.

There are hree other Trustees who do have significantly more CSU or Community College experience, including former Speaker of the House and Lobbyist Richard J. Balducci, former Chair of the House Education Committee Naomi K. Cohen and former President of Charter Oak State College, Merle Harris, but like all good political appointee they have to be extremely cognizant of the wishes of the Malloy administration and their operatives.  The Board of Regents also includes two student representatives.

As the debate about Transform CSCU 2020 continues, the fact is that it could have been a powerful vision to create an even more vibrant state universities and community colleges, but that opportunity has been wasted with the work done to date.

You can read the CT Mirror story here: CSCU leader says balking faculty will eventually praise transformation plan

More on the controversial Transform CSCU 2020 can also be found in the Wait, What? blog entitled, “The stench coming from the Board of Regents.”

The question IS NOT whether UConn has a major impact on Connecticut’s economy

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The question IS NOT whether UConn has a major impact on Connecticut’s economy.

An additional issue is whether voters fully understand how UConn spends its public funds.  For example, UConn uses student and public funds to subsidize the school’s big-time athletic programs to the tune of about $19 million a year.

Yesterday, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and UConn President Susan Herbst released a $50,000 study, produced by an out-of-state company that reported that that the University of Connecticut “had a $3.4 billion impact on the state’s economy in 2013.”

The University of Connecticut is a public institution of higher education that is dedicated to research, teaching and public service.  UConn’s total budget is in excess of $1 billion a year, about 27% of which comes from state funds.  It wasn’t that long ago that the state funded almost half of UConn’s budget.  UConn is part of the nation’s network of land-grant universities.   The concept of land-grant universities originated in the 1860s as a way to target public funds to promote “agricultural and technical educational institutions.”

Putting aside the obvious issue that this publicly-funded study was timed to showcase Malloy during the 2014 gubernatorial election, the bigger question is the governor’s double-standard when it comes to UConn and Connecticut’s other public colleges and universities.

At yesterday’s press conference, Malloy proclaimed,

“It’s important for the people of Connecticut to understand just how vital the University of Connecticut is to economic activity.”

Of course, this statement comes from the very same governor who pushed through the deepest budget cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education.

Since becoming governor, Malloy has reduced state support for the University of Connecticut by well over $100 million.  (The same pattern of budget cuts has taken place at the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges).

As a direct result of Malloy’s budget cuts to UConn and the other public colleges and universities, the schools have been forced to shift the costs onto the backs of Connecticut’s students and their parents.

Since Malloy took office, the cost of going to UConn has skyrocketed by 20% for students living on campus.  As a result of Malloy’s budget cuts, students who commute to UConn or can’t afford to live on campus have seen their tuition and mandatory fees jump by an incredible 28%.

Compounding the problem is the lack of transparency and honesty coming from the Malloy administration and UConn’s Board of Trustees.

The public subsidy of UConn’s athletic programs is just such an example.

When the State of Connecticut built a new stadium in East Hartford and UConn moved to 1-A football, state officials claimed that the move would be lucrative and that within a few years UConn football would be paying for the entire cost of UConn’s athletic programs.

However, according to a 2013 financial report provided to the NCAA, the State of Connecticut and UConn students continue to provide a massive subsidy to UConn’s big-time athletic programs.

Last year, UConn’s athletics program cost in excess of $63.3 million.  Incredibly, 29.7% of that money comes from UConn’s Operating Fund which is primarily made up of tax dollars, as well as, UConn student tuition and fees.

While “big time” athletics are certainly part of almost every major university, Connecticut taxpayers, students and parents deserve to know that they are subsiding UConn athletics to the tune of about $19 million a year.

And while having top tier coaches is a vital part of any successful major athletic program, most Connecticut taxpayers, students and parents probably don’t know that UConn’s top four coaches collected in excess of $7.1 million in compensation in 2013 and that nearly a third of that money came directly from students, parents and taxpayers.

The truth is that Connecticut should be proud of the University of Connecticut and the impact UConn has on the state.

