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

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

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

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

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

Diane Ravitch writes;

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

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

He writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teachers across America are fighting for their students – Where the hell are CT’s teacher unions

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Governor Malloy has made it painfully clear – he intends to stay the course on the discriminatory, unfair and inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

This from the Governor who said he didn’t mind teachers teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up.

The truth is that Common Core SBAC Test is rigged to ensure that the majority of Connecticut students are deemed failures.

Furthermore, the outrageous and absurd Common Core Test is particularly unfair for children of color, children who aren’t fluent in the English Language and children who require special educations services.

Despite these facts, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education voted to set the pass/fail mark at a level that as many as 7 in 10 students will fail and the State Department of Education continues to instruct local superintendents to mislead parents into believing that they do not have the fundamental right to protect their children by opting them out of this dangerous testing scheme.

But of course, parents have the fundamental right to protect their children and there is absolutely no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the state or local school districts to punish children whose parents refuse to allow their children to be abused by this Common Core testing system.

In state’s across the nation, public teachers are stepping forward and risking their jobs to say enough is enough and that the massive and inappropriate Common Core Testing Scheme has got to be stopped before it unfairly defines an entire generation of children as failures.

In many cases, teacher unions are taking the lead in speaking out for students, parents and teachers against the Common Core Testing program.

But from the leadership of the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter these has been no public criticism of Governor Malloy or his reliance on the Common Core Testing scam that seeks to undermine public education in Connecticut and denigrate teachers and the teaching profession.

Instead the leadership of the two teacher unions endorsed Malloy in his re-election campaign and the American Federation of Teachers provided Malloy in excess of $600,000 to fund his campaign.

The time is long past due for the leaders of Connecticut’s teachers unions to join their colleagues in other states and condemn the Common Core Testing system.  The teachers unions need to demand a halt to this year’s testing program and demand that the test results from this unfair test are not used to evaluate the hardworking and dedicated public school teachers of Connecticut.

If the leadership of Connecticut’s teacher unions need some guidance on what to say about the disastrous Common Core Testing is, here are just a few of the many links they should follow;

Chicago Teachers Union joins growing national opposition to deeply flawed Common Core Standards

Resolution to Support the “I Refuse” Movement

Includes New York Associated Teachers of Huntington, Baldwin Teachers Association, Bellmore-Merrick United Secondary Teachers, Bellport Teachers Association, Bethpage Congress of Teachers, Brentwood Teachers Association, Brockport Teachers Association, Camden Teachers Association, Central Islip Teachers Association, Clarkstown Teachers Association, Connetquot Teachers Association, Farmingdale Federation of Teachers, Fulton Teachers Association, Hamburg Teachers Association, Hastings Teachers Association, Ichabod Crane Teachers Association, Islip Teachers Association, Kingston Teachers Federation, Lancaster Central Teachers Association, Lakeland Federation of Teachers, Lawrence Teachers’ Association, Levittown Teachers Union, Locust Valley School Employees Association, Lynbrook Teachers Association, Miller Place Teachers Association, MORE Caucus (NYC), New Hartford Teachers Association, New Paltz United Teachers, New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees, New York Mills Teachers’ Association, North Rockland Teachers Association, North Syracuse Education Association, Patchogue-Medford Congress of Teachers, Plainedge Federation of Teachers, Plainview-Old Beth Page Congress of Teachers, Port Jefferson Teachers Association, Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, Rocky Point Teachers Association, Rome Teachers Association, Sherburne-Earlville Teachers’ Association
Smithtown Teachers Association, Springville Faculty Association, Shoreham Wading River Teachers Association, Teachers Association of Lindenhurst, Troy Teachers Association, Valley Stream Teachers Association, West Babylon Teachers Association, West Canada Valley Teachers Association, West Genesee Teachers’ Association, West Seneca Teachers Association

Portland teachers Oregon union resolution objects to new Smarter Balanced test

Florida Education Association & Palm Beach County Pass Anti-Testing Resolutions

Boston Teachers Union Resolution Against Testing

BAT JOINT RESOLUTION FOR TEST REFUSAL/APPR RESOLUTION

A Letter from a Teacher: What We Should Do Instead (Guest Post by Dr. Jeannette Faber)

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This guest post is from Connecticut Educator Jeannette Farber;

 2015 is upon us. Instead of staying on the road known as “education reform,” I have 12 resolutions – one for each month of 2015.

Two words: Investment and Innovation

But first… The myth of “our public schools are failing.” We erroneously base a school’s success on standardized test scores. We are duped into thinking public schools are failing based on an international test known as the PISA test.  In the five decades of our students taking this test, we have never done well.  Yet, our nation continues to drive innovation and our nation has the world’s best universities. We are compared to countries with a 3 % poverty rate, Finland. We are compared to countries that do not educate or test everyone.  Meanwhile, in the US, we educated everyone and test everyone.  If test scores are the basis of success (again, an erroneous measure), we currently have the highest test scores in our history.  We also have our highest graduation rates – 80% in four years and 90% for those who take more than four years or who earn a GED.

