Time to explore a new property tax system for Connecticut

In an important step forward, CT Voices for Children, a Connecticut based non-profit research institute, recently proposed a plan to reform Connecticut’s outdated property tax system and replace it with one that will reduce the tax burden on middle-income and working families while ensuring all cities and towns have the resources they need to adequately fund Connecticut’s public schools.

Wait, What? readers will recall that Connecticut’s middle-income families pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the poor about 12 percent and because the Connecticut tax structure coddles the rich, the state’s wealthiest residents only pay about 5.5 percent of their income in state and local taxes.

The new Connecticut Voices proposal would correct those inequities and provide real property tax relief for 2.7 million residents living in 117 of Connecticut’s 169 communities.  At the same time the program would require wealthier residents to start paying their fair share in state and local taxes.

The underlying problem is that Connecticut underfunds its schools by close to $2 billion a year leaving the state’s public schools without the resources they need to provide every child with their constitutionally guaranteed access to a quality education.

The existing system also unfairly burdens the vast majority of local taxpayers.

In an historic effort to address this problem, Connecticut Voices for Children’s proposal would reform Connecticut’s property tax system as follows;

Thriving communities are made possible by good schools, roads, and other public systems. To support these building blocks of local economies, Connecticut’s cities and towns need a stable revenue source that generates needed resources without placing an unfair load onto taxpayers.

Currently, the property tax does the opposite. Connecticut’s property tax system makes residents in poor communities pay more, stifles economic development, and exacerbates racial inequalities. At the same time, because local school funding is so dependent on local property taxes, disparities in property wealth lead to disparities in opportunities for children.

We explore a partial solution to this problem: a system in which communities that tax themselves equally for education receive equal per-pupil funding for education. Our model would cut taxes for 2.7 million residents in 117 cities and towns while maintaining local control and education funding levels.

The report is based on Vermont´s adjusted statewide property tax system, with the following key features:

Gives 2.7 million residents an average tax break of about $400 per person.

Fully funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program, alleviating inequities in communities where concentrations of government, university, and hospital property have eroded the tax base.

Reduces disparities in property tax rates and thus reduce incentives for business to relocate from communities with the highest property tax rates to nearby communities with lower ones.

Consistent with tradition of local control, communities willing to tax themselves more to spend more on education are allowed to do so.

Consistent with tradition of taxing property to fund education.

To read the full report and for more background go to: Equal Funding for Equal Effort: A Proposal to Reform Property Tax Funding for Local Education in Connecticut

Malloy’s austerity budget strategies are hurting Connecticut

  • Record cuts to Connecticut’s public schools and institutions of higher education.
  • Drastic and devastating cuts to vital human services
  • Continuation of corporate welfare programs and efforts to coddle the rich.

Governor Dannel Malloy, with the help of the Connecticut General Assembly, is destroying core government programs and undermining Connecticut’s economic path.

This legislative session, the Democrats in the Connecticut legislature will be faced with a choice – continue Malloy’s disastrous policies – or stand up to the bully and pass a fair and honest state budget.

In order to adopt a better budget solution legislators will need to identify new sources of revenue to pay for vital state services and programs.

To that end, Connecticut Voices for Children has released a major report – today – on Revenue Options to deal with Connecticut’s Fiscal Crisis

Providing a light for Connecticut legislators should they decided to do their job and resolve Connecticut’s massive budget crisis, Connecticut Voices for Children released a report today entitled, Revenue Options are Key to Tackling Budget Shortfalls and Supporting Thriving Communities

CT Voices writes;

In confronting budget deficits of more than $3 billion in the upcoming biennial budget, the commonsense choice for Connecticut should be a balanced approach that includes revenue, rather than a cuts-only approach that threatens an already fragile recovery. Last year, lawmakers chose an “austerity” approach, balancing the budget with $850 million in spending cuts. As a result, the Children’s Budget—a measure of the state’s investments in children and families—fell to a record low 29.5 percent of total General Fund spending.

While such cuts may offer a short-term solution, they do so at a significant cost to the long-term economic structure of the state. 