And Governor Malloy certainly has the right to highlight the fact that he has put nearly $2 billion on the state’s credit card to build even more new buildings for the University.

But for Governor Malloy to hold a press conference about UConn, without explaining that he implemented historic cuts to UConn’s operating fund, is extremely inappropriate and misleading.

As a direct result of Malloy’s policies, UConn has become more expensive for Connecticut families.

That is certainly something he shouldn’t be proud about.

You can read more about the new study and Malloy’s press conference at:

CTNewsJunkieNew Report Touts UConn’s Impact On State Economy

CT Mirror: UConn touts its economic contribution but touches off a political dustup

Malloy’s Big Lie on Student Financial Aid

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Yesterday, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy traveled around the state to brag about his record and plans “to make higher education more affordable.”  Malloy stopped at various colleges and universities to release his “three-point plan to help families afford a higher education.”

Malloy’s press statement read;

“At a series of events in New Britain, Danbury, Norwalk and Stamford, Governor Malloy outlined a series of proposals to continuing his work to make higher education more affordable for Connecticut families.”

As proof of Governor Malloy’s commitment to helping Connecticut’s college students and their families, Malloy’s PR operation explained, “The Malloy-Wyman Administration has made affordable higher education a priority,” adding “The Malloy-Wyman Administration has already undertaken a number of actions to improve college affordability.”

The move to put a positive spin on Governor Malloy’s record on higher education is an unsettling reminder of just how far some politicians will go to lie and mislead the voters.

Dan Malloy’s record could not be clearer: 

When Malloy became governor in January 2011, the state of Connecticut provided $62.4 million a year in student financial aid grants to Connecticut students with financial need attending Connecticut universities and colleges.

The program was designed to help keep Connecticut’s students in Connecticut rather than have them leave the state to get a college education.

In Malloy’s first year in office, he cut the amount of state funding for grants to $52.1 million.

In his second budget Malloy cut funding for student financial aid to 45.3 million.

The following year he had the Connecticut General Assembly rename Connecticut’s financial aid grant programs so that it would be called the “Governor’s Scholarship Program” and cut the total amount of state money allocated for student aid grants to $42 million, a level of funding  Malloy repeated in this year’s state budget.

At the same time, Governor Dannel Malloy pushed through the deepest cuts in history to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities.

By reducing state support for Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education, tuition and fees have skyrocketed, as more and more of the burden falls on the backs of Connecticut’s students and their families.

At the very same time, Malloy was making his historic cuts to Connecticut’s universities and colleges, he also CUT funding for student financial aid by 33%.

Since Malloy took office, he has reduced the total amount of state financial aid for Connecticut students attending Connecticut colleges by $69 million.

And now, with about seven weeks to go until the 2014 election for governor, Malloy has the gall to make a series of campaign stops in which his PR operation promises that,

“Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman will add an additional $10 million to the Governor’s Scholarship Program, allowing for thousands more Connecticut residents to afford higher education.”

It would be funny if it wasn’t such a serious commentary about Malloy’s unwillingness to tell the truth about his record, his policies and the fiscal crisis facing Connecticut.

Here we have a campaign promise for more student financial aid from the governor who has slashed student financial aid.

And this from the governor who says he won’t raise taxes, he won’t layoff state employees, he won’t seek union concessions, he won’t reduce vital services AND he will cut taxes…all in front of a backdrop in which his budget strategies have left Connecticut with a projected $1.4 billion budget deficit next year.

Here is the truth about Malloy and Connecticut Student Financial Aid:

Year  State Funding for Student Financial Aid
   
FY 11 (Rell’s last budget) $62.2 Million
FY 12 (Malloy’s first budget) $52.1
FY 13 $45.3
FY 14 $42.0
FY 15 $42.0

 

Of Malloy’s “three point plan,” the other “two points” were equally misleading.  A later Wait, What? blog post will highlight Malloy’s effort to mislead voters on his so-called initiative “Providing Student Loan Interest Relief,” and his equally absurd “Refinancing Student Loans” plan.