There are many myths: They are perpetuated by the corporate media and those profiting from privatizing public education.

Any lack of progress in school improvement is due to the lack of teacher empowerment and to equity in funding.  We need to invert the power dynamic and create schools that work from the classroom out, not the federal, state, central office, and/or principal “down.”  We need to focus on schools where there is intense poverty. These are not “failing schools”: they are schools that are being failed by society.

“Education reform” as we know it, began in 1983; since then, teachers have had to respond to initiatives that come and go whenever there is a change from “above.” Unfortunately, many folks driving policy and influence – like Arne Duncan, the Waltons, Bill Gates – have never been educators.  Current drivers of education “reform” are “corporation education reformers.” Corporations profit from public schools by selling “solutions” that are anything but solutions. They brought narrow, not rigorous, standards, The Common Core, written by testing companies.  What follows the Common Core? Canned assessments, scripted lessons, and an increasing onslaught of standardized testing – all purchased with taxpayer money.

And worse, this replaces the joy of life-long learning with the dread of a one-size-fits-all regime. It is not real learning. It is soul crushing.

So, instead of staying on this doomed road of corporate education reform, what should we do instead?

The 12 resolutions I offer are framed by two concepts: innovation and investment

To start, by innovation, I mean this: We do need to transform public education as we still largely work on a century-old model – the factory model.  We do need to make education more innovative, creative, student centered, and constructivist – all focusing on critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration.  The current road of “corporate education reform” will not take us there. In fact, it will take us in the opposite direction.

By investment, I mean this: Equity in funding and resources.  When public education became compulsory a century ago, education leaders vowed to make public education the great equalizer. We have failed at that for a century. Usually, wealthier students receive more funding; poor students, less. That is a betrayal of our democratic values.

Resolutions:

  1. Innovate, invert, the power dynamic: Starting from the “bottom” (See how we are conditioned to think?), educators need to take back our classrooms and schools for the sake of real learning and for our students.
  1. Innovate the purpose of “unions.” We can re-envision our teachers’ unions as true educational associations. Teachers need a credible way to ensure a seat at the head of the table.  Education associations need to shift the paradigm from being narrowly focused wages, benefits, working conditions to transforming our organizations to lead the profession. We are the experts. 
  1. Innovate the federal and state roles in education. Departments of Education (state and federal) should not be controlled of an administration. Administrations like to change the pieces, and even the game board, every 4 or 8 years. Rather, DoEs should be independent educational institutions that reports to an administration.  Institution leaders should be actual educators. Every time we get a new principal, a new superintendent, a new governor, a new president, schools have to change direction.  There is never continual focus on addressing the real problems.  And, teachers have no voice in these “initiatives” or “reforms.”
  1. Innovate by creating the education institution just mentioned – a national organization that has state and local organizations – education associations!  Teachers need professional development in the latest research and best practices. This national education institute and its state and local associations can provide professional leadership through affiliations with researchers and practioners in education, K – 12 or university experts. This would create ongoing, meaningful, and lasting transformation.
  1. Innovate how schools improve. Schools can work with these education organizations to create a vision and action plan for individual schools. Schools cannot fit into a one-size-fits-all reform.  Instead, this model would be akin to how accreditation organizations work but more for the purpose of helping schools/teachers continually work on school-improvement that works from the classroom/school out.
  1. Innovate how schools and teachers help other schools and teachers transform themselves. Each school could have a profile describing it – its strengths and challenges – so it can be part of a consortium of other like schools, all working together to affect meaningful change – all teacher/administration/expert led, of course.
  1. Invest in universal pre-school education in all 50 states. Have additional programs for children living in severe poverty that engages the parent/s and child from birth until s/he enters preschool.  Such programs can offer parenting classes and stress the importance of reading to a child.  This can help close the gap before children enter school.
  1. Invest in wrap-around serves in all school districts with a high percentage of poverty. School districts can work with outside organizations and non-profits to supply families with wrap-around services: continuing education for parents, mental health services, rehab programs, heath care, conflict mediation, character education, after-school programs, tutoring, etc.
  1. Invest in teachers. In order to have a real and lasting effect, teachers need meaningful professional development, time to collaborate, and reasonable students loads. Currently, 46.2% of teachers leave the profession in the first five years. That statistic, obviously, tells us we do not treat teaching as the profession it is.
  1. Invest in collaboration. We need to invest in schedules that allow schools to be learning communities not just for students but also for teachers: these are inter-related. Teachers learn to be better teachers through continual reflection, collaboration, implementation, and innovation.
  1. Invest in lead teachers. Public education has become an incalcatrant bureaucracy. Approximately 51% of K-12 employees are classroom teachers. The remaining 49% is administration and support staff.  We need to distinguish between administrators who have a managerial role (scheduling, policy, etc.) and administrators who are educational leaders (experts in curriculum, instruction, and assessment). I’ll call these folks Lead Teachers.  We could trim the bureaucracy if we empowered teachers, unleashing their expertise in order to lead schools in a continual growth model. And, let’s narrow the wide gap between teachers’ and administrators’ salaries.
  1. Invest a rich curriculum. Since NCLB and RttT, curricula have become very narrowly focused on math and reading – both vital components to education.  However, students deserve a rich curriculum.  Art, music, history, world languages, electives, etc. And young children need play time.  We need to bring our curriculum into the 21st century: more interdisciplinary and focused problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration.