On the revenue side, there are opportunities to invest in Connecticut’s future by modernizing an outdated sales tax system, strengthening taxes on corporations, and reforming wealth and income taxes. This brief highlights revenue options discussed and/or recommended by the State Tax Panel– –a body of experts who met over the course of two years to evaluate Connecticut’s state and local taxes. While the Panel’s final recommendations were required to be revenue neutral, the policies themselves can be adapted to yield new revenue to support essential investments in our future.

 By combining increased revenue, new strategic investments, and smaller budget cuts, the Governor and the Legislature can both balance the budget and position the state for a more prosperous future. 

 

One of the key elements of the report is an effort to explore a variety of options to ensure that the state’s wealthiest residents start paying their fair share.

Looking to reform wealth and income taxes in Connecticut, CT Voices observes;

A recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that Connecticut’s income distribution is the third most unequal state in the nation.7 The report cites upside down total state and local tax systems (which impose a higher effective rate on lower income taxpayers) and the growth in the share of investment income (from dividends, capital gains, and interest) to total income that goes primarily to high-income households, as contributing factors 

Indeed, Connecticut’s overall tax system (including income, property, and sales and excise taxes, minus federal deductions) allows the most powerful among us to pay a much lower percentage of their income in taxes. For example, a family making less than $25,000 a year pays an estimated 11 percent in state and local taxes while a family making over $1,331,000––the top 1 percent––pays 5.5 percent.8 If the top 5 percent of Connecticut households paid the same effective tax rate as the remaining 95 percent of households, the state could raise more than $2 billion in state revenue annually.  

Combined, the listed changes could raise more than $1 billion while also creating a fairer tax system and reducing wealth inequality: 

Increase Top Tax Rate for Top Two Tax Groups ($238 million):     A half percentage point increase on the top two personal income tax brackets would result in an estimated $283.1 million in new state revenue—more than 82 percent of which would fall on the top 1 percent of taxpayers. Over a third of this tax increase would be offset by larger federal income tax deductions typically available to high-income earners, meaning that of the $238 million in new revenue, the state would raise $150.4 million from taxpayers, while the other $87.6 million would be picked up by the federal government.   

Increase Capital Gains and Dividends Taxes for Top Three Tax Groups ($134.6 million):     Carried interest is the share of earnings that investment managers receive from a profitable return of their client’s investment. The federal government treats carried interest as investment income, or capital gains, rather than as wages or commissions. This preferential treatment results in a federal tax liability that is 50 percent less than it would be for ordinary income. This is known as the carried interest loophole. Despite bipartisan support, little hope exists that Congress will take action. By increasing the tax on capital gains and dividends at the state level, Connecticut could redress the large preferences these two types of income enjoy in the federal tax code and raise $134.6 million.

Taxing capital gains and dividends would represent a return to historical treatment of unearned income. When Connecticut’s income tax was enacted in 1991, taxes were also cut for higher-income earners by eliminating a 7 percent tax on capital gains and a 14 percent tax on dividends and interest. Thereafter, investment incomes were subjected to the state income tax at a much lower rate of 4.5 percent. While the top income tax rate has increased to 6.99 percent, it is still below pre-1991 levels for unearned income. Moreover, any increased taxes on unearned income, like any increase on earned income, would be offset in part by larger federal income tax deductions. 

Millionaires Thrive in Connecticut Thanks to Public Investments Anti-tax advocates have been inaccurately citing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data in an effort to convince their audience that higher taxes have resulted in a “mass exodus” of residents seeking low tax states.9 They assert that the income of residents who moved out of the state is income lost to another state, therefore depleting Connecticut’s finances. It is a claim that former Tax Foundation economist Lyman Stone has written rests “on an egregiously wrong use of the data” by analysts who “have either failed to perform the most basic due diligence…or else actively mislead their readers.” In other words, the vast majority of people who leave a state hold jobs that will be filled by people joining the labor force from within the state or moving in, resulting in no “loss of income” at all.   

Indeed, a 2016 study found that millionaires were much less likely to move than the rest of the population and that there was only a very small influence of income tax rates on the probability of moving. This study, based on 13 years of IRS tax data from all millionaires in the U.S., found that millionaire mobility and the low levels of responsiveness of millionaires to taxes meant that top tax rates would only start to decrease revenue if they were significantly higher than the single digit rates of Connecticut. A half percent, one percent, or two percent increase in the top tax bracket would not have a negative impact on revenue due to migration.  