In the meantime, you can read more about his spin on higher education in a story written by Keith Phaneuf at:  Malloy urges a 2nd tax cut, this time for those with student debt.

It would appear that the Malloy re-election campaign operation has reached the point where sticking to the truth is no longer of any value whatsoever.

Supporters of Corporate Education Reform now targeting higher education

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While it is obvious that the widespread access to higher educational opportunities is more important than ever, elected officials have been consistently reducing support for our public colleges and universities.

The shocking and disturbing trend has been especially visible here in Connecticut where Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy has pushed through the deepest cuts in Connecticut history for our public institutions of higher education.  Students and their families are forced to pay more and get less as the state pulls the rug out from under this vital service.

But Malloy is not alone.

On behalf of the corporate education reform industry, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is embarking on an expensive, misleading and completely unnecessary rating system that will cost colleges and taxpayers tens of millions of dollars while providing no benefit whatsoever.

On the other hand, the proposal will mean a whole lot of education reform consultants will continue to feed at the public trough.

This past weekend, fellow education advocate Wendy Lecker wrote about this proposal in her Stamford Advocate column entitled, “The consequences of silence.”

Wendy Lecker writes,

When President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan continued and expanded NCLB’s absurd ranking and punishing of public schools based on socio-economic and other inappropriate measures, teachers, parents and public school advocates spoke out. They opposed and continue to oppose shallow ratings that fail to capture the complexities of educating children and that distort the goals of public schools.

As this battle raged, one group that was silent were college officials. That silence had consequences and now these officials are feeling the bite of destructive education policies.

College presidents are up in arms over the Obama administration’s plan to rate colleges and universities, to determine eligibility for federal funds, based on factors such as how many students graduate, how much debt students carry and how much money graduates earn.

One community college leader, alluding to the well-known shortcomings of federal data, feared these ratings would be “garbage in- garbage out.”

Others worry about the one-size-fits-all measure, when colleges have different missions. Moreover, certain criteria reveal more about the ideology of those rating the schools than the quality of the schools themselves. For example, those ranking a school based on its graduates’ earnings value high salaries over professions such as teaching, social work, or other important, but not lucrative, jobs.

Williams College president Adam Falk decried the rating plan as “oversimplified to the point that it actually misleads.”

In a 2011 New Yorker article about U.S. News and World Report’s college ranking system, Malcom Gladwell explored the difficulty of measuring “how well a college manages to inform, inspire, and challenge its students.” He remarked that the proxies used for educational quality “turn out to be flimsy at best.”

As former Obama administration official, Janet Napolitano, now president of the University of California, said last year, “It’s not like — you know, you’re not buying a car or a boat.”

Napolitano overestimated the Obama administration’s regard for a college education. A U.S. Department of Education official recently claimed rating a college is “like rating a blender.”

Inaccurate data, a one-size-fits-all measure, a reductionist view of education — where have I heard all this before? Ah yes, federal and state officials, with the help of billionaires such as Bill Gates and the Walton family, have been inflicting these “reforms” on public schools for more than a decade. And for all that time, those who support a well-rounded K-12 education have been sounding the same alarms now raised by university presidents.

My question is — where have you been, university presidents? As we fight the narrowed curriculum resulting from NCLB and its corollary, the Common Core, which limits a child’s world to an endless series of scripted prompts and canned lessons, why haven’t you spoken out? When the democratic values of our society are being trampled by “reforms” that punish schools serving our neediest children, increase segregation and eliminate democratically elected school boards, where is your outrage? While political leaders define “college ready” as a number on a standardized test, why are you not explaining that college demands so much more than that?

You were likely lucky enough to attend schools that provided a rich and diverse curriculum. So certainly you have read the words of German pastor Martin Neimoller:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The concerted attacks on public education reach beyond local public schools. Our founders maintained that education was the “very essence and foundation of a civilized culture”; crucial to the preservation of our government and our society and “to the encouragement of virtue.” These broad goals have been replaced by the empty notion that our children are the simply means to American economic competitiveness and the false claims that if our schools focus on what can be tested and measured, our economy will succeed. In many respects our children have become the commodity — the raw material from which testing and charter companies profit.

