Friend and fellow education blogger Peter Greene posted a powerful piece on his blog over the weekend entitled, Cuomo to Teachers: Drop Dead. Peter's commentary piece focused on the recent pronouncements of Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo who has pledged to use his second term to destroy public education in New York.
Sadly, Cuomo's words aren't very different than Governor Dan Malloy's actions. No matter how much Malloy and his supporters spin it, he remains the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose ending teacher tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in Connecticut's poorest schools. While Malloy and his supporters focused on his so-called "apology" for claiming teachers need only show up for four years to get tenure, he never publicly said his anti-tenure, anti-collective bargaining position was a mistake.
And in fact, it was less than twelve hours after he declared victory in November, that Malloy's Education Commissioner and Malloy's political appointees to the State Board of Education voted to approve 8 more non-unionized charter schools -- at the very same time the Malloy and his administration continue to refuse to provide Connecticut's public schools with a Constitutionally adequate amount of money.
As you read Peter Greene's piece on Cuomo, recall Malloy's unprecedented assault on teachers and the teaching profession and the failure of the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly to derail Malloy's unfair, inappropriate and counter-productive initiatives on teacher evaluation and the massive expansion of the Common Core Standardized Testing scheme.
Cuomo to Teachers: Drop Dead
If you have not yet seen the letter from Cuomo aid Jim Malatras to ed leaders Tisch and King, you can find a copy right here. If you want to see just how direct and ugly an attack by a governor on his own state's public education system can be, you should read it. If you are a teacher in New York, you should read it twice.
I'll hit the highlights, not because the letter's particularly hard to parse, but because some things are just so ugly, they need to be held up to the light as much and as often as possible.
It opens with the observation that New York's low success percentages for proficiency on the Big Test are simply "unacceptable" and therefore Cuomo will make sure that the cut scores are set at more acceptable levels as determined by educators and not politicians. Ha! Just kidding. He's going to pretend that those proficiency numbers represent something other than political gamesmanship by the governor's office.
Speaking of proficiency, the next paragraph opens with this sentence:
Governor Cuomo believes in public education it can open up unlimited opportunity to our students.
I believe Malatras he is not a careful proofreader. I sympathize. I am the king of speedy mistakes, as my readers can attest. But I'm not on the state payroll, writing documents of record.
Malatras goes on to say that "virtually everyone" thinks the system must be reformed and improved, and I wonder if he's counting the people who believe that reformation and improvement start with getting Cuomo's grabby hands off public education's neck. But no- three guesses where efforts to fix schools must be focused:
Part of the package will be to strengthen one of our most important professions teaching. While some seek to demonize teachers, Governor Cuomo believes the exact opposite wanting to reward excellence in teaching and by recruiting the best and brightest into the profession.
(Yes, the letter is riddled with mistakes. No further comment). Those damn teachers. those stupid incompetent teachers that Cuomo loves so very much.
Malatras goes on to note that the governor doesn't have a lot of control over education, and that this represents a wise and rational distribution of power in running a state. Ha! No, kidding again. Cuomo doesn't have that kind of power, so he's going to use the budget process to just take it. He's asking Tisch and King for their input on Cuomo's ideas as matter of policy (leave the politicking to the legislature). Here are Cuomo's Twelve Awesome Thoughts, with a bit of translation. You're welcome.
1) The teacher evaluation system sucks because it's not failing enough teachers. How can we jigger it so that more teachers are failed by it?
2) It's too hard to fire bad teachers. Hard work is hard. How can we make it less hard to get rid of the teachers that we'll be failing more of once we straighten out the evalouation process?
3) How can we make becoming a teacher harder? Because if we make it really hard to become a teacher, then teachers will be better. Can we give them all a competency test? Recruiting best and brightest would be cool.
4) Cuomo would still like to get merit pay up and running, because the fact that it has never worked anywhere doesn't change his love for how it would reduce payroll costs. Because recruiting teachers (point 3) goes better when you tell them they might get well paid if you feel like paying them more.
5) Could we make the pre-tenure period longer, and could we make their certification temporary so that they have to get re-approved every couple of years. We need to make them stop thinking of teaching as a lifetime career, because that's how you recruit the best and the brightest.