Join Regional Compact to Close Carried Interest Loophole ($535 million):  Another way in which states could act to close the carried interest loophole in light of inaction in Washington D.C. would be to form a regional compact. Already raised by the New York and New Jersey legislatures, the proposed legislation calls for Northeastern states to impose a tax rate on carried interest sufficient to capture each state’s share of the increased federal income tax liability that would be incurred if the loophole were closed at the federal level. Both states’ proposals call for a 19 percent “carried interest fairness fee” until the loophole is closed at the federal level. By definition, the compact would not go into effect until all states (New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut) enacted the same provisions. It is estimated that Connecticut could raise $535 million by doing so.

And the Connecticut Voices report outlined a number of other steps that Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly could take to deal with Connecticut’s fiscal crisis.  The full report can be found at:  http://www.ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/Revenue%20Options%202017_0.pdf

Breaking News – In unprecedented maneuver, Malloy cuts $20 million in school aid in the middle of the fiscal year

As if it wasn’t bad enough that Connecticut already underfunds its public schools, under the effective darkness of the holiday week, Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration announced today that he is slashing $20 million from Connecticut’s Education Funding (ECS) Formula.

As testimony in the CCJEF v. Rell school funding lawsuit made clear earlier this year, Connecticut’s utter failure to properly fund its public schools is hurting Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and schools.  The lack of appropriate state aid for education also unfairly shifts the tax burden onto Connecticut’s local property taxpayers … a move that disproportionately hurts Connecticut’s middle income families.

But now Malloy is making the situation even worse by cutting state aid for education to Connecticut’s cities and towns right in the middle of the school year, a tactic that will leave communities on the hook for making emergency cuts to programs or trying to come up with alternative revenue to maintain existing programs that are designed to benefit Connecticut’s public school students.

It was only a few weeks ago that Malloy and his operatives were intentionally misleading Connecticut voters by claiming that the state budget was balanced when a growing deficit was actually taking shape.

Now, rather than target wasteful spending, Malloy is aiming his budget ax directly at some of the state’s most important and vulnerable citizens.

By dumping his fiscal problems on local property taxpayers, Malloy continues his warped approach of coddling the rich at the expense of everyone else.

In addition, Malloy’s state department of education announced earlier this week that it is seeking proposals to fund even more charter schools, a strategy that will divert even more scarce funds away from public schools and to the private sector.

Check back for more on this breaking story in the days ahead.

NEWS FLASH – Malloy, State Employee Unions DROP KICK $13 billion plus onto the backs of our children

Governor Dannel Malloy, in concert with Connecticut’s State Employee Unions, have joined forces to shift a major portion of Connecticut’s massive unfunded pension liability onto the backs of Connecticut’s children and those yet to come.

Call it an outrageous effort to kick the can so far down the road that no one will be around to remember what today’s elected officials have done to the economic well-being of those who aren’t yet voters and those who haven’t even shown up on this earth.

Worse yet, the action will probably be taken without a vote of the Connecticut General Assembly.

Warning that such a disastrous deal would be forthcoming, Wait, What? published two recent commentary pieces on the topic.

Don’t shift Connecticut’s unfunded liability problem onto our children.   (Via CT Mirror 12-8-16)

And

Warning – Malloy likely to propose shifting State’s massive unfunded liability problem onto our children  (12-1-16)

But the warnings fell on deaf ears as Connecticut’s governor now seeks to duck significant responsibility for paying down Connecticut’s unfunded state employee pension fund.

As CT Mirror explains in a breaking story entitle, Malloy, unions strike deal to stretch out spiking CT pension costs;

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced a deal Friday with state employee unions that would allow Connecticut to dodge a fiscal iceberg by holding down annual pension costs otherwise set to spike over the next 16 years.

But to get that relief, Connecticut would shift at least $13.8 billion in estimated pension expenses owed before 2032 onto a future generation.

[…]

For now, though, the agreement shifts a heavy burden to a future generation on the argument that this one simply cannot afford to pay the full burden it faces.