It is high time for university presidents, good government groups and others to join public school advocates in demanding that the democratic purpose of our public schools be restored, lest no one remain when the profit-seekers come for them.

You can read the full commentary piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-The-consequences-of-silence-5517995.php

Hide your children – Arne Duncan is coming to Connecticut Tuesday

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According to the Hartford Courant, “The governor’s office confirms that Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, will visit Hartford’s University High School on Tuesday afternoon at 1:30. Duncan will speak on college accessibility and affordability. According to Duncan’s office the event will include U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and others.”

Considering Duncan et. al. are coming to speak about college affordability, choosing Hartford’s University High School of Science and Engineering, rather than one of Connecticut’s public colleges or universities is an interesting choice.

Considering Governor Malloy has instituted the deepest budget cuts in Connecticut history to the state’s public institutions of higher education, cuts that have led to significant tuition increases, it could be that the Governor’s handlers are worried that they won’t receive a warm welcome.

[Back in the fall of 2010 I attended a University of Connecticut Young Democrats meeting with candidate Dan Malloy in which he took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and promised to put an end to Governor Rell’s approach of shifting costs from the state to students and their families.  What a sad commentary that Malloy has done far more to increase college costs for Connecticut’s families than Rell ever did].

In any case, Malloy and Duncan are not appearing at one of Connecticut’s public colleges or universities, they are speaking at a Hartford public school.

As so-called education reformers perhaps Malloy and Duncan are more comfortable sticking to the corporate education reform environment that has become Hartford’s School System.

Hartford’s University High School of Science and Engineering is a prime example of a place where the hard work and real achievement of teachers and students have been overshadowed by the political spin that is the centerpiece of the corporate education reform industry.

According to University High School’s most recent STRATEGIC SCHOOL PROFILE filed with the Connecticut State Department of Education the school gets 51 percent of students from 35 towns surrounding Hartford and 49 percent of its students from Hartford.

Of the student population, 30 percent is White, 34 percent African American, 23 percent Hispanic and 13 percent from “other ethnicities.”

Although it is interesting to note that the school claims that only 2.8 percent of its students are English Language Learners (meaning that they are not proficient in the English Language).  The number is unbelievably low considering the significant number of students from Hispanic and other ethnic backgrounds.

Furthermore, the school reports that only 7.5 percent of its students need special education services, far fewer than the percentages in Hartford or the 34 sending towns.

And then the numbers become even more suspect.

According to the Strategic School Profile, University High School of Science and Engineering graduated its fourth class with a “100% graduation rate.”

The school adds that “100% of graduating seniors applied to and were accepted into a 2 or 4 year college. 90% of graduates are attending a four-year college or university; 8% are attending two-year colleges; and 2% post graduate year.”

However, the school also states that 185 students qualified as truant meaning that 48% of the entire student body was absent for an extremely extended period of time.  Not that truancy necessarily prevents a 100% graduation rate and 100% college attendance rate but the statistic is rather odd.

In addition, another troubling statistic is that only 10.6 percent of the juniors and seniors at Hartford’s University High School were enrolled in college credit courses of any type.  Compare that number to Buckley High where 14.6 percent of the juniors and seniors were taking college credit courses.

Of course, both schools do significantly better than Capital Prep where absolutely no students were enrolled in college credit courses.

Over the last few years it has become painfully clear that Secretary Duncan, Governor Malloy and the Obama and Malloy administrations are addicted to policies that are “data driven.”

And playing with the numbers to ensure they match the policy goals is not unheard of.

So, with tuition skyrocketing at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, increases that are a direct result of Governor Malloy’s budget cuts, it will be very interesting (and entertaining) to hear the spin that will be coming from Duncan and Malloy on Tuesday afternoon.

Now that’s funny: “Malloy Signs Bill Shifting Power to Pick Regents Chief From His Office To Board”

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AKA:  The ongoing saga known as the Connecticut Board of Regents

Earlier this month, at the request of Governor Malloy’s Chief of Staff, the Chairman of the Board of Regents informed that Board that it would be sending the Governor the names of the three finalists.  In that way, the Governor and not the Board would be selecting the next president of the Board of Regents.

