Just over a month ago, Governor Malloy took the the microphone to announce his election year effort to persuade teachers, parents and public school advocates to overlook his three years of failed education policies and throw their support behind his re-election aspirations.
In essence, Malloy said, "I hear you and we'll wait until after I'm re-elected" to proceed with some of our efforts to undermine Connecticut's public education system.
But proving, yet again, that action speaks louder than words, Malloy has been pushing full steam ahead with some of the worst aspects of his corporate education reform industry agenda.
A re-cap of Wait, What? posts from the weekend are a shocking reminder that Malloy has the habit of saying one thing and doing another.
Parents, teachers and the community that makes up Hartford's Clark Elementary School in Hartford are still reeling from the Malloy Administration's threat that the Clark "Turnaround Committee" must agree to turn their local Hartford neighborhood school over to Washington D.C.'s Friendship Charter School Inc or else they won't get the funds necessary to improve their school.
But there is much that Clark School parents and the Clark School community have not been told.
This development comes despite a state law that requires an inclusive "turnaround" process in which parents, teachers, school officials and community members are supposed to play the primary role in deciding the future of their local school.
The Malloy Administration's plan to force the "Clark School Turnaround Plan" to hand the day-to-day operation of the Hartford elementary school over to Friendship Public Charter School Inc. first came to light in a February 10, 2014 Wait, What? article entitled, "NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford's Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain (2/10/14).
One of the oft-stated goals of education reform is to ensure that students are "college and career ready." Like "excellence," it's probably one of the most over-used phrases in the education reform movement.
But as I've asked before, what does this phrase really mean? Do our policy makers even know?
Judging by their actions of late, I'm starting to think they don't.
On March 18, the window opens for field tests of the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the computer-based adaptive test that will go live next year to replace the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT).
SBAC, or the Smarter Balanced Consortium, is one of the two consortiums that states have signed up with to develop new assessment systems for the Common Core State Standards. Funded by a four-year, $175 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education (which runs out in September of this year), SBAC claims its system "will measure mastery of the Common Core State Standards and provide timely information about student achievement and progress toward college and career readiness."
But there's a slight catch. They haven't yet defined "college and career ready."
"The Consortium also will establish performance benchmarks that define the level of content and skill mastery that marks students as college- and career-ready. These performance benchmarks will be determined through a deliberative and evidence-based standard-setting process, which will include input from K-12 educators and college and university faculty," the website says. "Preliminary performance standards will be established in 2014 after student data have been collected through pilot and field testing. Following the Field Test in spring 2014, the Consortium will conduct standard setting for the summative assessments in grades 3-8 and grade 11 in ELA/literacy and mathematics. These performance standards will be validated in July/August 2015 using spring 2015 operational data."
So basically the people who are pushing Common Core - Mssrs. Gates, Obama, Duncan et al, need our kids to be lab rats for this project, while their kids are safely ensconced in private schools, immune from such pedestrian concerns.
What does being an unpaid test subject for SBAC entail exactly?
Not poverty. Not inadequate resources. Not toxic stress. Not segregation. According to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, low standards are the cause of America's educational disparities.
The solution, he maintains, is national standards, the Common Core State Standards, and the accompanying national tests.
"For far too long," Duncan declared, "our school systems lied to kids, to families, and to communities.
They said the kids were all right - that they were on track to being successful - when in reality they were not even close." Duncan claimed states' low standards made "educators, administrators and especially politicians" look good but did not prepare students for the rigors of college work.
Before the Common Core, according to Duncan, high school success was a "lie" - it certainly did not mean that students were "college ready."
What a compelling, but false, narrative. A new peer-reviewed longitudinal nationwide study confirmed that the most reliable predictor of cumulative college GPA and college graduation is a student's high school GPA.
Clark Elementary School's parents, teachers and community have a right to know what is really going on behind the scenes in the ongoing effort to stifle parental involvement and hand Clark over to an out-of-state charter school company.
The corporate education reform industry has targeted Clark, but who exactly is pushing these unfair, discriminatory proposals that seek to take over the school, fire all the teachers and hand control of the school over to those who have no understanding of the community?
It is time to find out,
Pursuant to the Connecticut Freedom of Information act, the proponents of this Clark takeover need to produce any and all memos, documents, notes, emails and attachments that have been sent, received or produced over the last 60 days and relate to the Clark Elementary School.
If elected and appointed officials won't do the right thing for the Clark community then at least the community deserves to know the deals that have been cut behind the scenes.
This Freedom of Information request will cover Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy's Commissioner of Education, Morgan Barth, Pryor "Turnaround Director" and Andrew Ferguson, Pryor and Barth's point person on the effort to destroy Clark.
In addition FOI requests are being submitted for the same information from Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and Hartford Portfolio Director Oliver Barton.
Clark parents should refuse to engage in further discussion until these materials are handed over.