The CT Mirror adds;

Under the new agreement, this year’s $1.6 billion annual cost essentially would remain flat next fiscal year. It originally was supposed to increase by about $84 million. But after that it would rise steadily until it reaches $2.2 billion in 2022.

It could remain there — depending on how pension investments fare — until 2032.

It would drop below $1.8 billion in 2033 and, from there, it would remain close to $1.7 billion through at least 2046.

[…]

The Malloy administration did not release an estimate Thursday of that lost investment opportunity. But a spokesman said the cost could be calculated in the coming weeks after an actuarial analysis of the new pension funding plan is completed.

This plan could be approved, under current legislative rules, without a vote from lawmakers, provided neither the House nor Senate vote to reject it within 30 days after the 2017 session begins on Jan. 4.

For more on this developing story go to: http://ctmirror.org/2016/12/09/malloy-unions-strike-deal-to-stretch-out-spiking-ct-pension-costs/

Don’t shift Connecticut’s unfunded liability problem onto our children (via CT Mirror)

A special thanks to the CT Mirror for posting Don’t shift Connecticut’s unfunded liability problem onto our children.  You can read and comment on this important issue at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2016/12/08/dont-shift-connecticuts-unfunded-liability-problem-onto-our-children/

Don’t shift Connecticut’s unfunded liability problem onto our children

Eroding revenues, red ink and poor fiscal management continue to undermine Connecticut’s state budget.  Unaltered, the present approach will make it increasingly difficult, even impossible, for our children and future generations to have a state government that fulfills its fundamental and constitutional duty to provide for a healthier, safer and more equitable society.

But the problem is about to get far worse.

The fiscal crisis facing Connecticut is severe, but rather than step up and truly address the crisis, Gov. Dannel Malloy and many state legislators continue to turn a blind eye to their responsibility, especially when it comes to addressing the failures of the past.

Since he took office in January 2011, Malloy’s fiscal policies have been based on a reckless strategy of coddling the rich, outrageous acts of corporate welfare, record cuts to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, reducing the availability of vital public services and undermining public education … all while shifting more and more of the burden to pay for public services onto Connecticut’s regressive and anti-middle income property tax system.

Denying the very real fiscal problems that are facing the state, Malloy and his political operatives have bounced back and forth between denying the very existence of state deficits and lamenting the arrival of a new economic reality.

Many will remember that upon his arrival in the governor’s office, Malloy whined about the fact that he had “inherited” a $3.7 billion budget shortfall following the fiscally irresponsible policies of Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the Democratic-controlled Connecticut General Assembly.

However, rather than use his time in office put the state back on track, Malloy’s irresponsible budget tactics have further exacerbated Connecticut’s fiscal problems.

Proof of this growing disaster can be found in the reality that as the Malloy administration prepares to propose Connecticut’s next state budget, the state is faced with a projected biennial budget shortfall in excess of $3.3 billion and growing.

And by failing to resolve Connecticut’s year-to-year budget problems, the situation facing the state’s pension and retiree healthcare obligations has become particularly severe.

Now, having squandered the opportunity to institute a special income tax surcharge on Connecticut’s wealthiest taxpayers to pay down some of the massive debt and unfunded liabilities, the options are fewer and the problems are bigger.

If history is any lesson, Malloy’s “solution” to Connecticut’s fiscal crisis will be to propose another state budget plan full of gimmicks, but this time the issue will be compounded by a plan to dump even more of the responsibility for dealing with the state’s catastrophically high debt and unfunded liabilities onto our children and future generations.

It is certainly no secret that behind closed doors Malloy and his team are developing a proposed FY18-FY19 state budget built on more cuts to vital services, shifting even more of the burden for a college education onto the backs of Connecticut’s students and their families and significantly reducing the amount of municipal aid, thereby further increasing property tax rates on Connecticut’s middle income families.

What is less understood is that Malloy will likely propose walking away from Connecticut’s near term obligation to confront the state’s $74 billion debt and unfunded liabilities.

The truth is that for decades Connecticut state government has refused to properly fund its state employee and teacher pension and benefit plans.

Making matters even worse, Malloy and the legislature have been using the state’s credit card in inappropriate ways, including his decision to use borrowed funds to pay for his failed, but much heralded, corporate welfare program designed to pick winners and losers and reward companies he favors.

