No Victory on “CT Transportation Initiative” despite claims

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The 2015 Session of the Connecticut General Assembly is over and as you listen to Connecticut politicians claiming victory on a new transportation initiative – face it – they are quite simply…lying!

The lack of the promised transportation funding “Lockbox” and a the successful effort to by-pass Connecticut’s competitive bidding laws have become the pillars of Governor Dannel Malloy’s purported “transportation initiative.”

Although it failed to garner any media attention, included in the massive 686-page “budget implementation” bill just passed the legislature were sections rolling back an important aspect of Connecticut’s competitive bidding laws for transportation projects.

As noted in yesterday’s Wait, What? post entitled, WARNING! “Budget Implementation Bill” includes language undoing post-Rowland competitive bidding reforms, the Malloy administration and Democratic legislative leaders embedded language into the “budget implementation” bill that allows the Malloy administration to side-step competitive bidding requirements on what will likely be the largest transportation projects the agency undertakes.

Equally astonishing is that while the legislature approved Malloy’s request for billions of dollars in transportation bonding, the General Assembly failed to ensure that the taxes intended to pay for the transportation program will actually be spent on the transportation program.

As the CT Mirror Reports,

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy got the $2.8 billion in bonding he needs to launch his transportation overhaul initiative — but not the legal ‘lockbox’ he insisted upon to protect it.

The transportation safeguards lawmakers approved Monday lack a mandated pledge to bondholders — something Malloy had said was essential to ensure dollars earmarked for transportation are spent for that purpose.

Instead legislators merely wrote in statute that transportation funds can’t be diverted for other purposes. For more than a decade, legislators and governors have assigned resources to transportation with one law, and then redirected them for other purposes with another law.

The CT Mirror goes on to remind readers that Malloy promised that he would VETO any transportation funding bill that did not include a “Lockbox” to protect taxpayer investment in transportation improvements.

In his State of the State Address in January, the governor said the state must pledge in its transportation bond covenant — effectively the control between the state and its investors — not to divert transportation funds.

“No gimmicks, no diversion,” the governor said. “And we should include a covenant with bondholders and all people of Connecticut to ensure that money set aside for transportation projects is only used for that purpose.”

Malloy added that until the legislature passed legislation with this safeguard, “I will veto any attempt to levy additional sources of new revenue for transportation.”

By way of response, the governor’s spokesperson dismissed Malloy’s earlier rhetoric about the need for a “Lockbox” noting,

“Today’s vote is the first step towards the future of a best-in-class transportation system,” Malloy spokesman Devon Puglia said. “This issue is too important — for jobs, for businesses, and for families. We would like to thank the legislature for sharing the governor’s vision to transform our infrastructure.  This one vote will have ramifications that will benefit generations of residents.”

You can read more about Malloy’s “Transportation Victory” at:

CT Mirror: http://ctmirror.org/2015/06/29/senate-approves-initial-bonding-for-malloys-transportation-overhaul/

CT Newsjunkie:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/language_implementing_budget_includes_dozens_of_other_legislative_concepts/

Courant: http://www.courant.com/politics/capitol-watch/hc-senate-debating-budget-implementer-20150629-story.html#page=1

WARNING! “Budget Implementation Bill” includes language undoing post-Rowland competitive bidding reforms.

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While the effort has yet to be reported, the bill to implement the new state budget includes a shocking move to undermine Connecticut’s competitive bidding laws.

Not satisfied with undermining Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance laws that were adopted following Governor John Rowland’s fall from grace and resulting first trip to prison, Governor Dannel Malloy is now trying to use the massive 529 section budget implementation bill to sneak through language undoing some of the most important aspects of the post-Rowland reforms to Connecticut state bidding laws.

Malloy’s proposal, which failed to make it through the legislative process during the regular legislative session, is buried deep inside the massive budget implementation bill that is being considered in today’s special session of the Connecticut General Assembly.

Sections 161 and 162 blow a huge gaping hole in the laws that were enacted to stop the illegal activities, abuses and contract steering that brought down Rowland and his administration in 2005.

However, rather than adhering to appropriate competitive bidding requirements, Malloy has embedded language in the budget implementation bill that would make it far easier to direct massive state contracts to selected bidders.

The following summary is provided by the General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Research, but even if legislators can find and understand the provisions, the demand by Malloy and the General Assembly’s Democratic leaders to pass the bill unchanged will likely mean that Malloy’s devious scheme will be adopted.

As a result of the loop-hole this language creates, some of Malloy’s largest campaign donors will find it much, much easier to get massive state contracts from the Department of Transportation.

Particularly note the language that been highlighted in red.

Emergency Certified Bill: SB 1502 – AN ACT IMPLEMENTING PROVISIONS OF THE STATE BUDGET FOR THE BIENNIUM ENDING JUNE 30, 2017 CONCERNING GENERAL GOVERNMENT, EDUCATION AND HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES.

