Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world – Nelson Mandela

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“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. “

Although there are times when changing government requires violent action, here in the United States we are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to force change through non-violent means.

Most importantly we have the electoral process and as citizens of the United States we not only have the right, but the obligation to use that powerful tool.

Over the next six months the Connecticut gubernatorial campaign of 2014 will be ramping up.

The question is not whether we need change, but how best to achieve it.

It is time to seriously explore our options.

We can challenge the incumbent for the Democratic nomination, although the power of incumbency could make that route a difficult one.

We could run on a third party-line, thereby providing a vehicle for all voters to stand up for real change while more easily assuring the incumbent’s loss.

Or we could take no action and watch as a Republican win, which could lead to our state in even worse condition.

The failings are many, they go far beyond the incumbent’s effort to undermine and destroy public education.

But education policy is one of the strongest factors behind the need to reclaim our government.

To celebrate the 4th and the task ahead, I provide readers with the following quotes to use as we seek the best path forward;

“A liberal education is at the heart of a civil society, and at the heart of a liberal education is the act of teaching.” – A. Bartlett Giamatti

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

“The 2014 gubernatorial campaign provides us with the much needed opportunity to recapture our government and rededicate it to the ideals, principles and programs that our residents need and deserve.” – Jonathan Pelto

Comparing Wait, What? to CTEducation180…Now that is just going too far…

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Call it a Father’s Day perogative, but I’m going to take a moment away from my on-going effort to educate, persuade and mobilize through “perceptive and acerbic” observations about Connecticut Government and Politics.

Normally I don’t respond to personal attacks or ill-informed commentaries that are leveled against my own commentaries.

Truth be told, I’ve always believed in Voltaire’s famous quote which goes, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  In fact, I even believe in the more direct version of his statement which can be found in a letter he wrote on February 6, 1770, and reads, “Monsieur l’abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.”

That said, I do feel moved to respond to the observations contained in an Op. Ed. written by Terry Cowgill and published today on the CTNewsjunkie site.  The piece, “Dueling Blogs: Don’t Leave Education to the Experts,” opines about my blog, Wait, What? , claiming that I “inveigh” and my writing is “polemic.”  He even goes so far as to suggest that my opposition to the reforms being sponsored by the corporate funded education-industrial complex means that I “prefer the system the way it is.”

Now, I’m certainly open to criticism.  For example, I most definitely fall down on the job when it comes to proofreading and punctuation and my failings related to properly spelling are somewhat legendary.  Heck, I’ll even plead the Fifth when comes to the possibility that I “inveigh” from time to time or that my writing could be considered “polemic” now and then.

But to suggest that I support “the system” are fighting words…

Or worse, to compare my blog to CTEducation180, a mouth-piece of ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy organization that is connected to Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s Achievement First charter school management company, well that is going too far.

Before I go on, let me quote from Mr. Cowgill’s recent piece in case my readers haven’t had a chance to read his piece.  After noting the rise of blogs, he writes, “Here in Connecticut, the phenomenon has been most visible lately in the arena of education, where former Democratic state representative Jonathan Pelto inveighs against Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and anyone who carries the mantle of “education reform.” Pelto’s blog, “Wait, What?” is a must-read for diehard public education advocates who, for obvious reasons, prefer the system the way it is.”

Cowgill adds “Pelto’s ceaseless attacks have enraged reformers who have complained that his propaganda was going unanswered. Enter PR guru and political analyst Patrick Scully, a former communications director for the state Senate Democrats. In an effort to confront Pelto last year, Scully started writing in response on his Hanging Shad blog, and also wrote for a time for the pro-reformist blog, CTEducation180, which is operated by ConnCAN. Between the two blogs, Scully devoted a great deal of real estate to deconstructing Pelto’s polemics. He stopped writing for CTEducation180 in March.”