The future of public education is truly at risk. We must resolve to transform our public schools by entrusting the experts, American educators, to lead the way. 

Jeannette Faber has been teaching high school English in CT for 19 years. She holds three advanced degrees, the most recent a doctorate in English Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College.  Dr. Faber resides in New Haven, CT. © Jeannette C. Faber 2014

 

A final 2014 campaign shout-out to Connecticut teachers and their supporters

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First and foremost, I want to thank the thousands of teachers, parents and public school advocates who have taken the time to read Wait, What? over the past few years.

Your camaraderie and participation in this endeavor has been a primary reason I stuck with the task of trying to educate, persuade and mobilize people to stand up and speak out on behalf of our public education system.

The last three years have been truly extraordinary as we have watched the corporate education reform industry set its money and political muscle on working to undermine Connecticut’s teachers, parents, students and public schools.

As we know all too well, driven by his devotion to the corporate education industry, in February 2012, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy became the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose eliminating tenure for all public school teachers in Connecticut and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest school districts.

No other Democratic governor in the country proposed such an anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education initiative.

With Election Day finally upon us, one of the greatest mysteries of our time is why Malloy has been completely and totally unwilling or unable to apologize for his inappropriate, unfair and outrageous attack on Connecticut’s educators.

Over the last few months, Malloy’s supporters have tried every excuse under the Sun to explain away Malloy’s outrageous behavior…but Malloy himself has refused to step up and publicly admit or correct his statements and actions.

In fact, when Malloy tried to clarify his position this fall he actually managed to make it worse.

Asked about his statement that teachers need only show up for four years and they’ll get tenure, Malloy explained,

“I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure…”

Wait, What?  the problem is really tenure?

Fair due process for teachers is the problem??

Considering Malloy’s policies, it is fair to say that one of the more bizarre moments of the 2014 campaign was when the New Haven Register reported that, “Randi Weingarten, the national president of the American Federation of Teachers, told an enthusiastic group of union members Tuesday that the only way to stop the reach of the conservative Koch brothers and the new restrictions on labor is to re-elect Dannel P. Malloy as governor of Connecticut, and not vote for her friend Jonathan Pelto.

Strange considering Malloy’s anti-tenure, anti-collective bargaining proposal was right out of the Koch Brother’s anti-teacher, anti-public education playbook.

Not far behind the AFT leadership’s approach was that of the leadership of  the Connecticut Education Association who endorsed Malloy claiming that Malloy was the “First governor in Connecticut’s history to annually fully fund teacher pensions during his term in office and guarantee full funding in the future.”

However, as we know, Malloy had absolutely no role in ensuring that the Connecticut Teacher Retirement Pension Fund is being fully funded.  The credit for that goes to Governor Rell and the members of the 2007 Connecticut General Assembly who guaranteed that the teacher pension fund would be given the proper funds for 25 years starting in 2008.

But the most remarkable development is not that the AFT and CEA would endorse Malloy but that Malloy would make no meaningful effort to pivot back and address the concerns being voiced by Connecticut’s teachers, parents and public school advocates.

As if to prove his unwillingness to listen to Connecticut’s public school proponents, Malloy has told two newspaper editorial boards, in recent weeks, that he intends to “stay the course” on his corporate education reform agenda.

And last week, when asked if there was anything he would have done different over the past four years, if he was given the chance, he said there was nothing he would have done differently.

Nothing he would have done differently?

Nothing he would have changed over the last four years?

Putting aside his decision to skip the perfect opportunity to set the record straight on his attitude toward Connecticut teachers, what kind of person says that – given the chance – there is  absolutely nothing he would have done differently over a period of four years?

I understand that there are plenty of reasons for someone to cast their vote for Malloy or Foley tomorrow, but as a proud graduate of Connecticut’s public schools and now being a public school parent, I will not support any candidate who so callously denigrates and belittles the people who devote their lives to providing our children with the knowledge and skills they will need to deal with our increasingly complex and difficult world.

Malloy’s approach has not only been an embarrassment but it is a sad commentary on how far some of our Democratic officials have strayed from the most fundamental principles and values of our society.

Malloy ploy on Teacher Pension Fund takes center stage

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In this case, the issue isn’t which major party candidate for governor will do more damage to teachers and public education, but whether the candidates and their supporters are accountable for the rhetoric and claims they make during this campaign season.

The backdrop of the story is that in order to persuade Connecticut’s public schools teachers to overlook Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s three year record of demeaning, denigrating and bashing teachers and the teaching profession, Malloy’s supporters have recently sent out a series of campaign pieces claiming that;

Governor Malloy is the “first governor in Connecticut’s history to annually fully fund teacher pensions during his first term in office and guarantee full funding in the future.”