Now, all of these “chickens are coming home to roost.”  Yet rather than step up and take action to reduce state debt and adequately fund Connecticut’s pension and benefits funds, Malloy may propose “kicking the can down the road” by shifting even more of the burden onto Connecticut’s children and future generations, a maneuver that will dramatically increase the cost to taxpayers over time.

The harsh reality is that when faced with the critically important obligation to do what is right, Connecticut’s elected officials – Democrat and Republican – have remained committed to a motto that reads, “Don’t do today what you can put off until tomorrow.”

The result of such a tactic is not only exacerbating Connecticut’s fiscal problems, but condemning our children and future generations.

If Connecticut voters are not outraged, they aren’t paying enough attention.

Once again, weigh in on this important issue at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2016/12/08/dont-shift-connecticuts-unfunded-liability-problem-onto-our-children/

Warning – Malloy likely to propose shifting State’s massive unfunded liability problem onto our children

Since taking office in January 2011, Governor Dannel Malloy’s fiscal policies have been based on a reckless strategy of coddling the rich, record cuts to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, reducing the availability of vital public services and undermining public education … all while shifting more and more of the burden to pay for public services onto Connecticut’s regressive and anti-Middle Class property tax system.

Some will remember that upon his arrival in the Governor’s Office, Dannel Malloy whined about the fact that he had “inherited” a $3.7 billion budget shortfall following the fiscally irresponsible policies of Governor Jodi Rell and the Democratic-controlled Connecticut General Assembly.

However, rather than use his time in office to put the state back on track, Malloy’s irresponsible budget tactics have further exacerbated Connecticut’s fiscal problems.

Proof of this growing disaster can be found in the reality that as the Malloy administration prepares to propose Connecticut’s next state budget, the governor and his staff are facing a projected biennial budget shortfall in excess of $3.3 billion and growing.

Will this be the year that Governor Dannel Malloy finally takes the steps necessary to confront the budget problems challenging the state?

The answer is almost certainly a resounding NO!.

Sources close to Malloy are reporting that the neo-liberal politician’s “solution” to Connecticut’s fiscal crisis will be to propose a budget full of gimmicks, all the while dumping the responsibility for dealing with the state’s catastrophically high debt and unfunded liabilities onto our children and future generations.

Behind closed doors, Malloy and his team have begun the task of putting together the state’s FY18-FY19 proposed budget.  Knowledgeable sources suggest that this new budget will be built on more cuts to vital services, shifting even more of the burden for a college education onto the backs of Connecticut’s students and their families and significantly reducing the amount of municipal aid, thereby further increasing the property tax rates on Connecticut’s middle income families.

Equally appalling is the growing probability that Malloy, with the support of the legislature, will simply walk away from the state’s obligation to confront its $74 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities.

For decades Connecticut state government has refused to properly fund its state employee and teacher pension and benefit plans.

Making matters even worse, Malloy and the legislature have been using the state’s credit card in inappropriate ways, including Malloy’s much heralded corporate welfare program designed to reward companies he favors.

Now all of those “chickens are coming home to roost,” but rather then step up and take action to reduce state debt and adequately fund pension and benefits, it now appears that Malloy will simply propose dumping the burden onto Connecticut’s children and future generations.

While facing the fundamental obligation to do what is right, their operating motto seems to remain – Don’t do today what you can put off until tomorrow – no matter how devastating that delay will be for our children and those yet to come.

If Connecticut voters are not outraged, they aren’t paying enough attention.

Today is a day to remember that Malloy and the Legislature STOLE Connecticut’s school seat belt money!

From today’s Chattanooga Times Free Pres, 6 students in ICU after school bus driver charged in crash that killed Woodmore Elementary students,

Five students are confirmed dead in the Woodmore Elementary School bus crash and six remain in critical condition this morning.

Three of the students killed were in fourth grade, one was in first grade and another in kindergarten, according to Hamilton County Schools Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly.

Descriptions from the crash scene appear to confirm that the death and injury toll would have been significantly reduced if children were wearing seat belts.  However, in Tennessee only school buses transporting special education students are required to have seats belts.