Now, first let me say that I’d like to believe that my blog, Wait, What? represents a growing form of advocacy journalism.  I am but a foot solider in a broader effort to fill the gap that has resulted from the de-evolution of the so-called mass media.  My blog and I are dedicated to investigating and reporting on the truth, so that citizens across the political spectrum have the information they need and deserve to make informed decisions.  I definitely don’t hide my philosophical orientation, but the purpose of my blog and its work is to report the facts, as I see them, along with my political commentary and observations.

I’ll leave to others the task of comparing me to “PR guru and political analyst Patrick Scully,” but to compare Wait, What? to the drivel posted on CTEducation180 is beyond insulting.

CTEducation180 is a blog written by ConnCAN staff.  Cowgill says Scully stopped writing in March, but for months now the posts have apparently been authored by someone named Michael.  Although a couple of weeks ago, ConnCAN went back and removed Michael’s name from all of the posts.

More to the point I’d argue that comparing the two blogs is, at best, comparing apples and oranges. Wait, What? is dedicated to telling the truth.  CTEducation180 is dedicated to attacking those of us who are telling the truth.

As evidence, I’ll simply cut and paste a few of the recent things that have appeared on the ConnCAN blog More

Wait, What? It’s December 31, 2012?

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“Every New Year is the direct Descendant, isn’t it, of a long line of proven criminals? – Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

Maybe it is me, but I am never quite sure what Ogden Nash was referring to half the time.

That said, here we are; at the end to another year… and it’s time to post an observation (with apologies for any typos).

Following the unimaginable horror and despair that enveloped us the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre, it remains difficult to know how to move forward, let alone look back on 2012.

The notion of “fiscal cliffs” and “deficit mitigation bills” seem almost minor in scale and yet somehow a fitting portrayal of life, as we know it, in our “modern, advanced capitalist” world.

I mean, in the face of an impending fiscal catastrophe, we are left to watch the outrageous activities of some of our Nation’s “leaders.”  They leave me with the indelible imagine of the little child sitting with his hands over his eyes, singing out… “You can’t see me.”

And meanwhile, right here at home in Connecticut, a Democratic legislature adopts a Deficit Mitigation Bill that no self-respecting Democrat should have ever voted for.

But it is…as the saying goes…par for the course.

According to a study by Credit Suisse Research, when it comes to the gap between the haves and have-nots, the United States is quickly becoming the most economically unequal country in the world.  As the report concluded, “Among countries with at least a quarter-million adults, only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon are more unequal.”

Meanwhile, the richest 10 percent of Americans own 93 percent of the non-home wealth in this country.

Way back in the 2000s, “only” about 66% of all income went to the richest 1%.  But good news for the rich, in the first year following the recent “Great Recession,” the Levy Economics Institute, at Bard College, found that more than 90% of all new income went to the richest 1%.

None of this should come as a surprise.  Leading up the Great Depression, the top ten percent of Americas received about 45 percent of the income. In 2010, the top 10 percent’s share reached a record-breaking 47.9 percent.

Put another way, from 1983 to 2010, “the share of total wealth in the U.S. held by the richest 10 percent of American households increased from 68.2 percent to 76.7 percent” …while the other 90 percent of the population got poorer.

Not to be confused by the facts, the media continues to report on the rising stock market, as if the daily numbers are sure to help every American.  They someone forget to mention that the “60% of the lowest earning American’s own just .2% of all non-home equity (i.e. stocks)

And to personalize the whole picture, according to Standard & Poor’s, the CEOs of the top 500 companies earned 380 times more than the average American worker.  The difference is a not so small change from 1965 when the average CEO earned 20 times more than the average American worker.

Not long ago, Bill Moyers was asked to address the state of the American Economy.

To drive a key point home, Moyers spoke of Connecticut resident Ray Dalio, who is not only one of America’s richest men, but founder of the world’s biggest hedge fund.

Of course, readers of Wait, What? know Dalio and his hedge fund.  It was only a few months ago that Governor Malloy decided to give Dalio $115,000,000 (that is $115 million) in public funds this year to persuade him to move his business from one Connecticut town to Stamford.