Wait, What? readers may recall the two posts entitled “News Flash: What the Hell is going on…Malloy snubs nose at Connecticut law” and “Whoa there…Let’s try telling the truth…

As the CTMirror reported at the time, the Chairman of the Board of Regent explained that the Board forwarded three names for Governor Malloy to pick from following “a request from the governor’s chief of staff to do so.”  The news story quoted Board of Regents Chairman Lewis Robinson as saying, “Which ever one he chooses, we have a fine leader…I think all three are outstanding. I am excited.”

All this despite the fact that the letter and spirit of the law was stunningly clear.  The Board of Regents was to conduct interviews, select a candidate and the Governor would technically make the appointment.  In that way, the selection process would be done at arm’s-length from the politics of the Capitol.

But alas, despite that clear intent of the law, Governor Malloy and his staff couldn’t help themselves.  They wanted to determine which of the three finalists were most likely to recognize their supreme authority.

In response to all of this, the Connecticut General Assembly acted with amazing courage and speed and actually fast-tracked legislation “clarifying” the law by taking away Governor Malloy’s authority to even make the appointment.  The new bill put the duty to appoint in the hands of the Board of Regents, tracking the approach that exists with the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees.

When the dust settled, there was no bill signing on this one.  No smiling faces crowded around the Governor waiting for their copy of the pen that signed the legislation into law.

Instead, as the Hartford Courant noted in their story, “According to a statement from the governor’s office, Malloy ‘signed legislation he proposed in collaboration with state lawmakers’ and said ‘the change will help the next leader institute a long-term vision that increases stability and academic growth for the students at the state’s colleges and universities.’”

Malloy’s statement went on to read, “’I want to thank the members of the House and the Senate, including the chairs of the Higher Education Committee, for working with my administration on introducing this bill and acting quickly on its passage,’ Malloy said, according to the statement.”

So there you go — it turns out that it was all one big misunderstanding and Governor Malloy was actually the one who wanted the new law that made it clear that it was the Board’s responsibility and not his to make the appointment of the next president of the CSU and Community Colleges system.

Thank goodness that was clarified before the governor was forced to personally choose the next president.

You can read more about this story in the follow CTMirror article: http://ctmirror.org/story/19758/after-controversies-general-assembly-votes-remove-governors-authority-naming-college-pre

Update: Next Generation UConn – An additional $1.5 billion in borrowing

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By adding $1.5 billion in new state bonds on top of the remaining $235 million in UConn 2000/21st Century UConn state bonds, Governor Malloy is proposing an impressive plan to invest in “science, technology, engineering and math programs at the University of Connecticut.”

According to the Hartford Courant, “Malloy emphasized that the investment was needed to improve the state’s economy, which some see as stagnating. He predicted that over the next decade the project would attract $270 million in research grants and $527 million in business activity, as well as supporting more than 4,000 permanent jobs.”

“Quite frankly this investment should have been made 10 years ago,” Malloy said. “If it were made 20 years ago, our economy would be stronger today.”

Malloy’s plan would include $450 million for new science and engineering facilities and $770 million in infrastructure improvement, including a major expansion of UConn’s Stamford campus.  The plan would also increase the number of undergraduates attending UConn from 17,000 to about 24,000.

While the University of Connecticut and Connecticut’s other public colleges and universities definitely need more operating support, the Governor proposal overlooks three key points.

First, over the past two years, this Governor has implemented the deepest cuts in state history to the University of Connecticut and the state’s other public institutions of higher education.  UConn alone has been hit with over $50 million in cuts.  It wasn’t that long ago that the state provided about 50 percent of the funds needed to run the University of Connecticut.  As a result of the on-going reductions in support, the state’s share of funding for UConn has dropped below 30 percent.  These cuts have translated into program reductions and much higher costs to students and parents.  In essence, students are already being asked to pay more and get less.