The request for these documents are being submitted today, it will be noteworthy to see if Malloy administration and the City of Hartford fulfill their legal duty and hand over the requested information in a timely fashion.
State Senator Toni Boucher told Farmington Republicans Wednesday night that Republicans need to unite behind a candidate for governor. Since that unifying candidate is not the energetic Boucher, the Wilton Republican will soon leave the crowded field of hopefuls. Boucher let Farmington Republicans know that she expects to make an announcement in the next week.
A Southbury lawyer has apologized and agreed to pay $750 over her accusations that town officials in Woodbury and Bethlehem were engaged in fraud in a fight over a high school renovation referendum.
Deborah Stevenson faced a motion for sanctions. She read a statement in court on Wednesday withdrawing remarks accusing town officials and their attorneys of fraud and apologizing to a state marshal who had served the lawsuit on her clients' behalf.
The Republican-American reports that lawyers for the towns of Woodbury and Bethlehem asked for sanctions against Stevenson for what they said was slanderous and inflammatory language.
She accused them of perpetrating a fraud on the court for violating an agreement after a Board of Education committee announced plans in December to proceed with the nearly $64 million renovation project.
Q. Because Mayor Harp served as the state senator for the 10th district for 21 years, people say you have big shoes to fill. Does that affect you - how do you plan on filling those shoes?
A. I replaced [former State Rep. William] Dyson as representative for the 94th district. He was there for 32 years. He was a legend. When I replaced him, people would say to me, 'oh sorry that you replaced Bill Dyson; no one will know you for ten years.' It didn't turn out that way. I didn't focus on replacing Bill Dyson - I focused on doing a good job. I'm not focused on how I can come in and do what [Harp] did. I'm focused on, 'Can I do a good job and work harder than the people around me?' All of that being said, she was a phenomenal state senator. Anybody who would tell you anything different didn't know what Toni Harp did. She made sure that the things that are supposed to come back to her district did. It's something to strive toward.
The state's largest teachers union announced Thursday that it no longer supports the teacher evaluation method it participated in creating two years ago.
Sheila Cohen, president of the Connecticut Education Association, said she was not a member of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council that made the recommendations regarding the evaluation system to the state Education Board. She pointed out that none of her current colleagues were on the PEAC council in 2012, either.
Former CEA Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine was a member of PEAC and so was Sharon Palmer, the former head of the second largest teacher's union, who now heads the Labor Department.
"It is my understanding that what happened there was not necessarily so much of a percentage, as the fact that we had an ideal and we set forth guidelines," Cohen said. She explained that between drafting the guidelines and meeting for the last time that summer what the state Education Department put in place "was the interpretation of the state department rather than what was strictly according to the guidelines."
Fitch Ratings maintained its AA rating for Connecticut bonds in anticipation of the sale of $400 million in general obligation bonds later this month. That's the good news. The bad news is that Fitch also maintained its negative outlook of the state based on "budget vulnerability."
Fitch Ratings lowered the outlook for Connecticut's bonds from stable to negative in July 2013.
In its recent report, Fitch stated that the negative outlook "reflects the state's reduced fiscal flexibility at a time of lingering economic and revenue uncertainty."
Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, stressed that the rating remains unchanged from last year and that the state is making progress putting money aside and paying down its debt.
"We have a surplus, and we are making payments to address the state's long-term debt," Doba said. "In fact, the governor has reduced the state's overall debt by more than $11.5 billion. The fact that it takes a long time to fix what took a long time to create should be surprising to absolutely no one."
Today, Quinnipiac University Polling Institute covered a multitude of topics in the latest poll on the state of affairs in Connecticut.
Connecticut voters support 61 - 32 percent, with support from all age, party and gender groups, allowing doctors to legally prescribe lethal drugs to help terminally ill patients end their own lives, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
Support is 63 - 31 percent among men, 58 - 33 percent among women, 51 - 42 percent among Republicans, 66 - 28 percent among Democrats and 63 - 31 percent among independent voters, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Voters 18 to 29 years old support it 63 - 28 percent, with support at 54 - 37 percent among voters over 65.
Voters are closely divided on whether they would ask a doctor to help them take their own life, as 39 percent say no in all cases, while 33 percent say they would if they were terminally ill, and another 12 percent would if they were terminally ill and in pain.
On another emotional issue, Connecticut voters favor the death penalty 57 - 34 percent when asked a simple "favor or oppose" question.
But voters are divided 47 - 47 percent on whether they approve or disapprove of a 2012 law that replaces the death penalty with life in prison with no chance of parole. Women approve the new law 50 - 43 percent while men disapprove 52 - 43 percent.
"Public support for allowing assisted dying in Connecticut is a very personal issue, crossing partisan, gender and age lines," said Douglas Schwartz, PhD, director of the Quinnipiac University poll.