As Moyer’s writes, Dalio “earned between two and three billion dollars in 2011 and wound up #55 on the Forbes 400 list. The New Yorker reports that he is a philosopher at heart. He claims to have figured out not only how the economic machine works but how the principles of natural selection – “the survival of the fittest” – apply to business. He has even produced a collection of maxims to explain, as he puts it, how “almost everything is like a machine. Nature is a machine. The family is a machine. The life cycle is a machine.” To succeed in this kind of world, he wrote in one essay, you need to “Be a hyena. Attack the wildebeest.”

With that Dalio wrote, “When a pack of hyenas takes down a young wildebeest, is that good or evil? At face value that might not be ‘good’ because it seems cruel, and the poor wildebeest suffers and dies. Some people might even say that the hyenas are evil. Yet this type of apparently ‘cruel’ behavior exists throughout the animal kingdom. Like death itself, it is integral to the enormously complex and efficient system that has worked for as long as there has been life. It is good for both the hyenas who are operating in their self-interest and the interest of the greater system of the wildebeest, because killing and eating the wildebeest fosters evolution (i.e., the natural process of improvement.) In fact, if you changed anything about the way that dynamic works, the overall outcome would be worse…Like the hyenas attacking the wildebeest, successful people might not even know if or how their pursuit of self-interest helps society, but it typically does…”

Moreover, he concludes: “How much money people have earned is a rough measure of how much they gave society what it wanted.”

Well, Connecticut’s Democratic legislators may have decided to balance the state’s $415 million dollar deficit on the back of many of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens, along with those attending public institutions of higher education, but at least we gave Dalio the $115 million he wanted to remain a Connecticut.

Lest we forget, in his day, the Great Greek thinker, Plutarch, (ca. 46-120 CE), observed that, “An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”

In any case, all of this brings us back to the notion that on December 31, one is supposed to look back at the highlights of the year.

And traditionally, it is necessary to pick our one or two things that truly summarize the year that was.

It would certainly be tempting to give the “man of the year” award to someone like Dalio.  When all is said and done, he did manage to get $115 million in publically funded corporate welfare at a time when vital services were being cut, but all things considered, I think there is an even more worthy candidate.

My vote for the man who best represents 2012 —- in fact – let us call him the epitome of 2012 is Capt. Francesco Schettino.

Captain Schettino?

Why yes, Captain Francesco Schettino.

Perhaps we should have realized it was an omen of things to come, but in January 2012, as Captain of the Costa Concordia, Schettino managed to get himself charged with causing a shipwreck, engaging in manslaughter and abandoning the ship worth hundreds of millions of dollars – before all passengers were evacuated.

According to published reports, the Costa Concordia ran aground that fateful January day with roughly 4,200 people on the Costa Concordia, 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members.

Less than half an hour after the accident, the Captain ordered dinner, but then, when the magnitude of the disaster became clear, he abandoned the ship.

With only a dozen or so dead, the Captain’s brother-in-law defended him in an Italian newspaper later that same week saying that the Captain, “managed to avoid a tragedy — it could have been worse,” and when asked about the fact that the captain had abandoned ship, the brother-in-law said, “”He was not running away, he came down (from the ship) to survey the damage.”

Meanwhile, the company that owned the ship issued a statement saying that Costa Cruises, “complies very strictly with all safety regulations and our personnel are committed, first and foremost, to guest safety and security…All crew members are trained in basic safety and emergency management, and their skills are tested periodically by Coast Guard authorities…”

It would have been an impressive statement had CNN not reported that, “Survivors of the wreck, however, described crew members who appeared overwhelmed, ‘There wasn’t anybody to help you,’ said passenger Vivian Safer. ‘I mean, the passengers were loading the lifeboats by themselves.’”

So, in the spirit of the Season, I urge all my readers to lift the glasses in a toast….