6) What can we do about schools that suck? Particularly Buffalo, because we would really like to accelerate the hand-over of Buffalo schools to charter operators, who make much better campaign contributions than low-paid teachers.
7) Charters? Charters charters charters. Can we just increase the cap in NYC? A whole lot?
8) Education special interests have resisted using courses delivered by computer. Could we just go ahead and do that anyway? Because one college instructor with a computer = 143 high school teachers we could fire.
9) What about mayoral control? It looked like a great idea in NYC until they elected some bozo who didn't get the deal with charters until Cuomo had the legislature rough him up a bit. Mayoral control is better than a damn elected board, but mayors are also elected and those damn voters are a pain in my ass.
10) Should we combine some of the 700 school districts in New York? (This might be the only thing on the list that isn't either evil or stupid. I would make fun of 700 different school districts in New York, but I'm in PA and we aren't any better).
11) The damn regents are appointed by the legislature. Do you think we should fix that, because having to work with people not under his direct control is a real problem for the governor.
12) We're about to replace Dr. King. Is there a way to have a transparent process to replace him with someone I pick?
Oddly enough, the Cuomo office has no interest in looking at rampant testing, craptastic canned curriculum, or widely unpopular standards. I would have said that it was hard to blame these not-beloved-by-teachers programs on teachers, but since Rudy Giuliani found a way to blame the death of Eric Garner on teachers, I'm going to accuse Cuomo of slacking on this department.
Several weeks ago Governor Cuomo said that improving education is thwarted by the monopoly of the education bureaucracy. The education bureaucracy's mission is to sustain the bureaucracy and the status quo and therefore it is often the enemy of change. The result is the current system perpetuates the bureaucracy but, fails our students in many ways.Tackling these questions with bold policy and leadership could truly transform public education and finally have it focus on the student as opposed to the bureaucracy.
Because having power centered in places that aren't the governor's office is just, you know, bad.
In a charming coda, Malatras notes that King might now give even better advice now that he is unshackled from the political demands of his office, because you know that John King- he was always so constrained by his deep concern about public opinion, and his willingness to listen to the public just tied him up. Now as a federal bureaucrat hired outside any sort of approval system, he'll be free to disregard public opinion entirely. Because A) that's a good thing and B) it's not at all how he conducted himself in his New York job.
Man, I just hope all those New York teacher union officials who carried Cuomo's water throughout the primary season are really enjoying this unfettered direct attack against the profession and the public schools. Tisch and King are supposed to get back to Cuomo with their advice on how best to kick New York's teachers in the teeth by December 31, so to all my NY teacher neighbors, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy the holidays, because 2015 will bring open season on public school teachers in the Empire State.
Here in Connecticut, Malloy's intentions will become clear in the coming weeks. Who will he appoint as Commissioner of Education and will he has the members of the State Board of Education to step down so that he can appoint some people who have not sold their souls to the corporate education reform industry.
As Peter Greene says to his NY teacher neighbors, "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy the holidays, because 2015 will bring open season on public school teachers in the Empire State."
The same is true here in Connecticut. CT teachers; if we know anything about Malloy and his inner circle of anti-teacher, anti-public education corporate education reform industry groupies we can safely say - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy the holidays, because 2015 will bring open season on public school teachers in the Constitution State.
Nancy DiNardo, the long-time chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, will not return to the position next year and will instead run for the party's vice chair position. DiNardo has endorsed Vice Chair Nick Balletto to succeed her.
DiNardo's decision to step down comes after a 10-year tenure as party chair. The party will elect its new leadership in January. In a Friday email to state central committee members, DiNardo said she was proud of the party's work.
"Year after year, we've had extraordinary local, state and federal election successes. Together, with our great candidates, we've put Connecticut on the national map and remain the bluest state in the country after all these tough midterm elections," she wrote.
DiNardo said she had discussed the decision with Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. In a statement from a party spokesman, Malloy called DiNardo an "indispensable leader."
"She was an extraordinary chair who has led our party to critical victories this past November and in years past, and the lieutenant governor and I are grateful that she will continue to serve Connecticut Democrats," Malloy said.