The primary problem with the claim is that Malloy had no legal option but too fully fund teacher pensions and furthermore, he deserves absolutely no credit for guaranteeing full funding of the teacher pension system in the future.

The credit for Malloy having successfully made the necessary payments and fully funding the state of Connecticut Teacher Pension Fund actually goes to the Connecticut Education Association, the members of the 2007 General Assembly and Governor Rell.

And while trying to inappropriately take credit for something he did not do, Malloy and his supporters conveniently overlook the fact that, as governor, Malloy has taken dramatic actions that have actually jeopardized the financial stability of the fund that helps pay for health insurance premiums for retired teachers.

As was reported in the October 15, 2014 Wait, What? blog entitled, “Teachers misled with claim that Malloy deserves credit for “fully funding teacher pension,” Governor Malloy had no option but to fully fund teacher pensions.  In fact, had Tom Foley been elected in November 2010 instead of Dannel Malloy, he too would have been required to make those same payments.

The reason Malloy or Foley would have been required to fully fund the teacher pension system is a result of a 2007 law that authorized the state of Connecticut to borrow $2.3 million and use those funds to address the historic underfunding of the Connecticut Teacher Pension Fund.

The law not only required the state to make any and all necessary payments for the next 25 years, but that requirement was made iron-clad when the language was added to the bond covenants the accompanied the bonds when they were sold to Wall Street investors.

As previously noted the proposal to safeguard the teacher pension fund was pushed by the Connecticut Education Association, passed by the Connecticut General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Rell.

But seven years later, the Malloy political operation has been attempting to mislead teachers into believing that it was none-other-than Malloy who deserved the credit for something that took place before he even became governor.

Today, in a CTMirror article entitled, Fact check: Who really protected teacher pension funding? the truth about this whole controversy is laid out.

As the CTMirror explains,

Since their controversial endorsement of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, leaders of the largest teachers’ union in Connecticut have portrayed the governor as the defender of what teachers worry about most: the future of their pensions.

But while touting Malloy as the first governor to “fully fund” the long-neglected pension system, the leadership message of the Connecticut Education Association doesn’t mention that Malloy had little choice but to do so. His hands effectively were tied by legal guarantees put in place by Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the 2007 legislature.

[…]

Each of the four budgets Malloy signed during his term does include the full pension contribution recommended by teachers’ pension analysts. Connecticut governors and legislatures have a history of contributing significantly less than the full amount.

That changed, though, in 2007, when lawmakers and Rell adopted a proposal from Treasurer Denise L. Nappier to borrow roughly $2 billion and deposit it into the cash-starved pension fund.

Connecticut promised in the bond covenant – its contract with investors who bought those bonds – to budget the full pension contribution required by analysts for the entire 25-year life of the bonds.

The CT Mirror story should be required reading for every Connecticut teacher and for all of those who follow the politics that surround Connecticut’s State Budget.

The entire CTMirror article can be found at:  http://ctmirror.org/fact-check-who-really-protected-teacher-pension-funding/

Malloy must come clean on his attempt to repeal collective bargaining rights

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In defense of its endorsement of Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, the Connecticut Education Association is using its EXAMINE THE FACTS campaign to tell teachers that Malloy, “Supports teachers’ rights to collectively bargain and negotiate contracts, benefits, and working conditions.”

At the same time, most of Connecticut’s other unions are trying to persuade their members that if elected, Republican Tom Foley will follow Wisconsin’s right-wing, anti-union governor and destroy collective bargaining altogether.

But the fact remains that Governor Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose unilaterally eliminating collective bargaining rights for a group of public employees.

In Malloy’s case, as part of his corporate education reform industry initiative, he proposed repealing collectively bargaining rights for public school teachers working in the poorest schools.

Had the Connecticut General Assembly not stripped Malloy’s anti-union provisions, 1,000 – 1,500 public school teachers, in up to 25 schools across Connecticut, would have lost their rights to collective bargain.

In response to Malloy’s proposal, the CEA wrote to its members on March 14, 2012 telling them that Malloy’s Education Bill would have “real and dramatic consequences for teachers.”

Leading the list of negative impacts, the CEA leadership explained that,

“The bill would take away collective bargaining rights from teachers in the lowest performing schools….”

The CEA letter went on to urge teachers to contact their legislators and tell them to “Fix the governor’s bill” and “Restore collective bargaining rights.”

With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, Governor Malloy has an obligation to come clean about his position on collective bargaining. 

Malloy claims that he supports collective bargaining rights, the leaders of Connecticut’s unions are telling their members that Malloy supports collective bargaining rights…but it is worth repeating, yet again, that Dannel Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose repealing collective bargaining rights for unionized public employees.

To earn the votes of Connecticut’s teachers and other union members, Malloy needs to stand up, explain why he produced such an anti-union proposal and renounce his 2012 effort to repeal collective bargaining rights.