Here is to Captain Schettino, Billionaire Ray Dalio, the Washington politicians sitting around thinking that by covering their eyes we can’t see them, and the politicians here at home that decided that rather than ask millionaires to pay their fair share in income taxes, it was smarter and better to cut essential services.

Or…As Oprah Winfrey said, “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”

Peace to one and all… At a time when we must all redouble our work for Peace…

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Friends,

In all times, but especially in these troubled times, we must never forget the essential words of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), the great philosopher who helped lay the ground work for the Enlightenment;

“Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.”  - Baruch Spinoza

In this season of hope, whether you are celebrating the Wiccan holiday of Yule, or the festival of light celebrated in Judaism,  Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism or any of the other faiths and beliefs that create our patchwork of humanity –

May peace come to you and yours.

I hope you find yourself surrounded by family and friends, enjoying a safe, healthy and joyous time.

Jonathan

Washington Post runs Pelto/Lecker School Funding Commentary piece from Hartford Courant

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2012/11/25/how-grossly-underfunded-are-public-schools/

It is common to hear school reformers say that money isn’t a real issue in improving schools. Here’s a piece that says otherwise. It was written by Wendy Lecker, parent of three children in Stamford, Connecticut’s public schools, and Jonathan Pelto, a former member of the Connecticut House of Representatives who now provides commentary on politics and public policy at his blog,“Wait, What?” This appeared in the Hartford Courant.

By Wendy Lecker and Jonathan Pelto

“The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities just issued a report concluding that Connecticut’s public schools are grossly under-funded and calling for meaningful reform of Connecticut’s school funding system.

Pulling no punches, the report acknowledges that school finance reform cannot be done on the cheap and that significantly more funding is needed in order to provide all students with a quality education.

As the report declared, “the State should not sacrifice the futures of another generation of school children waiting for the courts to tell them — yet again — to meet its state constitutional funding responsibilities.”

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) estimates $763 million in underfunding, representing only the gap between current funding and fully funding the Education Cost Sharing formula as it stands now. However, that formula is flawed and does not reflect the true cost of education in Connecticut. In fact, as part of its recommendations, CCM calls for an “education adequacy cost study” to assess the actual cost of education, including all the factors affecting this cost. Doing so increases the number beyond $1 billion.

CCM’s clarity of vision derives from the experience of its members:  the municipalities that deal on a daily basis with escalating education costs and inadequate funding.  Because of the state’s underfunding of public schools, Connecticut’s cities and towns, especially its poorer communities, are forced to deprive their own schools of needed resources.

The result is that children and teachers must endure large classes, insufficient textbooks, computers and other learning tools, buildings in disrepair, slashing of teaching positions, and the elimination of programs and courses.

In Connecticut and around the country, courts have consistently ruled that underfunded schools amount to constitutional violations of children’s right to an education.

In New York, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Washington and many other states, courts have determined that there is “a causal connection between the poor performance of … students and the low funding provided their schools.“

Unlike the modern corporate education reformers, rather than vilify teachers and educational experts, courts value their firsthand knowledge of school conditions, their effects on learning, and the resources needed to give all students an equal opportunity to learn.

When shown evidence of conditions in actual schools, courts consistently find what CCM contends – without adequate funding, schools cannot provide an adequate education.”

The rest of the Washington Post column here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2012/11/25/how-grossly-underfunded-are-public-schools/

And you can find the original Hartford Courant piece here:  http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-pelto-lecker-connecticut-schools-underfunded-20121123,0,6000165.story

CT Taxpayers invest in “Hot App” company, will the Wait, What? Blog be next?

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An 18-month old company, incorporated in Delaware, with an office in Westport, but its chief financial officer and chief operations officers in California, landed $750,000 in Connecticut taxpayer funding this week, thanks to Connecticut Innovations, a quasi-state agency that works to support the Connecticut economy by investing public funds in private companies.

deets, inc., who has had no sales to date, is developing a “productivity App” that, “facilities message sharing for a specific group of workers, parents of Little League players or other small groups, getting them information cleanly and quickly. It also provides smooth contact synchronization.”