"Support for the death penalty has dropped 10 points in three years, from a high of 67 percent to a low of 57 percent. Perhaps this is a case of opinion following policy, as Connecticut abolished the death penalty in 2012," Dr. Schwartz added. "As we've seen in our past polls on the death penalty, when voters are given the choice of the death penalty or life in prison with no chance of parole, support for the death penalty drops. When asked the question this way, voters are evenly divided."
Gov. Dannel Malloy's proposal to use $155 million of Connecticut's surplus to mail tax refund checks of up to $110 per household is a political gimmick, not good public policy, voters say 63 - 23 percent. Calling the idea a gimmick are Republicans, 83 - 9 percent, and independent voters, 71 - 19 percent. Democrats are divided as 41 percent call it a gimmick and 39 percent say it's good public policy. Gov. Malloy's Approval Rating for Priority Issues
In an open-ended question, allowing for any answer, 36 percent of voters say the economy/jobs should be the top priority for Gov. Malloy and the State Legislature, with 14 percent saying taxes, 11 percent for education and 8 percent saying budget/government spending.
Voters approve 86 - 10 percent, including 84 - 10 percent among Republicans, of the way Malloy is handling this winter's snowstorms. But he gets failing grades on other issues:
Negative 33 - 60 percent for his handling of the top voter priority, the economy and jobs;
Negative 29 - 63 percent for handling another top priority, taxes;
A divided 41 - 43 percent for handling education, the third priority;
Negative 37 - 53 percent on the budget, the fourth priority;
Positive 47 - 43 percent for handling gun policy, a priority for only 2 percent;
Positive 37 - 30 percent for handling the death penalty, which no one listed as a priority.
"Gov. Dannel Malloy gets great marks for his handling of the snowstorms, but low marks for voter priorities, the economy and jobs, taxes, education and the budget," Dr. Schwartz said.
Keno should not be allowed in restaurants, bars or convenience stores, voters say 65 - 29 percent. Voters 18 to 29 years old back Keno 62 - 29 percent, the only group to support it.
Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy's Commissioner of Education, has sent out a new memo to public school superintendents instructing them that Connecticut parents don't have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test scheduled to take place from March through June of this year.
Pryor's memo is by far the most incredible and inappropriate move yet in the Malloy administration's on-going campaign to intimidate and threaten Connecticut public school parents.
In his new March 3, 2014 memo, Commissioner Stefan Pryor not only distorts the interpretation of federal and state laws but contradicts his own legal department and agency documents.
Although it absolutely clear that the State of Connecticut CANNOT PUNISH parents or children for opting out of the standardized testing frenzy, Pryor's new State Department of Education memo tells superintendents that,
"Participation in state assessments is required by federal and state law; there is no legal provision for parents to opt their children out of taking the state assessments."
Pryor's claim is an abusive, disgusting attempt to bully parents into thinking that the Malloy administration is in a position to undermine the the fundamental rights of parents.
If Pryor truly believe that he has the power to prohibit parents from opting their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test then he should immediately seek a legal opinion from Attorney General George Jepsen.
Pryor's on-going attempts to bully school administrators, teachers and parents proves that he is incapable of leading Connecticut's Department of Education.
This latest outrage is proof that Pryor should resign and turn the State Department of Education over to someone willing to support and protect students, parents, teachers, school administrators and public schools rather than use public funds to do the dirty work for the corporate education reform industry.
Mr. Pryor, it is time to resign.
And if you truly believe your abusive behavior is legal, then get Attorney General Jepsen to immediately provide you with a legal ruling so that Connecticut's know exactly who is trying to destroy our public schools and their parental rights.
(The intolerance party lose again... - promoted by ctblogger)
The predictable and humiliating defeat of perennial GOP candidate Steve Mullins last week was yet another loss for the morality crusaders of the Family Institute of Connecticut, which had endorsed Mullins in his bid to replace Toni Harp in the Connecticut state senate. Citing State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield's support for the "Bathroom Bill" of 2011, a trans-gender rights piece of legislation vehemently opposed by social conservatives, the Family Institute strongly backed Mullins, helping him to raise funds and recruit volunteers. The Family Institute declared on facebook that Mullins's victory would be the "biggest pro-family victory" since Len Suzio won a state senate special election in 2011. Mullins's bizarre and misleading mailer accusing Holder-Winfield of enabling sexual predators by supporting trans-gender rights hinted at how the extremist influence of the Family Institute had infiltrated his campaign.