Teachers misled with claim that Malloy deserves credit for “fully funding teacher pension”

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Meanwhile, why hasn’t Malloy announced that, if re-elected, he will de-couple the state’s teacher evaluation system from the unfair, inappropriate and ineffective standardized testing scheme

Many of Connecticut’s active and retired teachers recently received a “fact” sheet urging them to support Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s bid for re-election.

While the “EXAMINE THE FACTS” document failed to highlight the reality that Governor Malloy actually proposed CUTTING funding for teacher health care, in an attempt to persuade teachers to vote for Malloy, the “fact” sheet claimed that Malloy is the “First governor in Connecticut’s history to annually fully fund teacher pensions during his term in office and guarantee full funding in the future.”

Let’s be honest – if Governor Malloy had unilaterally taken steps to “fully fund teacher pensions” and “guarantee full funding in the future,” that would have been a powerful reason for teachers to consider voting for him, but the truth is far from what Malloy’s supporters are suggesting.

The state law mandating full funding of teacher pensions, which were made iron-clad through “bond covenants” with Wall Street was adopted in 2007, four years BEFORE Dannel Malloy became governor.

In 2007, after persuasive lobbying by the Connecticut Education Association, Republican Governor Jodi Rell and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly approved a plan to borrow $2 billion to shore up Connecticut’s underfunded teacher pension system.

The legislation required that, “for each fiscal year in which the bonds are outstanding [up to 30 years], the act automatically appropriates the actuarially required annual state contribution to the Teacher’s Retirement Fund (TRF).”

As part of the bond covenants with the Wall Street investors, that state of Connecticut was prohibited from repealing that language.

Yes Virginia, there is a power greater than the democratically-elected government of Connecticut and it is called Wall Street.

The EXAMINE THE FACTS document makes it seem that Governor Malloy made the decision to fully-fund the Teacher Retirement Fund because he was “committed” to teachers.

That is simply not true.

Connecticut State Government made the necessary payments to fully fund the teachers retirement system because it had signed a contract with Wall Street investors in 2007 that required that those payments be made.

We know that the Democrat’s mantra is that Tom Foley is dangerous, despite the fact that he will be dealing with a Democratic General Assembly…But misleading or lying about Malloy’s record is hardly an effective way to persuade teachers to cast their vote for Malloy.

You can read the “fact” sheet here – http://www.cea.org/issues/news/2014/sep/29/pdf/Malloy-Foley-Examine-the-Facts.pdf

Meanwhile, why hasn’t Malloy announced that, if re-elected, he will de-couple the state’s teacher evaluation system from the unfair, inappropriate and ineffective standardized testing scheme.

CEA Tells Teachers Malloy Supports Collective Bargaining BUT that isn’t quite true: 

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As part of its ongoing effort to persuade Connecticut teachers to support Governor Malloy’s bid for re-election, the CEA has sent out information to its members including a “Fact Sheet” called EXAMINE THE FACTS.

In addition, the cover of this month’s CEA Advisor magazine reads;

EXAMINE THE FACTS;
A better direction for students, teachers and public education
A Better direction for education funding, pensions and collective bargaining.
Malloy/Wyman 

See CEA Flyer – EXAMINE THE FACTS AND CEA Advisor:

The lead article begins,

“Educators are truth tellers. They enlighten.  They inform … we like to think our Association plays a similar function for members like you.”

While it is fair to say the Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley’s position on the issue of collective bargaining is extremely troubling and worthy of opposition, it is vitally important that voters been given the truth, especially by those who support a particular candidate.

In this case, the CEA statement on behalf of Governor Malloy is as follows:

MALLOY: Supports teachers’ rights to collectively bargain and negotiate contracts, benefits, and working conditions

Actually that isn’t really the truth:

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy remains the only incumbent Democratic governor in the United States to have proposed doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the poorest school districts.

His plan was to replace the due process system called tenure with a series of certification contracts that would be renewed if teachers managed to prove their competency using an unfair and inappropriate set of standards.

While it is true that Malloy told a CEA forum last month that he did support teachers’ rights to collectively bargain and negotiate contracts, benefits, and working conditions, Malloy HAS NEVER publicly renounced his 2012 proposal to eliminate tenure for all public school teachers – the single most important working condition for teachers.

In fact, in an earlier candidate debate with Tom Foley, Malloy was asked about his infamous statement that a teacher need only show up for four years to get tenure.

In response Malloy said,

“I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure. … I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

So while telling the CEA that he supports collective bargaining, Malloy told that public that his idiotic and insulting statement that teachers “need only show up” to get tenure, wasn’t about teachers, it was about tenure.

What the????

That is hardly a successful effort on Malloy’s part to say that he believes in the important role of tenure.

But perhaps even more important is Malloy’s failure to publicly retract his effort to repeal collective as part of his Corporate Education Reform Industry proposal in 2012 (Senate Bill 24).