A version of the App is now available at the Apple App Store.  According to an article written by the Hartford Courant’s Mara Lee, “The writers of the free app, which has nearly 10,000 users since its launch in August, are hoping to capitalize on the “’anti-social sentiment that’s out there.’”

The company plans to use the new funding to hire 5 employees in Connecticut.

In addition to the Apple version of the app, deets reports that an Android version will be out in January and the plan, according to the Courant, will be to “launch paid versions for businesses. The businesses could use deets to send messages to customers or to help teams communicate internally.”

The news that scarce public funds are being given to a company with limited connections to Connecticut, but who are engaged in an effort to break into a growth field, led Jonathan Pelto, whose blog, Wait, What? seeks to bring transparency and accountability to the Malloy Administration and Connecticut State Government, in general, to consider submitting an application for funding.

“We are definitely considering submitting an application to one of these agencies,” Pelto said, “Attempting to bring transparency to the Malloy Administration is definitely a growth market and we’ve literally had hundreds of thousands of visits to Wait What?,” Pelto noted.

“While our sales have been limited to date, with $750,000 we’d hire, not five, but at least ten Connecticut residents to be researchers and writers, and with that, we’re convinced we could turn the blog into a money-making venture over the next two years,” added Pelto.

However, when asked whether he or his Blog, Wait, What? might be blacklisted from getting state aid, Pelto failed to return multiple phone calls, and referred any further questions to his lawyers.

For the Courant Story see:  http://www.courant.com/business/hc-ci-deets-inc-relocation-20121113,0,281750.story

As they say in public radio, it’s never too late to donate – Wait, What? needs your help

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Friends,

First and foremost, I want to thank all of you who have been so generous in your support for Wait, What?

See:   http://fundly.com/lomx4hbr

Contributions in support of Wait, What? came in from all over the state, and even from around the country.  Donations ranged from $10 to $250 and each and every contribution is an extraordinary statement about your commitment to helping me continue and strengthen this blog and the role of advocacy journalism in the state.  I truly can’t thank you enough.

In addition to my work with Wait, What?, in the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out a new entity called Connecticut Public School Advocates.  CT-PSA will be a grass-roots organization dedicating to promoting PUBLIC EDUCATION in Connecticut.  Unlike the “education reformers,” who will do or say anything in their effort to demonize teachers and privatize our educational system, those of us who believe in the fundamental importance of high quality public education for everyone, are ready, willing and eager to have an honest discussion about the challenges facing public education in this nation and how best to meet those challenges.

More about how to get involved in Connecticut Public School Advocates will be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, I will continue to use Wait, What? as my primary vehicle for raising awareness and pushing for meaningful change in how government and politics function in Connecticut.  As we’ve witnessed, on many issues, at both the state and local level, things are “off-track.”

While reasonable people can certainly disagree about specific proposals or policies, my work with Wait, What? has reiterated my belief that; (1) we are all better off when citizens have a true  understanding of the challenges that confront us, (2) that policymakers must be held accountable for their actions, and (3) as Democrats, we have an obligation to hold our own to the same or greater standard than we hold our opponents.

If you haven’t had a chance to help support Wait, What? through a donation, your help now would be greatly appreciated.

Any contribution, whether large or small, will help ensure that we continue our effort to educate, persuade and mobilize people to speak out on the important issues and challenges that we face.

As always, thank you very much,

Jonathan Pelto

To support Wait, What – please go to http://fundly.com/lomx4hbr

 

PS:  The way this particular fundraising site works is that the names of donors are listed on the page after a contribution is made.  If you’d prefer not to have your name listed on the website’s “Fundraising Page” all you have to do is check the anonymous box on the “donation page.”  All the information will still come through to me, but your name will not show up in the “Pulse” section of the on-line fundraising page….  Regardless I will take the page down after the fundraising effort is over.