Section§ 161 — DOT ALTERNATIVE CONSTRUCTION METHODS

By law, the DOT commissioner may designate certain projects to be built using alternatives to the traditional “design-bid-build” construction process. Such alternatives include the “construction manager at risk” (CMAR) and “design-build” processes.

In a CMAR contract, an owner (e.g., DOT) contracts with a construction manager who works with the project designer and provides labor, material, and project management during construction. By law, the CMAR contract must guarantee the maximum price.

The bill allows the commissioner, when he designates a project to use a contract with a CMAR contract with a guaranteed maximum price, to have DOT personnel do the design work or contract with an architect or engineer to do so. As under current law, it requires the CMAR contractor to provide input during the design process.

Under current law, the CMAR contractor (1) is responsible for the project’s construction and (2) must select subcontractors for this work through a low sealed bid process. The bill allows, rather than requires, the CMAR contractor to be responsible for construction, and eliminates the CMAR’s responsibility to select subcontractors through sealed bids.

The bill instead allows the DOT commissioner to permit the CMAR contractor to undertake a portion of the construction itself if the commissioner finds the construction manager general contractor is able to perform this work more cost-effectively than a subcontractor. It requires trade subcontractors, selected through a process the commissioner approves, to perform all the work the general contractor does not perform.

The bill allows the commissioner to put the project out to bid under DOT’s traditional bid process if he and the CMAR contractor cannot agree on a guaranteed maximum price

By law, the commissioner must obtain competitive proposals by advertising the project at least once in a newspaper with a substantial circulation in the area where the project is located. The bill allows him to also provide this notice on DAS’s State Contracting Portal or other advertising methods likely to reach qualified CMAR general contractors. Under the bill, he may similarly advertise projects for which he is using the design-build method. In a design-build contract, an owner (e.g., DOT) contracts with a single entity that both designs and builds a project.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage

Section 162 — USE OF CONSULTANTS FOR DOT PROJECTS USING ALTERNATIVE CONSTRUCTION METHODS

The law seeks to have DOT gradually reduce the use of consultants and, where possible, have its employees perform development and inspection work.

By law, the commissioner must use DOT employees for development and inspection work after the performance of the first two projects using alternative construction methods, (although he may continue to use consultants after this time if needed to complete work on projects authorized for alternative construction contracts). Development services include the size, type, and design of the project, performance specifications, quality of materials, equipment, workmanship and preliminary plans other information needed for DOT to issue a bid package. The bill requires the department to issue a request for proposal, rather than bid package, when using alternative contracting methods.

The bill allows the commissioner, after the first two projects are performed, to use consultants to design the project to be built by a CMAR if he determines that DOT lacks the capacity and technical expertise to design it. He must make this determination after assessing the project delivery schedule, staffing capacity, and required technical expertise required for a CMAR project. But it specifies that detailed design work on design-build contracts remains the contractor’s responsibility. The bill requires the commissioner to create a program to train DOT employees to support alternative project delivery methods. This training may be provided on projects using consultants. The commissioner must report annually, by October 1, to the governor on (1) the department’s progress in training its employees, (2) improving the diversity of its technical expertise, and (3) building internal project delivery capacity.

The commissioner’s authority to use consultants under current law ends on the earlier of (1) when the governor notifies the Transportation Committee that consultants are no longer needed to complete alternative construction projects or (2) January 1, 2019 unless the legislature reauthorizes their use.

The bill extends (1) how long DOT can use consultants by three years, to January 1, 2022, and (2) the 2022 deadline another three years, until January 1, 2025, if the governor certifies that the continued use of consultants is necessary to complete alternative delivery projects.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage

 

CT’s Legislative Democrats set to make a bad budget worse

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Governor Dannel Malloy must have been singing the children’s song “Roll Over, Roll Over,” because it appears that Democrats in the Connecticut State Senate and House of Representatives will return to Hartford today to “fix” a bad state budget by making it worse.

As the CT Mirror reported on Friday,

“The House and Senate will return Monday at 10 a.m. for what the leaders hope will be a one-day special session to pass budget revisions and implementer bills, a bond package and two criminal justice measures.”

In an effort to appease big business, the changes to the budget include another $25 million in health care cuts to Connecticut’s poorest residents and a $25 million in cuts from an “undisclosed list” of government services and programs.

Among the most bizarre maneuvers is an effort to screw state employees by predetermining the outcome of next year’s state contract negotiations, unless of course, it is just a ruse to make it look like a cut when, in fact, they intend to put the money back in to the budget in the 2017.

As CT Mirror explained,

“House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said the bill also would reduce salary reserve funding in the second year of the biennium, a nudge to the administration to obtain concessions in coming contract negotiations.

“We are setting a direction to the governor as to what we’d like to see in terms of concessions, so to speak, in year two when he negotiates those contracts,” Sharkey said.”