Section 17 of Senate Bill 24 read,

 “(F) The provisions of sections 10-153a to 10-153n [Connecticut’s Collective Bargaining law], inclusive, shall not apply to any teacher or administrator who is assigned to a commissioner’s network school…”

The language meant that collective bargaining SHALL NOT APPLY to teachers working at turnaround schools.

Thankfully the outrageous, anti-union, anti-collective bargaining language was stripped out of the bill by the Democratic legislators…just as they would if Tom Foley tried to introduce anti-union, anti-collective bargaining legislation.

As the leadership of the CEA, AFT and other public employee unions continue to campaign for Dannel Malloy, they (or Malloy) still have not faced that fact that:

No Connecticut Governor – Democrat, Republican or Independent – has ever proposed unilaterally repealing collective bargaining for a group of public employees.

The truth is that Dan Malloy proposed unilaterally repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest schools in Connecticut and to this day he has NEVER publicly retracted that proposal or apologized for his union busting effort.

The CEA leadership is absolutely correct that teachers and all voters should EXAMINE THE FACTS.

People may want to vote against Foley for his anti-worker position, but Malloy has a long way to go before he has earned the vote of Connecticut’s teachers or state employees.

The question remains…

If Malloy really wants teachers to support him, why hasn’t he clearly endorsed the concept of teacher tenure and made a public statement that he was wrong to try and eliminate tenure and repeal collective bargaining in his 2012 Corporate Education Reform Industry legislation.

In the coming days we’ll take a look at some of the others issues presented as “facts” in the EXAMINE THE FACTS flyer teachers have been receiving.

Guest Post – Connecticut Education Association’s Lesser Evilism: Why endorsing Malloy is a losing strategy

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Editorial Note:  Many of the mot powerful and informative blog posts over the past three years have come in the form of guest posts from teachers, parents and public school advocates.  If you have a commentary piece inside you that you’d like to write down and have posted, just drop me a note – [email protected]

Connecticut Education Association’s Lesser Evilism: Why endorsing Malloy is a losing strategy ( A Guest Post by Jay Poppa)

[For informational purposes only, Jay Poppa is the Vice President of the Bridgeport Education Association; this commentary piece is his own and not associated with his position in the BEA]

On Friday, September 26 the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) Board of Directors fell into the pit of lesser evilism by voting to endorse incumbent Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy for a second term.

CEA leadership ignored the recommendations of the CEA PAC, which was to not endorse any candidate running for Governor, a decision at least two of Connecticut’s largest teacher locals, affiliated Bridgeport (CEA) and unaffiliated Hartford (AFT), already made on their own.

The CEA is now committed to supporting the teacher attacking, pro-corporate education reformer Malloy. What’s more is that this decision highlights the failed strategies of the CEA in thinking that choosing a so-called “lesser evil” will help to protect teachers, students and schools from the greater evil represented by people like Republican candidate Tom Foley. However, Malloy is just as eager to carry out the education reform dictates pushed by the profit hungry corporate education reform industry, and has publicly stated so.

The CEA’s strategy of lesser evilism and their reluctance in calling out their Democratic Party political “friends” over the last few years has hampered the union’s ability to effectively fight for the schools we need. Supporting the Democrats is a political dead-end for any union. In this political climate only organizing a strong rank and file base with deep community ties will effectively combat corporate education reform and the general attack on the working class.

As the late historian Howard Zinn said, what matters most isn’t who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in. If social movements and workers aren’t in motion, making demands on politicians and struggling from below, mainstream politics will be shaped by the pressure from above, by the demands and priorities of the wealthy and the education reform industry they promote.

Over the past year the CEA leadership has made some positive efforts to be more responsive to their membership and move toward an organizing model of unionism. Unfortunately, endorsing Malloy will significantly undermine these efforts by eroding their leadership and the trust of their rank and file activist base and community allies. If the CEA is serious about its efforts to organize the teacher rank and file and their community allies they must retract their endorsement.

When looking at the CEA position it isn’t surprising to find their endorsement of Malloy falls in line with what many of the largest and strongest teacher unions in the country are doing.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) whose historic 2012 strike inspired and energized the US labor movement, voted to endorse Democratic Governor Pat Quinn whose running mate is former Chicago Public School superintendent Paul Vallas.  Vallas has been the poster boy for the “shock doctrine” style, pro-charter school, school privatization schemes.  He oversaw the wholesale privatization of the New Orleans Public Schools following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in which he turned almost all of the public schools over to charter school operators. He then went on to wreak havoc on the Philadelphia, Haiti and Bridgeport, CT (where he was forced out by a coalition made up of the community and the CEA/BEA) school systems.

Lesser evilism as a strategy has plagued the American labor movement for decades. It has played a part in the ineffective response to the employers offensive on American unions and living standards over the past four decades. It is a strategy that hasn’t helped to overcome union retreat and defeat and has created a steady decline in the unionization rate from a high 1950s high of 35% to 11.3% of the total work force.

One aspect of this employer’s offensive has been the desire to eradicate American unions. After decades of steady attacks by the employers the unionization rate in the private sector is about 6.7%.