Alternatively, if you would prefer, donations can be made by check.  Simply send it to Wait, What? C/o Jonathan Pelto, PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268

Contributions are not tax-deductible, nor do they qualify as campaign donations.  They are simply donations or contributions toward the maintenance of Wait, What?

George McGovern: An American Hero

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In 1972, I had the honor of meeting George McGovern when he flew into Bradley Airport to speak at a nearby hotel ballroom.

That year, at the age of eleven, I spent hundreds of hours making persuasion, ID and GOTV phone calls at the Mansfield Democratic Headquarters.  I still remember some of the mean comments that were made when someone heard my childlike voice.  That November, I stayed up late on election night, watching CBS News and thinking that somehow California and the West Coast would turn the tide and give McGovern he Electoral College votes he needed to win.  I cried when I went to bed that night and wore a block armband the next day to school.

Another one of the greatest moments in my political life occurred when last august, Patrick Scully, an apologist for Governor Malloy, and a self-described “high-profile communications, public relations, media and political consulting professional” decided to attack me, my blog and my criticisms of Malloy and his administration.

When I blasted Malloy for his arrogant and insensitive comments about Connecticut’s public employees last August, Scully penned a Harford Courant commentary piece in which he wrote that Jonathan Pelto is “hopelessly disconnected from the average Connecticut citizen and continue to wallow in the failed, far-left, now-fringe policies of 1970s.”

Scully added, “George McGovern is no longer relevant, nor are his policies. Today’s Democrats (myself included) are in the camp of John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and, yes, Dan Malloy.

Scully’s “insults” may have been among the greatest compliments that I’ve ever received.

Today, and in the coming days, people interested in George McGovern, and his legacy, will have plenty to read.

Here are a just a few highlights of his many contributions to our nation.

At the age of 20, George McGovern enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he served as an extremely active B-24 bomber pilot, a service that earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war, McGovern returned to the country and earned a Masters and Doctorate in American history and government from Northwestern University.  He then returned to South Dakota to become a university teacher.

A few years later he became political director for the South Dakota Democratic Party and then won a seat in the United State House of Representatives in 1956.  He was re-elected to the House in 1958 but lost his bid for the United States Senate in 1960.

In 1961, President Kennedy appointed McGovern a special assistant to the president, and director of the Food for Peace Program.  That program continues to be the world’s largest emergency hunger relief program in the world.

McGovern returned to South Dakota a year later, winning the U. S. Senate seat, a position he was re-elected to in 1968 and 1974.

In 1972, George McGovern’s anti-Vietnam war message helped him become the Democratic Party’s Presidential nominee.  He went on to a historic lose to Richard Nixon, whose campaign was behind the 1972 Watergate crimes, and who was forced to resign in disgrace a few years later..

The key elements of McGovern’s 1972 campaign included the following;

His Democratic Nomination speech in which he said, “Let us resolve that never again will we send the precious young blood of this country to die trying to prop up a corrupt military dictatorship abroad,”

A domestic agenda designed to, “ensure that every American able to work has a job to do.”

A call to end the artificial government economic controls of the 1970s, “in which labor is depressed but prices and corporate profits run sky high.”

A “national health insurance plan”

And “a fair and just tax system,” that included a proposal for higher taxes on the wealthy.

While McGovern returned to the U.S. Senate after the 1972 Presidential campaign, he lost his Senate Seat in the Landslide of 1980.

President Bill Clinton appointed McGovern to serve as the United States ambassador to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in 2000 and was named the first United Nations global ambassador on hunger in 2001.

Although McGovern initially endorsed Hillary Clinton in the last presidential campaign, he later switched his endorsement to Barack Obama.

However, during Obama first year in office, McGovern wrote a scathing attack on the Obama administration’s decision to continue to war in Afghanistan.