According to the CT Mirror,

“With these changes, overall tax hikes in the new, two-year budget would drop from $1.5 billion to just over $1.3 billion. The new budget also cancels close to $500 million in previously approved tax cuts that were supposed to be implemented in the coming biennium.”

Under both the “old” and “new” budget plan, the state will continue to implement record budget cuts to a variety of vital state programs and services.

In addition, although the legislature’s original tax plan added a minor bump in the income tax rate for the super-rich; both the original and revised versions of the state budget continue Governor Malloy’s long-standing commitment to coddle Connecticut’s wealthiest taxpayers by refusing to require them to pay their fair share in income taxes.

On another front, the “new” state budget continues to send the vast majority of the new money for nursing home care to those facilities that are unionized rather than the long-standing approach which treated residents of long-term care facilities the same – regardless of whether they are living in unionized or non-unionized nursing homes.

The decision to favor the unionized facilities raises serious legal issues which are being reported by CT Newsjunkie in an article entitled, Association Says Nursing Home Allocation Violates Federal Law.

The state’s largest association of skilled nursing facilities says the way lawmakers are planning to distribute funds to nursing homes violates federal law.

The Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities warned Sunday night in a statement that distributing $9 million to raise wages in 60 unionized nursing homes and only $4 million to 170 non-unionized skilled nursing facilities is “blatantly unfair and discriminatory to the non-union workers who do the exact same work as the union workers with the same Connecticut taxpayer money.”

Matthew Barrett, executive vice president of the association, said nursing homes in Connecticut are overwhelmingly non-union with only 30 percent associated with organized labor.

That means non-union workers would see overall wages increase 0.75 percent, while unionized nursing homes would receive a 5.5 percent increase. According to Barrett this amounts to a 10 cent raise for non-union workers, and an 80 cent raise for union workers — eight times the increase non-union workers would receive.

Barrett warned that if lawmakers approve the allocation they are putting at risk federal matching funds for $1.2 billion in Medicaid nursing home expenditures.

Legislative leaders Friday said they put an additional $1 million into the budget for non-union homes, bringing the wage increase funding for those homes up to $4 million.

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said Friday that they were giving an additional $1 million to the non-union homes to “provide a little bit more equity.”

[…]

Barrett said there’s well-established case law that doesn’t allow for this type of inequity to exist between union and non-union homes.

For more about the “new” state budget read;

CT Mirror at http://ctmirror.org/2015/06/26/democrats-whittle-down-future-town-aid-to-cut-business-taxes-now/ and CT Newsjunkie at http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/democrats_roll_back_raises_for_state_employees_increase_money_for_hospitals/

Charter School Industry money persuades legislators to give them your tax dollars

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The Connecticut General Assembly is returning to Hartford for a special session to pass the statutory language needed to implement the state budget that the Democratic controlled legislature passed earlier this month.

While legislators are going into special session, cities and towns across Connecticut are cutting local public school programs as a result of the inadequate education funding that is part of the state budget that was agreed upon in a deal between Governor Dannel Malloy and Democratic legislators earlier this month.

But while the people reel from the impact of the major tax increases and deep spending cuts to vital services that are part of the new budget, there is one group that is overjoyed with the state budget that is receiving so much criticism from across the political spectrum.

Thanks to their record spending on lobbyists and lobbying, Connecticut’s charter school industry is sitting pretty thanks to the decision by Malloy and the Democrats to give the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools record amounts of public funds.

Having created a myriad of front groups with names like Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child; North East Charter School Network; Connecticut Council for Education Reform; Achievement First, Inc., Bronx Charter School of Excellence, Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc., Educators 4 Excellence and FaithActs for Education, charter school owners and the corporate executives behind the education reform industry have poured another $1 million into their successful campaign to persuade legislators to give private charter school companies even more public funds while leaving their own local schools high and dry and twisting in the wind.

In just the first 150 days of the 2015 session of the Connecticut General Assembly, the charter schools and their front groups spent more than $1,149,800.70 to “persuade” legislators to fund their corporate entities rather than our public schools.

The Charter School and Corporate Education Reform groups involved in the lobbying include;

Corporate Education Reform Organization Amount Spent on Lobbying
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) $69,894.80
   
Achievement First, Inc. (Dacia Toll/Stefan Pryor) $4,489.01
   
Connecticut Council for Education Reform  (CCER) $39,959.00
   
North East Charter School Network $85,608.24
   
Families for Excellent Schools Inc./Coalition for Every Child $938,923.47
   
Bronx Charter School for Excellence $10,936.27
   
TOTAL LOBBYING EXPENDITURES BY CHARTER SCHOOL INDUSTRY

January 1, 2015 – May 31, 2015

$1,149,800.70

 

Since the corporate education reform industry began ramping up their lobbying efforts as part of Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative of 2012, the various charter school advocates and education reform groups have spent a record breaking $7.9 million on behalf of their pro-charter school, pro-common core, anti-teacher agenda.