Now both Republicans and Democrats have set their sights on destroying public sector unions who make up about 35.3% of this workforce.  This attack has been a bipartisan effort aimed mainly at teachers, the largest section of organized labor, but this attack extends to all public sector workers.

The CEA Leadership Bungles SB24

In the winter and spring of 2012 Malloy proposed and helped to get passed his “education reform” bill SB24 that was written by the corporate education reform industry.

Connecticut teachers have been angry at Malloy’s verbal attack on their profession.  Malloy’s most infamous quote from his address to the 2012 Connecticut House of Representatives, “Basically, the only thing you have to do is show up for four years (to earn tenure)” is widely remembered for its vitriolic character. Malloy’s willingness to engage in some of the most outwardly heinous aspects of the corporate reform movement such as teacher bashing were only outdone by his actions which have positioned him as one of the most aggressive pro-corporate education reform Governor’s in the country.

The CEA, then led by Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine and President Phil Apruzzese, responded to SB24 in a manner that could only be characterized as top down, bungling and inadequate.

Apruzzese and Levine initially agreed to some of the most hated aspects of SB24 such as the new teachers evaluation that aimed to tie teacher certification to evaluations based heavily on standardized test scores. Apruzzese and Levine unilaterally released their “View From the Classroom” which was the CEA plan for education reform that included some of worst provisions of SB24.

Instead of sharply and aggressively critiquing SB24 which was what was needed to match the support put together by the corporate education reform industry and Malloy, the CEA hugged the line between collaboration and mild criticism effectively making their critiques weaker at a time when they needed to be stronger and sharper.

Current CEA Leadership

The current CEA leadership, under President Sheila Cohen and Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, has stated their desire to and actually has taken some steps to change the course of the CEA to focus more on organizing teachers and community members against education reform. These steps, however, have been slow and often inadequate. In fact, outside of the Summer Leadership Conference organizing workshops and the Bridgeport fight to keep an elected school board, the CEA has publicly continued on the path of compromise.

On some provisions of SB24 the current CEA leadership has quietly accepted or has positioned themselves as good partners in Malloy’s education reform plan.

Even critical participation has been absent in the conversations over the Commissioner’s Network a “turn around,” competitive grant style school funding scheme. In fact the CEA and local affiliates have done little to organize or discuss with the public that these programs seek to lower our expectations as to what we will receive in terms of funding and resources from the state and they also seek to curtail the rights of union members. The CEA could highlight these issues, along with some of the real problems our schools and students face, such as how our schools are underfunded by the state, or that our “underperforming schools” are predominantly in poorer, working class neighborhoods, and neighborhoods of color.

Token Gestures and Defending the Real Evil

Now election season is nearing and Malloy is behind in the polls. He has offered teachers a few token gestures; getting rid of Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and alleviating some of the provisions of the new teacher evaluation plan. Unfortunately for teachers and students most of the damage has been done. Malloy’s SB24 locks in additional state funding for charter schools when our public schools aren’t even adequately funded. It still uses standardized test data to evaluate teacher performance, which will lead to more “teaching to the test.”

In the coming days and weeks we will hear CEA leadership justify their decision in many ways. They will argue that not endorsing Malloy would have been irresponsible because it would allow Foley to get elected or that our allies and fellow union members were counting on us to help keep Foley out. They will tell us that Foley wanted to bring right to work legislation to Connecticut or bring about a “Wisconsin moment” and that supporting Malloy was a “hard choice” for the CEA to make. We will hear that Malloy isn’t what we want but he’s the best we can get. CEA will advise that we hold our noses and vote for Malloy anyway.

While Foley’s “money follows the child” position on education is lunatical and his pension ideas are frightening, the truth is that there is no good choice between the two mainstream parties.  However, supporting Malloy will only allow him to continue a rightward slide and attack on public education while saying to us, “Well, at least I’m not Foley.”

The reality is that the words and actions from the CEA leadership show a lack of understanding as to who the forces are behind the corporate education reform project.

Through the 2010 remarks of News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch we can see how the richest 1% of the American ruling class see public education.

“When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching….”

They see it as a massive untapped market for private investment and profits.

The problem isn’t that the Democrats are too weak-willed to fight against the profit driven Murdoch and his ilk. As left-wing writer Doug Henwood clearly wrote about the nature of the Democrats:

“Another recurrent feature of the [“lesser evilism”] genre: a lament over the Democrats’ lack of spine, which is often treated as a curable condition. But in fact, the invertebrate status is a symptom of the party’s fundamental contradiction: it’s a party of business that has to pretend for electoral reasons that it’s not. Related to that, it’s getting harder to say what the party’s core beliefs are. Republicans have a coherent philosophy–loopy and often terrifying, yes, but coherent–which they use to fire up an impassioned base. The Democrats can’t risk getting their base too excited, lest it scare their funders.”

In fact among Malloy’s top two campaign donors are Jonathan Sackler and Mary Corson, his wife. Sackler is the director of Purdue Pharma and a major proponent of charter schools in Connecticut. Of course Sackler and Corson are going to want something for their money.