McGovern wrote, “As a U.S. senator during the 1960s, I agonized over the badly mistaken war in Vietnam…After doing all I could to save our troops and the Vietnamese people from a senseless conflict, I finally took my case to the public in my presidential campaign in 1972. Speaking across the nation, I told audiences that the only upside of the tragedy in Vietnam was that its enormous cost in lives and dollars would keep any future administration from going down that road again. “I was wrong.”

This morning, George McGovern died at the age of 90.

He was a great American and a proud liberal.

To the fools, he was a dangerous radical or an example of the “failed fringe politics of the 1970s.”

To those of us who knew of his accomplishment sand his dedication and commitment to our nation and humanity, he was and will always be a hero.

BLUSHING…

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No, the red in my checks is not a sun burn.  And yes, I know our society frowns on grown men blushing…

But who wouldn’t blush when confronted by the extraordinarily generous words of Diane Ravitch, a true American hero and the Patron Saint to all of us who believe in the importance of saving and improving American Education.

Diane Ravitch’s blog at http://dianeravitch.net/ is the first thing I read when I get up in the morning and the last thing I read before I go to bed.  (Not to mention checking it multiple times throughout the day.)

Thanks to the blogging she has been doing over the last three months, I’ve learned more about education policy and politics then I had over 35 years of work in and around government.

There is simply nobody in the nation who is doing more to battle the forces of evil that seek to privatize and destroy what is great about our educational system.  Knowledgeable and courageous, Diane consistently provides information and commentary about how we can make our schools better and what the opponents of public education are doing to undermine our country’s ability to provide all of our children with the knowledge and skills they need to live fuller and more productive lives.

Today, Diane posted a piece about me and my blog at Wait, What?

As a tribute to all of those who have helped me with my advocacy journalism, I post it below.  I am truly honored beyond words.

http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/26/the-connecticut-watchdog-for-the-public-interest/

The Connecticut Watchdog for the Public Interest

A reader reminded me of a post by blogger Jonathan Pelto about Hartford, Connecticut, that shows how districts can “game the system” to meet testing target.

And that reminded me that Jon Pelto is someone you should know about. Subscribe to his blog if you want an insider’s view of education reform in Connecticut.

Pelto was a legislator for several years and cares passionately about public education. He knows how to follow the money and watches for conflict of interest and hidden lobbyists.

He has written many posts in opposition to Governor Dannel Malloy’s alliance with the hedge fund managers’ group called ConnCAN (now operating in other states as 50CAN). Pelto has called out all the players in the corporate camp, including the other Wall Street group called Democrats for Education Reform, the charter chain Achievement First, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, and Teach for America, all of which took a role in shaping and pushing Governor Malloy’s “reform” bill to funnel more money to charters than to the state’s poorest districts and to strip teachers of tenure. It’s all “for the children,” remember. Malloy said he would be happy to see more “teaching to the test,” and also said the achievement gap in his state made it necessary to take away teacher tenure. This is absurd; Connecticut has a large achievement gap because it has outsized income inequality, with large concentrations of urban poverty and intense concentrations of extreme wealth. But let’s not talk about that.

Pelto has been critical of State Commissioner Stefan Pryor, who was a founder of a Connecticut charter school, Amistad Academy, and chairman of its board for five years. That charter school is the flagship in the Achievement First charter chain. Pelto has been fearless in criticizing the claims of the powerful Achievement First chain, showing what a small percentage of ELLs it enrolls compared to urban districts in the state, and pointing out how Malloy’s budget showered far more money on this wealthy charter chain than on the state’s neediest students.

For the Diane’s full post go to: http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/26/the-connecticut-watchdog-for-the-public-interest/

 

 

Wait, What? Makes Washington Post – Valarie Strauss Reprints Column on Conflicts of Interest in CT

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Wait, What? makes the Washington Post as Valerie Strauss, one of the nation’s leading education reporters and columnists, publishes one of my blogs. I am deeply honored!
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet

How education sausage gets made: The story behind a reform story

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This was written by Jonathan Pelto, a former member of the Connecticut House of Representatives who now provides commentary on politics and public policy at his blog, “Wait, What?”, where this first appeared.