To help grease their success, the various charter school advocacy groups has even spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire Governor Malloy’s chief advisor and his former press secretary.

During the recent legislative session, Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child ran television ads calling upon Connecticut’s elected officials to divert even more scarce taxpayer funds to charter schools.  The group was also the lead sponsored of a pro-charter school rally in which they bussed in parents and students from charter schools as far away as New York City and Boston.

Among the more curious expenditures listed in the reports filed this month with the State Ethics Commission by Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child was a payment of just over $2,000 to the charter school management company Achievement First, Inc.

However, with Achievement First Inc. and other charter school companies claiming that they don’t have to abide by Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act because they are private entities, there is no way to know what exactly the charter school operator is doing with its public funds or other funds that they are collecting.

A bill expanding the reach of Connecticut’s Freedom of Information law to ensure greater transparency when it comes to the charter school companies was water-downed during the last days of the legislative session as a result of intense lobbying by the charter school industry.

Dacia Toll, the Co-CEO of Achievement First Inc. testified that requiring charter school operators to adhere to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act would be a unfair burden.

As education advocate and commentator Sarah Darer Littman explained in a CT Newsjunkie column entitled, Keep An Eye Out for Mischief in Implementer When It Comes to Transparency, the charter school industry is simply unwilling to open its books for public inspection despite the fact that it receives well over $100 million a year in public funds from Connecticut’s taxpayers.

Sarah Darer Littman wrote,

“In her testimony to the Education Committee opposing SB 1096 in March, Achievement First President Dacia Toll complained that “it would be incredibly burdensome to CMOs, as FOIA compliance would significantly distract, undermine, and obstruct non-profit CMO resources and manpower from its most important work: providing high-quality support to charter schools, students and staff.”

In other words, Ms. Toll is more than happy to take taxpayer money, but would find it “incredibly burdensome” to comply with FOIA requests that come with being held accountable for it.

For more about the charter school industry’s successful effort to meaningful prevent transparency go to: Charter School Operators – Want taxpayer funds – just don’t want to explain how they spend it.

Charter School Operators – Want taxpayer funds – just don’t want to explain how they spend it.

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Earlier this month, Sarah Darer Littman had a column in CT Newsjunkie reminding readers to be on the lookout for an attempt by the charter school industry and Governor Dannel Malloy to undermine efforts to hold charter school companies accountable for the public funds they get.

In an article entitled, Keep An Eye Out for Mischief in Implementer When It Comes to Transparency, education advocate and commentator Sarah Darer Littman warned about the charter school industry’s unwillingness to be transparent.  She wrote,

“In her testimony to the Education Committee opposing SB 1096 in March, Achievement First President Dacia Toll complained that “it would be incredibly burdensome to CMOs, as FOIA compliance would significantly distract, undermine, and obstruct non-profit CMO resources and manpower from its most important work: providing high-quality support to charter schools, students and staff.”

In other words, Ms. Toll is more than happy to take taxpayer money, but would find it “incredibly burdensome” to comply with FOIA requests that come with being held accountable for it.

Meanwhile, Jeremiah Grace, the Connecticut Director for Northeast Charter School Networks complained in his testimony that “this bill requires background checks for school staff and boards. Backgrounds are a safety issue that we take extremely seriously. Most of our members have been running them for all staff already, and making sure it’s the law is an important step for our children. It is worth noting that requiring charters to wait for these to be completed before hiring someone subjects charters to more stringent rules than district schools for no reason.”

I’m not sure how Mr. Grace can make the statement that “charters are being subjected to more stringent rules than district schools for no reason” with a straight face. First, we have already seen evidence that the background check issue hasn’t been taken seriously. Second, to say that having to wait for those to be completed before hiring is more stringent than in the public schools is just plain bunkum. Just to teach an after-school creative writing class in a district school, I had to undergo a full background check, including fingerprinting, and I had to ensure the background check was completed before I could commence instruction.

With the General Assembly returning to the Capitol to adopt legislation needed to implement next year’s state budget, it would be nice to believe that Connecticut’s elected officials won’t fold under the pressure to back off the demand for transparency on the part of the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools and their holding companies.

But knowing the propensity to do the wrong thing at times like this, Connecticut’s taxpayers should make a special effort to read Sarah Darer Littman’s piece and keep a careful eye on their state legislators in the week ahead.

You can read Littman’s piece at:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/keep_an_eye_out_for_mischief_in_implementer_when_it_comes_to_transparency/

Malloy – A Governor intent on undermining public education

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Public Education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker had yet another “MUST READ” piece in the Stamford Advocate about Governor Dannel Malloy’s un-paralleled attack on public education and his unending commitment to divert scarce public taxpayer dollars to privately owned, but publicly funded charter school operators.  The strategy may result in more campaign donations for Malloy, but it comes at a terrible price for Connecticut’s public school students, parents, teachers and the state’s taxpayers.