Second, more recognition should be given to the fact that the state has already invested $2.3 billion in the University of Connecticut through the UConn 2000 and 21st Century bonding program.  Those funds have allowed UConn to completely overhaul its facilities.  Thanks to those funds, UConn has a new chemistry building, a new biology building, a new agricultural biotechnology building, a new marine science facility, two new engineering buildings, new and renovated facilities for math, physics and material sciences, a new pharmacy building and numerous other new specialized labs and classrooms.

While more facilities would certainly be optimal, what UConn desperately needs are funds to staff the new facilities and create the appropriate teaching, research and service programs that were supposed to go into those new facilities.

As most people recognize, borrowing should be used for buildings, not on-going programs.

However, in this case, while Malloy’s plan moves money around, significant amounts of the new bonding would be used to pay for new faculty members; 1,400 scholarships for top students; 50 doctoral fellowships; and 2,000 grants for students and faculty to launch projects.

Finally, Connecticut already faces significant debt and long-term liabilities that must be paid.  In fact, these are liabilities that the state MUST pay off in the next couple of decades.  Before adding more debt and liabilities to the state’s books, state officials must take far more aggressive action to increase funding to reduce the existing liabilities.  The following chart summarizes Connecticut’s existing debt and liabilities.

Category Amount of State Debt or State Unfunded Liabilities
State Borrowing $20 billion
State Pension Fund $11 billion
Teacher Pension Fund $11 billion
Post Retirement State and Teacher  Health Benefits $19 billion
GAAP $1.5 billion
TOTAL $62.5 BILLION

 

UConn definitely needs more funding.  A more realistic approach to increasing operating funds would have been a better step forward.

You can read more about Malloy’s proposal via the following links: http://www.courant.com/news/breaking/hc-engineering-uconn-0201-20130131,0,4372437.story and http://ctmirror.org/story/18962/21-billion-plan-uconn and http://today.uconn.edu/blog/2013/01/uconn-state-officials-announce-launch-of-next-generation-connecticut-initiative/

Remember when merging CSU & Community Colleges was going to save money so they could hire more faculty…

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They said it was all about adding faculty for Connecticut’s public colleges. While the number of students had increased dramatically, the number of full-time faculty had declined by 10 percent over the past eight years.

First came Malloy’s merger of the Connecticut State Universities and the Community Colleges.  The promise was that the plan would save at least $4.3 million, money that would then be used to hire new faculty.

State Senator Beth Bye, the legislator’s strongest advocate for the merger, echoed Malloy’s claim, writing in a commentary piece that, “One financial benefit of the governor’s proposed overhaul is that an estimated $4.3 million is saved by eliminating duplicative administrative costs…” Senator Bye added that the savings would be used to add faculty.

Then came the tuition increases.  The cost for an in-state student attending one of the Connecticut State Universities and living on campus jumped to $19,119.

But Mike Meotti, Governor Malloy’s point person on the merger, and the Executive Vice President of the Board of Regents promised, “This recommended increase will allow our state colleges and universities to hire additional faculty…”

Meanwhile, Governor Malloy’s own spokesman called the increase “fairly modest” and defended the decision to raise tuition during a recession saying that the money would be spent on new faculty.

But today, the Board of Regents announced that the $5.5 million that they pledged to use to hire at least 47 new faculty is being eliminated as a result of Governor Malloy’s recent $14.4 million cut to the new system.

As noted in today’s CTMirror, “A letter from the college system’s chief financial officer instructed college presidents not to move forward with hiring the new positions the appointed Board of Regents for Higher Education approved three months ago.”

And surprise, surprise, the CT Mirror found that “the Malloy administration was not immediately available for comment” on this recent development.

At this point, since Malloy took office last year he has cut state spending on public college and universities by more than 14%, reaffirming his position as the Governor who has made the deepest cuts in the history of Connecticut’s public higher education system.

The result being that, once again, Connecticut students and parents are left paying more and getting less.

The CTMirror story can be found here:  http://www.ctmirror.org/story/18367/state-deficit-stalls-promised-new-faculty-positions-higher-ed-shakeup

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