By Jonathan Pelto

When are conflicts of interest – conflicts of interests?

The Connecticut Mirror recently published a news story entitled “State Board criticizes revised education reform bill.”

It was a straightforward story about how the State Board of Education was joining other “Education Reform” advocates in blasting the changes the Legislature’s Education Committee made to Governor Malloy’s Senate Bill 24.

Speaking on behalf of the State Board of Education it quoted Allan Taylor (Chairman) Stefan Pryor (Commissioner) and board member Patricia Luke. Balanced against their comments were those of the House co-chairman of the Education Committee.

To my knowledge there was nothing remotely inaccurate about the story.

It is not what the story says, but what it doesn’t say that is noteworthy and representative of an issue that has plagued the “education reform” effort from the beginning.

The news story began like this: “State Board of Education members angrily criticized lawmakers’ attempts to scale back a major education reform bill, saying Wednesday that the watered-down bill could stall the effort to fix the state’s worst schools.”

The first quote came from State Board of Education Chairman, Allan Taylor who said he has “watched this process … with real dismay.” Taylor has been a hard-working and dedicated member of the state board for years. However, Taylor is also a member of ConnCAN Inc.’s Advisory Board. ConnCAN Inc. is the “education reform” advocacy group that received $1.3 million from the Walton Family Foundation to run a pro-charter school and “education reform” public relations campaign. ConnCAN Inc. was set up by the same people who formed Achievement First Inc., the charter school management company that runs 20 charter schools in Connecticut and New York.

Another critic of the legislature at the State Board of Education meeting was Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. As we know, Pryor helped create and direct Achievement First, Inc. for eight years before resigning to become Malloy’s “education reform” point person.

Considering the increase in funding for charter schools and the probable outcome of Malloy’s “Commissioner’s Network” program, Achievement First may very well be the entity that is the single biggest winner from Malloy’s bill. The charter school company with its 2,600 students will get a bigger per-student and total dollar boost in funds than Hartford, New Haven or Bridgeport, not to mention the opportunity to take over some of the “Commissioner’s Network” schools.

At the meeting Pryor highlighted his concern about what the Mirrordescribed as “the reduction of funding in a proposal aimed at low-performing districts and the removal of specific strategies to help those districts….”

The issue Pryor is referring to is, in fact, the “Commissioner’s Network” program — the very program that would allow him to take over up to 25 schools, fire the staff, ban collective bargaining and turn those schools over to some other entity, such as a charter school management firm. These entities would then run the schools while being exempt for the state’s laws on competitive bidding, purchasing and the use of outside consultants.

Pryor says he is concerned that the legislature removed some “specific strategies to help those districts.”

Let’s be honest. Not everyone thinks firing teachers, banning collective bargaining, having a third party run the schools and exempting that third party from Connecticut’s consulting and purchasing laws is “helping” out the children who go to those schools.

Finally, State Board Of Education member Patricia Luke was also upset about the Education Committee’s efforts and was quoted as saying: “When I realized what they had done to the bill, all I could say was it’s just the same old story.”

What the story fails to mention is that before being appointed to the State Board of Education, Patricia Luke was the lead lobbyist for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) for 19 years.

CABE, as the story does note, has partnered with ConnCAN, the Connecticut superintendents’ association, and a number of business groups to lobby on behalf of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill.

Just this week, CABE, which is supposed to represent members of boards of education across the state, remained silent when one of its advocacy partners, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, publicly claimed that poverty did not impact educational outcomes. CABE’s members know better than most that poverty is the single biggest factor associated with poor educational outcomes.

While reasonable people can have different opinions about an issue as complex as “education reform,” we are left to wonder, yet again, just who are some of those “public servants” are actually advocating for?

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