Wendy Lecker’s original piece can be found at:   Governor intent to undermine public education.

Wendy Lecker writes,

Governors, being politicians, spout a lot of rhetoric. However, during budget time, their true priorities emerge. Looking at three real-life situations from this year’s budget season, try to guess who the Democratic governor of Connecticut is.

One governor announced a 2-billion dollar increase in public K-12 funding, a relatively modest increase because it is spread over the next decade; but he publicly acknowledged the need to fund public schools before reforming them. The second, incensed that the legislature would not increase public school K-12 funding to adequate levels, nor adequately fund pre-K, threatened to hold up the budget. The third slashed funding for social programs, gave no increase for public K-12 education, despite a pending lawsuit alleging that the state owes almost 2 billion dollars to its public schools, and threatened to veto the state budget unless the legislature agreed to fund two charter schools in communities that vehemently opposed them.

The first governor is Republican Doug Ducey of Arizona. The second governor is a Democrat,Mark Dayton of Minnesota. The third? You guessed it — Dan Malloy of Connecticut.

Governor Malloy’s tenure has been characterized by denigrating teachers, vigorously opposing adequate funding of public schools and vastly increasing financial support for privately run charter schools which fail to serve the state’s neediest children, including English Language Learners and students with disabilities, have disturbingly harsh disciplinary policies, increase racial isolation, drain public money from needy public schools and have even been implicated in fraud and theft.

Why would Malloy favor these questionable privately run schools over underfunded public schools? One answer lies in an article reported on by the Hartford Courant, piggy-backing off the years of reporting blogger Jonathan Pelto has done on this issue.

The Courant reported that this year, unprecedented amounts of money were spent to push the charter agenda by ConnCAN, the charter lobby; Northeast Charter Network, another charter lobby founded by disgraced Jumoke leader Michael Sharpe and others; and a newer group operating in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts: Families for Excellent Schools (FES).

The Courant further noted that the same millionaires and billionaires who copiously donated to Malloy’s campaigns are also major donors to charters and charter lobbyists. This list includes Greenwich millionaire Jonathan Sackler, the founder of ConnCAN and original board member of the Achievement First charter chain; Greenwich hedge funder Steve Mandel, who funded the players behind the illegal takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education; embattled SAC Capital chief Steven Cohen and his wife; ConnCAN board members Arthur Reimers and Andrew Boas; Andrew Stone, a board member at Success Academy charter chain, a close ally of FES; and ConnCAN donor Marianna McCall. FES even hired two public relations firms that employ Malloy’s recently departed top aides: Roy Occhiogrosso and Andrew Doba.

The web of charter money is so thick it must have blinded Malloy to the needs and wishes of constituents from Stamford and Bridgeport.

The local opposition to these charters, by both local officials and parents, is well-documented. Malloy’s State Board of Education rubber-stamped the charters’ authorization in April 2014, ignoring local opposition and the fact that the legislature had not appropriated the funds for them.

Despite warnings by legislators that these schools might not be funded, the charter operators, Steve Perry for Bridgeport and a Bronx charter operator for Stamford, advertised widely for students in order to pressure the state to fund them.

Stamford and Bridgeport officials and residents opposed any appropriations for these schools they did not want. Bridgeport grassroots activists traveled to Hartford every week to show their opposition. Stamford residents wrote to every legislator imploring each not to fund these schools when public schools were being starved.

On the other side, the Malloy-connected, billionaire-backed charter lobbyists bused in demonstrators from Massachusetts and New York to stage demonstrations in Hartford in support of these two unwanted charters.

Legislators assured Bridgeport and Stamford residents that they were not swayed by the charter lobbying and they would not fund these schools.

But then Malloy threatened to veto the budget unless his pet charters were funded and the legislature caved. They received, as a token consolation prize, an insignificant increase in state school funding.

Connecticut has a governor intent on undermining public education and a spineless legislature that collapses when the governor so much as sneezes. Unless our citizenry elects some leaders with principles, who actually care about our public institutions rather than wealthy donors, things are looking grim for the over 95 percent of Connecticut’s children who attend our public schools.

Update on Donnelly’s move from PR to Chief of Staff at CT State Department of Education

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Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzel’s decision to shift Kelly Donnelly from serving as the agency’s PR person to Chief of Staff apparently comes with a $25,700 pay raise despite the fact that Donnelly has no education experience and her only education policy experience has been as the press person for the State Department of Education over the past two and a half years.

At the same time, with a Special Session of the Connecticut General Assembly scheduled for next week, today’s CT Mirror headline reads, Malloy’s ‘across-the-board’ cuts target education, town aid and social servicesThe CT Mirror explains,

To offset new taxes that have rankled business groups, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed trimming up to 1.5 percent of discretionary spending in the new state budget. But the administration’s proposal shows the bulk of the cuts would be likely to fall on education, municipal aid, health care and social services.