By comparison, school buses in California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York must be equipped with seat belts and Texas requires that all school buses purchased after 2010 must be fitted with seat belts.

As Tennessee newspapers are now reporting, State Representative Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, “led an unsuccessful effort to require seat belts on Tennessee school buses last year after two students and a teacher’s aide died in a bus crash in Knoxville. Many lawmakers opposed the proposal, saying it was too expensive.”

But seat belts work…

According to a 2010 study conducted by the University of Alabama, seat belts work.  The three year tracking study found,

  • Students are six to eight times safer riding to school in a school bus than riding to school in their parents’ cars.
  • The addition of seat belts would make already-safe school buses even safer.
  • Based on 170,000 observations of pupils in pilot-project buses, the average seat belt- use rate was 61.5%.
  • Adding seat belts increases the thickness of seat-backs, leading to fewer rows of seats.

School bus seat belts might have made a huge difference in yesterday’s fatal school bus accident, but policy makers deemed that they were “too expensive.”

The cost issue was also raised in Connecticut, as well, when the General Assembly last debated mandating that seat belts be put into school buses.

At the time, a special fund was set up to help town mitigate the cost of installing seat belts.  To pay for the program the state dramatically increased the fee a driver must pay when reinstating their driver’s license.

But while the extra fee has brought in millions of dollars, none of the money has been used to help towns pay for installing seat belts in buses.

Why?

Because Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly STOLE the money from that special fund to help balance the state budget … not once … but twice!

It has been an issue that Wait, What? has written about many times.

For example, in a Wait, What piece entitled, They stole the fricking school bus seat belt money again! and published on June 7, 2016;

Hidden deep inside the new state budget bill negotiated by Governor Dannel Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders, and approved last month by the Democrats in the General Assembly, was a provision that, once again, transferred the money that had been set aside to help school districts retrofit school buses with seat belts into the general fund.

As Wait, What? readers know, this is not the first time Governor Malloy and the Democrats have stolen the School Bus Seatbelt Account in order to make the state budget balance.

Since taking office, Malloy has reached into the special school seat belt fund four times, grabbing close to $10 million dollars.

Rather than use the funds for their intended use – to protect our children – Malloy and the Democrats simply grabbed the money to plug holes in the state budget.

This time, rather than adopt a fair and honest budget, the Democrats added Section 28 to Senate Bill 501 which “transferred” $2 million from the School Bus Seatbelt Account to the General Fund.  The legislature also swept $2 million from the Seat Belt fund to address a small part of the $250 million Fiscal Year 2016 budget deficit.

Previous Wait, What articles on this issue can be found via the following links:

The Train Wreck of the Democrats’ State Budget. [Or for long-time Wait, What? readers file under – Not the Fricking School Bus Seat Belts again!] (6/3/2015)

School Bus Seat Belt Fund: A prime example of Connecticut’s budget gimmickry (1/14/2014)

Remember when school bus seatbelts were a big priority?(12/20/2012)

The School Bus Seat Belt Account was created following the tragic January 2010 school bus accident on Route 84 in Hartford that killed a Rocky Hill student who was attending one of the CREC magnet schools.  Following the accident, the Connecticut legislature kicked into action, passing Public Act 10-83.

The law created the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt Account, “a separate non-lapsing account in the General Fund” and required that the funds be used to help school districts pay for the cost of equipping school buses with lap/shoulder (3-point) seat belts.

To pay for the program, the Legislature increased the cost associated with restoring a suspended driver’s license from $125 to $ 175, using the extra $50 per person to create a funding stream for the important program.

Now six years later, no school bus seat belts have been installed, thanks to the fact that Connecticut’s governor and legislature have stolen nearly $10 million from the fund.

When these elected officials come looking for support, ask them why they didn’t do more to stop this outrage.

For more on how Connecticut’s elected officials stole the money meant to help ensure seat belts were installed in school buses read these Wait, What? posts;

Democratic Budget Deal – An irresponsible farce (12/8/2015)

The Train Wreck of the Democrats’ State Budget (6/3/2015)

School Bus Seat Belt Fund: A prime example of Connecticut’s budget gimmickry (1/22/2014)

Remember when school bus seatbelts were a big priority?  12/20/2012

Malloy administration fails to properly regulate Connecticut charter schools.