The last few years have been a demoralizing time for the Family Institute, which consists of a 501c3 "educational" nonprofit as well as a 501c4 lobbying arm and a political action committee. Not only has the group conspicuously failed to derail legalization of same-sex marriage and passage of trans-gender rights legislation, but virtually all of the candidates they have supported in high-profile races have been defeated, some by astonishing margins. One of their favorite Democrats, former Waterbury Mayor Mike Jarjura, was crushed in a 2010 Democratic primary for state comptroller against Kevin Lembo, who is openly gay. In 2010, Sam Caligiuri, a congressional candidate strongly backed by the Family Institute, lost to Chris Murphy despite the national tea party wave. Tom Foley won the GOP nomination for governor despite fierce opposition from social conservatives. Suzio was defeated in 2012 by Democrat Dante Bartolomeo after one term.
Worst of all, under Dan Malloy, gay marriages have started taking place at the governor's official residence. Oh, the depravity!
The one bright spot currently for the Family Institute is in the fifth congressional district, where wealthy real estate developer Mark Greenberg, who has called supporters of women's reproductive rights "pro-death," is running again for the third time. When they endorsed Greenberg in the crowded GOP primary two years ago, the Family Institute called Greenberg a "consistent champion of pro-life and pro-family values... he has never equivocated in his advocacy." Despite spending several million dollars of his own money, Greenberg finished third in the primary behind Andrew Roraback, who subsequently lost to Eliabeth Esty in the general. In 2014, due to a massive GOP recruiting failure, Greenberg appears to be sailing to the GOP nomination, though Family Institute Executive Director Peter Wolfgang has fretted about "anti-Mark Greenberg forces within the GOP" trying to "kneecap him" by throwing "a liberal Republican into his race at the last minute." (In a sense Wolfgang's fears were correct: the GOP establishment unsuccessfully tried to recruit Cheshire home invasion survivor Dr. William Petit into the race, knowing that Greenberg is probably too extreme to win the general.)
The Family Institute's strong embrace of Greenberg is music to the ears of Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who will use her ample war-chest to highlight Greenberg's extreme stances on social issues. Esty should be a vulnerable freshman given the lingering unpopularity of Obamacare and her penchant for alienating the Democratic base, but because of Greenberg's extreme views and associations with the tea party, Esty's seat is rated "Safe Democrat" by congressional handicapper Stu Rothenberg.
The backing of the Family Institute will also be a liability for Democratic State Rep. Bruce Morris of Norwalk, who is being challenged in the Democratic primary this August by former councilman Warren Pena. Morris will have to explain to primary voters why he opposes a position -- support for marriage equality -- that is backed by 72% of Democrats, according to a Washington Post poll last year.
It is hard to think of another group that is so completely irrelevant in the shaping of legislation in Hartford and whose endorsement is so toxic in a Democratic primary or general election. Just how far has the Family Institute sunk? As Mark Pazniokas reported recently, the Family Institute's political action committee reported having only $702 last summer, and hasn't spent more than $2,500 in any year since 2009.
Given the organization's dismal track record, you might wonder how it is possible that Wolfgang pulled in $133,000 last year in total compensation. You would think that, of all people, penny-pinching conservatives would want to see better results for that kind of spending, but for the morality crusaders of the fundamentalist right-wing, being on the wrong side of history is priceless.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
March 5, 2014
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO THE TRAVELING PRESS
New Britain, Connecticut
THE PRESIDENT: I'll have a chance to talk to everybody a little bit later, but obviously part of the reason that we're here is because we've got a group of outstanding Democratic governors here in the Northwest [sic] that are committed to making sure that work pays.
And we were just talking to the owners of this establishment, who pay their employees more than the minimum wage because, as the owner put it, he knows what's it like to work all his life and understands that if people are working hard, they shouldn't be in poverty and that we should be able to do everything we can to make sure that happens.
And Dan Malloy here in Connecticut is making this a top priority. I know Pete Shumlin, Lincoln Chafee, and Deval Patrick are all -- are working with Tom Perez, our Secretary of Labor. And this is an important tool for us to help create more pathways into the middle class and make sure that if you work hard in this country, you can succeed.
There are other tools that are reflected in my budget like the Earned Income Tax Credit expansion that we've proposed that will also make a difference. But I'm just very proud of these governors for the work they're doing. So thank you.
All right, so with that, let me eat.
LAST POOL REPORT:
Motorcade arrived at Bradley Air National Guard Base.
Uneventful ride, though there were some spectators with cameras.
Air Force One is departing Hartford for a quick flight to Boston.
POTUS is traveling to Boston to attend a pair of DNC events.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is riding home on Air Force One.
We're rolling at 3:53 p.m.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro released the following statement:
"The federal minimum wage is long overdue for a raise. Its failure to keep pace with inflation continues to hurt our economy and hard-working families who have seen their incomes stagnate even as prices-on everything from gas, food, college, to health care-have increased. I am proud that Connecticut has been leading the way, with a higher minimum wage than most of the nation. But we, and the rest of the nation, must do more. Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 would lift wages for about 200,000 Connecticut residents. It is long past time to get this done and ensure everyone can make a decent paycheck for a hard day's work."
You can read more of the live blog below the fold...