And a key legislator has warned that most of those areas could face even deeper cuts once the new fiscal year is underway. That’s because the new budget relies much more heavily than past budgets on undefined savings — making it likely that the governor will need to order midyear cuts.

While Malloy proposes cuts to education, yesterday’s Wait, What? post, Kelly Donnelly to become Chief of Staff for Connecticut Department of Education, reported that,

The key role of Chief of Staff for Malloy’s State Department of Education will go to Kelly Donnelly who was brought in from New Jersey in December 2012 to serve as former Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor’s PR person.

Although Donnelly has no work experience in public education and her only education policy experience is as the agency’s communications person, multiple sources confirm that Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzel will by-pass numerous qualified professional staff to hand the Chief of Staff duties to Donnelly.

Donnelly was hired as Pryor’s Communication Director with a starting salary of $82,000.

In a follow up story the CT Post wrote,

“Donnelly’s salary will increase in her new job from $82,000 to $118,000.”

Actually, as a result of the pay raises ordered by Governor Dannel Malloy, Donnelly, who is listed as an Education Staff Assistant, is presently making $92,293.25 per year.

Assuming the $118,000 the CT Post is reporting is correct, Donnelly’s promotion to Chief of Staff comes with a $25,700 boost in pay.

Kelly Donnelly to become Chief of Staff for Connecticut Department of Education

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The key role of Chief of Staff for Governor Dannel Malloy’s State Department of Education will go to Kelly Donnelly who was brought in from New Jersey in December 2012 to serves as former Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor’s PR person.

Although Donnelly has no work experience in public education and her only education policy experience is as the agency’s communications person, multiple sources confirm that Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzel will by-pass numerous qualified professional staff to hand the Chief of Staff duties to Donnelly.

Donnelly will be replacing Adam Goldfarb, who resigned earlier this year soon after Stefan Pryor left Connecticut to become Rhode Island’s Economic Development Commissioner.

Goldfarb, a Yale Law School graduate, came with Pryor from New Jersey.  Goldfarb served as one of Pryor’s policy advisors in Newark, New Jersey and spent time as Pryor’s intern when Pryor worked for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

Goldfarb was initially brought in under the title of Executive Assistant, but then immediately was made Chief of Staff with a starting salary of $99,000, up 33 percent from what he was making as Pryor’s assistant in New Jersey.  Goldfarb finished up his duty as a Connecticut public servant earlier this year with a salary of $116,000

You can read more about Pryor and Goldfarb at Oh, it’s good to be King, or at least Commissioner of Education and What is Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff doing as the Vice President of a Charter School Board of Directors?

Donnelly was hired as Pryor’s Communication Director with a starting salary of $82,000.  It is unclear what her salary will be as the State Department of Education’s Chief of Staff.

Prior to coming to Connecticut, most of Donnelly’s experience was with political campaigns in New Jersey and Long Island although she did spend nearly two years in 2010-2011 with 1st Light Energy Inc, where she, “Oversaw residential and commercial photovoltaic (solar system) installations for the entire scope of the project.”

Donnelly, who is from Edison, New Jersey graduated from Notre Dame in 2002 with a BA in Liberal Studies.

One of Donnelly’s most recent responsibilities was serving as the agency’s spokesperson during the Malloy administration’s ongoing attempt to mislead, harass and bully parents who were trying to opt their children out of the unfair and inappropriate Common Core SBAC tests.  Her quotes can be found via any search about Connecticut’s SBAC testing scheme.

A look back on Steven Adamowski’s Pension Farce

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Three years ago, hidden deep inside Governor Dannel Malloy’s 2012 corporate education reform industry initiative was an effort to give Malloy’s education adviser, Steven Adamowski, an extraordinary gift.

Had the effort gone as planned, Connecticut’s taxpayers and certified teachers would have been on the hook for paying Adamowski a significant pension for which he was not entitled.

As the Norwalk Board of Education prepares to appoint Steven Adamowski to the post of superintendent of schools, it seems like an appropriate time to take a look back on the Malloy-Adamowski escapade.

In fact, in a document provided to the Norwalk Board of Education by the controversial superintendent search firm ProAct Search, Adamowski wrote,

“I also played a role in drafting aspects of Connecticut’s omnibus school reform legislation of 2012.”

Yet in classic form, Adamowski fails to actually get around to explaining his personal financial interest in that legislation.

The extraordinary events surrounding Adamowski’s attempt to circumvent Connecticut’s teacher pension law first appeared in a series of Wait, What? posts entitled, Pension, Pension, who wants a Pension – Steven Adamowski this is your lucky day, A Hundred Thousand Dollar Plus Pension? The Adamowski Pension Controversy Part II and The Adamowksi Pension Farce: Part III

The following is an abbreviated version of the events that took place in the spring of 2012.

Fresh off being paid well over a million dollars to run the Hartford School System for five years, Steven Adamowski was appointed “Special Master” of the Windham School System Governor Malloy’s administration.