Charter schools are privately owned, but publicly funded organizations that grab more than $110 million a year from Connecticut taxpayers.

But thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy’s pro-charter school policies, charter schools are allowed to violate Connecticut laws and walk away from their obligations to Connecticut’s students, parents and teachers.

For example, charter schools fail to hire certified teachers and employees.  See Wait What? post entitled Connecticut charter schools violate state law with use of uncertified teachers and administrators

In addition;

Charter schools refuse to educate their fair share of students who require special education services or those who need help learning the English language

And

Charter schools maintain inappropriate and unfair discipline policies that lead to unacceptably high numbers of students being suspended from school.

Instead of stepping up and ensuring these corporations are following the laws, regulations and policies, Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration simply looks the other way.

Earlier this year, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education made her position extremely clear.

As the CT Mirror reported;

 The state education commissioner says she does not have the same obligations in investigating complaints from parents, students and teachers against charter schools that she does for regular public schools.

The state says charter schools are not subject to what is known as a 10-4b process, which lays out mandatory steps the state must follow to respond to complaints. The state said it has more discretion about whether and how to proceed with complaints against charter schools than it does for schools operated by local school boards.

[…]

The issue is a symptom of a larger controversy over whether charter schools should be given the increased latitude they have to run their schools while still receiving millions of dollars in state education aid

The failure to properly regulate charter schools has become so severe the national financial experts are now calling for greater charter school oversight.

A national publication recently covered this very issue in NFMA Calls for Detailed Charter School Disclosures.

The National Federation of Municipal Analysts is urging charter schools to provide detailed financial, academic, and staffing information in primary and secondary disclosure documents.

The news article added;

“The charter school sector has been very active in the last … four to five years [and] it traditionally has not had a lot of public rating coverage,” said Gilbert Southwell, vice president at Wells Capital Management and co-chair of the NFMA disclosure subcommittee that drafted the paper. “[The RBP] is both educational for our membership but also helps to establish our disclosure expectations when we’re looking at these deals.”

Dean Lewallen, vice president and senior analyst at AllianceBernstein L.P. and co-chair of the subcommittee with Southwell, said the RBP is the product of a year-long vetting process with a variety of market participants and thus reflects “an industry consensus.”

The document’s recommendations begin with key information that should be included in a primary offering statement (POS). According to the RBP, a charter school’s POS should disclose all material financial agreements, including the proposed indenture, loan agreement, capital leases, management agreements, and tax regulatory agreements. It should also include information from twelve other broader topics, like descriptions of facilities and their financing, pledged revenues, and projected cash flows. NFMA also wants descriptions of debt service, repair and replacement, operating and deficit, as well as insurance and property tax reserve funds.

The RBP lists disclosures in a successful charter school POS related to academic performance as well as school management and operations.

“A charter school’s academic performance has been identified as an especially important factor in charter school long-term stability and success,” NFMA said in its RBP. “Consequently, the POS should disclose all relevant aspects of the charter school academic performance.”

Charter schools cost taxpayers huge amounts of money.  Malloy’s gift to Connecticut’s charter schools are closing in on half a billion dollars in public fund.  It is time that elected officials make sure these corporate entities meet the same basic standards that public schools must adhere too.

Connecticut charter schools violate state law with use of uncertified teachers and administrators

As a result of Governor Dannel Malloy’s pro-charter school, anti-public school agenda, Connecticut taxpayers hand over more than $110 million a year to the state’s charter school industry.  This largess comes despite the fact that Connecticut’s charter schools refuse to accept and educate their fair share of students with special education needs and those who require extra help learning the English language.

Equally appalling is that these privately owned, but publicly funded, schools refuse to follow Connecticut law when it comes to the use of certified teachers and school administrators.

Connecticut State Law is extremely clear.

For public schools, 100% of the teachers, administrators and service staff MUST hold an appropriate certification and authorization for the position in which they are serving.  State certification not only ensures that teachers and school personnel have appropriate training but it also means these individuals have gone through background checks before being allowed to teach children.

State law even mandates that public schools cannot even pay non-certified teachers and administrators.

However, thanks to aggressive lobbying by the charter school industry, charter schools “play” by a very different set of rules.