We have to remember that by supporting politicians like Malloy we are helping to push the Republican Right even further to the right. A position of “no endorsement” could have sent a message to both candidates that their politics are not supported.  Instead the CEA’s message to the public and Malloy is, “there is no consequence for your attacks on us, keep it up.”

What’s more is that there is a genuine third-party candidate who is running and who has been a vocal opponent of corporate education reform. Jonathan Pelto, a progressive activist and pro-public education, pro-teacher blogger announced that he would be running for governor over the summer. Unfortunately, he didn’t get enough signatures to get his name on the ballot although he is still running as a write in candidate.

The truly hard choice for the CEA would have been the most sensible. They could have put their money and political support behind Pelto’s campaign. Even if he didn’t win it would have excited thousands of teachers, parents and community activists. It would have spread the message of why corporate education reform is a bad thing and how Malloy is an advocate of it. It would have helped to organize allies together and it could have set the CEA and pro-public education forces up to wage a stronger fight against whoever gets elected Governor.

The Democratic Party has been called “the graveyard of social movements” for a reason, because once you accept the idea that defeating the Republicans is the most important political strategy, it makes sense to prioritize that over everything else. The result is that movements don’t stand up when the attacks come from Democrats, as they already have and will continue to in the future.

Even those in the CEA leadership who understand the importance of organizing but still engage in lesser evilism will continue to postpone organizing efforts and claim that the unions aren’t strong enough yet to pursue a strategy that doesn’t include endorsing bad politicians. This position ultimately allows activists to kick the can down the road to some imaginary future in which we magically have the right level of organizational strength to put forward a real alternative.  That magical future will never arrive if we don’t start organizing for it now and on a principled political basis.

When we support the lesser evil, even if we do so reluctantly, we make it harder to fight against the greater evil of education reform. Whoever gets elected will aim to gut the public education system and scapegoat teachers. The battle against this will need to be waged by the rank and file teachers, their allies. Unfortunately, we will be starting from a position in which our leadership just spent money and time defending Malloy, helping to put him back into the Governor’s seat.

If the CEA truly wants to wage the fight necessary to defeat the education reform industrial complex, they will need to rescind their endorsement and truly move completely into an organizing model of unionism. Any other gesture from the CEA will seem disingenuous and conciliatory. If the CEA leadership isn’t willing to change course on its own then it will be up to the hundreds of rank and file teachers that have more recently emerged inside the CEA to put forward the ideas, politics and strategies we need to win.

You can reach Jay Poppa at [email protected]

Look out Malloy and Foley – you are both on the wrong side on education

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A new National Poll on Public Education was released today.  The poll was paid for by a Democratic leaning advocacy group and conducted by Harstad Strategic Research – a Colorado-based firm which worked on President Barack Obama’s 2008 election and 2012 re-election.

The poll reports….

Solid majorities back more funding for public schools and teacher pay, and overwhelming majorities rate local public schools and their teachers highly.

  • A 61% majority of voters believe that state funding for public schools should be increased – including 79% of Democrats, 57% of Independents and even 45% of Republicans.
  • And 56% of voters with an opinion believe pay for public school teachers falls short of what it should be.
  • Fully 82% of voters able to rate their local public school teachers rate them as excellent, very good, or good – versus just 8% who rate them as marginal or poor. Among public school parents, 93% rate public school teachers as excellent, very good, or good.
  • Speaking of public school parents, 84% give their children’s schools an A (53%) or B (31%) grade. Ten percent offer a C, and 3% say D or F. While there is certainly room for improvement, the median grade would in effect be an A-minus.

When given four broad reasons for why public schools might not be performing better, virtually no one puts the blame on “bad teachers.”

  • 40% Lack of parental involvement and support
  • 29% Inadequate funding and resources for public schools
  • 18% The effects of poverty, hardship and problems kids bring to school
  • 3% Bad teachers (including 4% of Republicans and 3% of conservatives)
  • 9% Don’t know

The survey tested a dozen statements, asking whether voters agree or disagree with each one. Messages that were supported by at least 2/3rd of Americans were the following.

The survey tested a dozen statements, asking whether voters agree or disagree with each one. Messages that were supported by at least 2/3rd of Americans were the following.

  • Neighborhood schools should be our top priority because they educate a huge majority of our kids;
  • Teachers should be held accountable by principals, supervisors and parents– not by standardized bubble tests;
  • Taxpayer money should pay for children’s education– not for corporate profits, CEO bonuses, or advertising budgets;
  • Educators should be teaching critical thinking and problem-solving– not just teaching to the standardized bubble test; 
  • We must let teachers do what they know best– teach our kids and prepare them for college and careers. Politicians and corporations should get out of the way; 
  • Everyone has a favorite teacherwho made a real difference in their lives – and we need to support and promote those kinds of classrooms.

More about the poll can be found at: http://www.democratsforpubliceducation.com/news/dems-public-ed-releases-poll-showing-overwhelming-support-public-schools/

 

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