At $225,000 a year, plus benefits that included five weeks of paid vacation, three weeks of sick time and 100% paid health benefits for him and his wife, along with fully funded life and disability insurance, Adamowski’s role was to oversee Windham’s school system, including Windham’s $167,000 superintendent.

As we came to learn, Steven Adamowski wasn’t satisfied…

The issued stemmed from the fact that Connecticut law prohibited Adamowski from getting pension credit for his five years of work as Hartford’s superintendent.

The reason, because Adamowski doesn’t have certification to work in Connecticut and only certified teachers have their time applied to the Teacher Retirement Fund pension system.

While it is true that all school administrators and teachers – Except some of those working at charter schools – must hold state teacher certification, a legislative amendment passed just after midnight on the last day of the 2007 legislative session waived the certification requirement for one person – Steven Adamowski.

The law waived Adamowski’s need for certification in order to work as Hartford’s superintendent but it did not waive the law that only certified teachers can participate in the teacher’s retirement system.

Interestingly, at no time during Adamowski tenure as Hartford’s superintendent did he seek to renew is certification and thus none of those five years could be counted toward his future pension.

But Adamowski had one thing that no other non-certified administrator had – Steven Adamowski had Governor Malloy.

Despite Malloy’s constant refrain that Connecticut’s pension systems were unsustainable, as part of his 5,036 line education reform bill, Malloy’s operatives inserted a “technical” change to the state’s Teacher Retirement Pension Program starting at line 3,573.

The existing language of subdivision (26) of section 10-183b of the Connecticut General Statutes outlined who qualified for a teacher pension by defining the word teacher as “any teacher, permanent substitute teacher, principal, assistant principal, supervisor, assistant superintendent or superintendent employed by the public schools in a professional capacity while possessing a certificate or permit issued by the State Board of Education…”

Since Adamowski did have the certification necessary to qualify for the pension program, Malloy’s bill sought to add new sentence that would have required that a pension be paid to;

“A superintendent employed by a local or regional board of education on or after July 1, 2007, pursuant to subsection © of section 10-157, as amended by this act.

Malloy’s proposed change would have immediately added five years to Adamowski’s pension calculation.

With that change, not only would the un-certified Adamowski been able to get an extra five years but he would also have been entitled to buy two more years thanks to his out-of-state work.  The result would have been that Adamowski would have picked up a quick seven years when it came to calculating his pension.

But what Malloy and Adamowski never calculated was the impact if the whole charade became public, which it did.

As news of the special deal swept the capital, the Hartford Courant’s Rick Green reported that he had been told by numerous sources involved in the behind scenes negotiating on Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill that “there is no chance the Adamowski pension deal will see the light of day when the education committee begins discussing the legislation early next week.”

In addition, Rick Green went on to write, “not surprisingly, when I called around, nobody seemed to know who put the provision in the Malloy bill.”

But even as the special deal for Adamowski was slipping away, Joseph Cirasuolo, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) sent out an email explaining that it was only fair that Adamowski get his Hartford retirement credits.

Cirasuolo explained,

“When Steve was offered the job of superintendent in Hartford, he told the Hartford Board of Education that he would not take the position if he had to go through the processes for getting certified as a superintendent in CT.

Steve had been certified as a superintendent in CT years ago when he was the superintendent in Norwich.  After he moved out of state to other positions, among them the superintendency in Cincinnati where he was just before he came to Hartford, he apparently didn’t record sufficient CEUs to keep his CT superintendent’s certification.

The Hartford BOE asked then Commissioner McQuillan [Governor Rell’s Education Commissioner] for a waiver of the superintendent certification requirements in Steve’s case and the Commissioner did what he had to do to obtain the waiver.

When this was done, everyone involved including Steve was of the understanding that Steve could count his years in Hartford toward his pension under the TRB.

Approximately four months before his date of retirement, Steve was informed by the TRB that because he was operating under a waiver certification arrangement during his time in Hartford, he couldn’t count those five years towards his retirement.”

However, truth be told, the law that was changed to allow the Commissioner of Education to waive the requirement that Adamowski needed to be certified in order to work in Hartford was in a completely different section of the state statutes than the pension requirements and there is absolutely no way to interpret that the legislature’s action also gave Adamowski the ability to count his Hartford time toward his pension.

Even Connecticut’s Attorney General, George Jepson, rejected Adamowski’s request to count those five years in an official ruling handed down in May 2011.

It was the Attorney General’s ruling that actually forced Malloy to try and sneak the Adamowski language into his Education Reform legislation.

But even Joseph Cirasuolo lobbying effort on behalf of the Steven Adamowski deal failed to persuade legislators and the before the General Assembly adopted Malloy’s Education Reform legislation the Adamowski’s pension deal was removed.