In charter schools, only 50% of the teachers, administrators and professionals must hold a traditional state certificate such as an initial, provisional or professional educator certificate.

This means that up to 50% may serve under a “temporary authorization” process or have what is deemed a “quick and easy” certification from a charter school preparation program.  In no case are charter schools allowed to use teachers and staff who don’t hold permanent or temporary certification.

Yet despite this enormous flexibility, Connecticut’s charter schools are notorious for still having a significant percentage of their staff “out of compliance” with Connecticut’s statutes and regulations.

This result is that parents of charter school students cannot be sure whether their student’s teachers and administrators are meeting the most basic requirements to be in a classroom and that taxpayers are paying for staff who should not even be hired by the charter schools.

The data on the magnitude of the problem in charter schools can been found at the Connecticut State Department of Education.

According to official reports filed with the State Department of Education, and current as of March 2016, 14 out of 24 (58%) Connecticut charter schools are were violating the law when it comes to ensuring students have properly authorized staff in the building.

It will not come as a surprise to those who follow “education entrepreneur” Steve Perry, that the greatest violator of the law is the Capital Prep Charter school chain.  As of March 2016, 80% of Bridgeport Capital Prep Harbor School’s staff did not have any certification what-so-ever and were therefore in violation of state law.

A number of other charter schools had staffing operations in which at least 30% of the staff were teaching or administrating illegally.  This list included Achievement First Amistad, Achievement First Bridgeport, Achievement First Hartford Academy, Achievement First Elm City, the Stamford Academy and the Stamford Charter School for Excellence.

Other charter schools in which at least 10% of the staff were in violation of Connecticut law included Booker T. Washington Charter School, Brass City Charter School, Highville Charter School, New Beginnings Family Academy charter school and Path Academy Charter School.

Rather than giving Connecticut charter schools even more state money, state officials should be withholding funds until charter schools fulfill their legal duty to their students, parents and the taxpayers of Connecticut.

Malloy gives Climate Change Denier $35 million in taxpayer funded corporate welfare

Despite Connecticut’s massive and growing fiscal crisis, Governor Dannel Malloy’s corporate welfare program continues to spin out of control.  This time the recipient of the Malloy administration’s taxpayer funded give-a-way program is another massive, extraordinarily profitable hedge fund, a company headed by a multi-millionaire corporate executive who is a climate change denier.

Last Wednesday, as the nation and its citizens reeled from the results of Election Day, Governor Dannel Malloy announced his decision to give Greenwich-based AQR Capital Management $35 million dollars in Connecticut taxpayer funds.

AQR Capital Management is one of the nation’s largest hedge funds, with assets of over $159 billion. The company’s CEO, Cliff Asness, is known for his Republican, Libertarian and right-wing politics, including his consistent denial that climate change is a problem facing the world.

As the Hartford Business Journal reported in, Greenwich firm to expand with $35M in state loans, grants,

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Wednesday announced the company’s participation in the Department of Economic and Community Development’s First Five program, providing up to $28 million in loans and up to $7 million in grants to support the firm’s $72 million expansion project. AQR Capital will retain 540 jobs as it creates new ones, Malloy said.

Since the Malloy administration’s corporate welfare program is funded through state borrowing, the $35 million gift to AQR Capital Management will cost taxpayers well in excess of $40 million.

Making the corporate subsidy all the more outrageous, AQR’s top executive has been an extremely controversial figure in the business world.

Addressing Cliff Asness’ statements, a Fortune Magazine article published on March 11, 2015 and entitled, Top hedge fund manager: Global warming isn’t a danger, reported;

One of Wall Street’s most successful hedge fund managers is once again wading into the climate change debate. His conclusion: It’s not as big of a problem as some suggest.

The hedge fund executive went on to suggest that, “based on the current pace of global warming, it will take another 500 years before the changes become a real problem.”

Connecticut crippling state debt is already making it impossible to maintain vital services and will leave future generations with impossibly high debt payments.

In fact, Governor Malloy’s unprecedented use of corporate welfare will cost Connecticut taxpayers well in excess of $1 billion and his fiscally irresponsible policies have already undermined Connecticut state government’s ability to meet its obligations in the years and decades to come.