POST-SCRIPT

With the legislature decision in 2012 to reject Adamowski’s effort to get a pension without having the necessary certification, a reasonable person would think that Adamowski would finally do what every other teacher and administrator must do… get certified.

But has he done that?

Nope…

As of today, Steven Adamowski still doesn’t have the certification to work in a Connecticut school district…Yet the Norwalk Board of Education now wants to hire Adamowski as their superintendent.

Adamowski’s failure to get certified is now a problem for the Norwalk Board of Education.

Unless, of course, Governor Malloy and his administration are willing, once again, to cut a special deal for Steven Adamowski.

Stay tuned…

(Although you can probably guess what is about to go down.)

“What in the world are they doing in Hartford?”

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Those were the simple, but rather profound, words of one Republican legislator as Connecticut’s House of Representatives and State Senate jammed through a new state budget as it careened toward its midnight deadline yesterday.

Now the General Assembly is headed for a special session to deal with some of the legislation that it failed to address.

Later this morning, Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman will hold a press conference to congratulate themselves and applaud the Democratic legislators who voted for the budget package that Malloy negotiated with the General Assembly’s Democratic Leaders this week.

Raising nearly $2 billion in tax revenue over the next two years, with the middle class taking a particularly heavy hit, the new state budget makes massive cuts to a number of vitally important health care and social service programs aimed at helping Connecticut’s poorest families and those with developmental disabilities, mental health issues or other significant life challenges. The cuts include one that will mean more than 20,000 poor parents will lose their health care coverage.  [Not to worry says the government, they can buy health insurance]

While failing to properly fund Connecticut’s public schools, leading charter school industry advocate Governor Dannel Malloy was able to “persuade” the Democratic legislators to divert scarce public funds so that his allies can open up two more privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.

And as if to highlight Malloy’s dedication to screwing Connecticut’s public school students, parents and teachers, not only does the new state budget add millions of dollars more for charter schools, it actually cuts the amount of the money that towns are given to transport students.  Local school districts are required to pay for the transportation costs of charter school students and are also required to pay for any special education services that charter school students need.

The Democrat’s new budget also makes a huge cut to the Board of Regents which includes the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges.  Even after the state universities and community colleges institute another significant tuition increase, the schools will be facing a $22 million budget deficit in the coming year, a hole that will mean reduced programs and staff at Connecticut’s largest system of public higher education.

As if to make a point, at the same time, the new budget actually reduces the amount of student financial aid available for needy Connecticut students who want to get a college education.

And in one of the more telling provisions of the state budget, money to help increase the lowest paid workers in nursing homes doesn’t go to all nursing homes but is funneled almost exclusively to homes that are represented by unions.

Meanwhile, on the tax side, long gone is Malloy’s “read my lips” promise that, if re-elected, he would not raise taxes.

The new state budget starts by dropping the property tax credit for middle income families from $300 to $200 and then the hits keep on coming for those in the shrinking middle class.

By comparison, Malloy’s pledge to coddle the rich remains pretty much intact.  The new budget increases the income tax rate for the state’s super rich from 6.7 percent to 6.9 percent, ensuring that they will be paying far less in state and local taxes than they would if they were living in New York, New Jersey or Massachusetts.

The Governor and legislative leaders are also applauding their effort to make transportation a key priority by claiming that nearly $500 million of the $2 billion in new tax revenue will go into a “lock box” for transportation.  The only thing they conveniently overlook is that this same budget withholds $371 million in general fund resources that have been going to pay for transportation projects.  The net effect is that the transportation fund far short of what it needs.

And as noted in yesterday’s Wait, What? post entitled “The Train Wreck of the Democrats State Budget,”one of the most obnoxious and disgusting provisions of the new state budget is that it steals, yet again, the money that has been going into the state’s School Bus Seat Belt Account – an account that was set up after a tragic fatal school bus accident on I-84 five years ago.  Twice now Governor Malloy has drained the fund in order to use the dedicated money to reduce state budget deficits.  Despite the existence of the account, and its dedicated funding stream, the School Bus Seat Belt Account has yet to pay for school bus seat belts.

Of course, none of these facts needn’t get in the way of good political rhetoric.

Speaking about the glory of the budget, the Senate President called it one of the best in his 35 years in the general assembly.

And from “no new taxes” Malloy came what may be the quote of the year;

“A brighter tomorrow will start with this budget today. This agreement will help Connecticut now and in the long-run — it helps transform our transportation infrastructure as we aim for a best-in-class system. It supports our schools, supports the middle class, and supports vital programs for those who need it most. Most importantly, it helps us build a Connecticut for the long-term, making our state an even greater place to live, work, and raise a family,”

You can read more about the budget via the following links:

Budget Bill Goes Down to the Wire in State Senate (CT Newsjunkie)

Senate Dems threaten ‘nuclear option’ to pass budget, $2B tax hike (CT Mirror)

Senate, House Approve $40 Billion Budget; Gov Set To Sign It (Courant)

 

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