Donna Parson, who organized grass-roots efforts that helped stop construction of an interstate highway, pass a bottle deposit bill and elect progressives in Connecticut to Congress and the General Assembly, died Tuesday after heart surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. She was 73.
She was a longtime activist whose career was intertwined with that of her friend, Miles S. Rapoport. She succeed Rapoport as the executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group in 1984, when Rapoport was elected to the General Assembly. She worked for him after his election as secretary of the state in 1994 and managed his unsuccessful run for Congress in 1998.
Parson followed him to Washington, D.C., after he became the president of Common Cause in early 2014. She previously worked with him at Demos, a New York-based policy center.
In a tribute on the Common Cause web site, Rapoport called her "an integral and indispensable part of every team I have been a part of since 1980. Her deep commitment to justice and democracy, combined with superb organizing instincts and exceptional emotional intelligence were an extraordinary contribution. I will miss her every day."
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy isn't starting his administration from scratch as he prepares for his second term, but there will be some changes.
In November, Malloy said there would probably be no more than six changes to his administration. So far Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Donald DeFronzo, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi, and Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein have announced their departures.
Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Melody Currey will take over the Department of Administrative Services.
In addition, Andrew Doba, the governor's communications director and close adviser, will be leaving after helping Mark Bergman, Malloy's campaign spokesman, take over the job-which he called difficult under normal circumstances.
Chief of Staff Mark Ojakian, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes, Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee, Department of Labor Commissioner Sharon Palmer, Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein, Agriculture Commissioner Steven Reviczky, Department of Social Services Commissioner Roderick Bremby, Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker, and Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Patricia Rehmer will all stay on for Malloy's second term.
New Haven Police Union President Louis Cavaliere Jr. Wednesday "challenged" the police chief to move more quickly on negotiations over outfitting city cops with body cameras.
Cavaliere issued a release to the press Wednesday afternoon calling for overcoming a "delay" in those negotiations and listing six key questions that need to be answered. (He also discussed his concerns in this previous story.) The text of his letter follows:
The men and women of the New Haven Police Union understand that the citizens of New Haven have legitimate questions and concerns about police procedure, in particular police use of force.
Chief Esserman has proposed the implementation of Body Cameras as a way to make day to interactions between the public and the police more transparent.
The Police Union has requested the opportunity to meet and discuss the implementation of such technology with Chief Esserman and his staff, but to date very little constructive dialog has taken place.
The Police Union does not know why this delay has occurred, but we stand ready, willing and able to take a leadership role on this issue.
The Police Union leadership has attended seminars on implementing Body Camera programs, has consulted with legal experts in the field and has reviewed reports compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Police Executive Research Forum.
The Police Union is demanding to begin meaningful discussions with Chief Esserman on the implementation of Body Cameras. We challenge Chief Esserman to be prepared to address the following matters . . .
1) What is the true cost of Body Cameras?
2) Is this the right technology for New Haven?
3) What will a Body Camera policy look like?
4) Should a pilot program be implemented to test the "system" to work out any "bugs"so as to ensure public confidence in the finished product?
5) Is more training on de-escalation techniques, diversity, community policing and use force an alternative to Body Cameras?
6) Will the implementation of Body Cameras detract from already tight training budgets?
Access Health CT officials said Wednesday that nearly 86,000 customers have signed up or re-enrolled for health insurance coverage through the exchange since Nov. 15.
There were 66,000 customers who re-enrolled in coverage they received in 2014 and about 19,402 new customers who signed up for one of the four plans offered by private insurance carriers on the exchange. Another 46,071 Medicaid customers have enrolled through the exchange since Nov. 15.
During the first year of the exchange about 207,020 individuals enrolled with Medicaid. Those individuals received a separate notice regarding their renewal period since there is no special enrollment period for low-income individuals who qualify for Medicaid.
There are another 6,000 Access Health CT customers who have until Friday to get coverage that starts on Jan. 1. Those customers have started, but not completed their applications.
The family of a young Bethel mother, who was killed in a hit-and-run in November, is offering a $5,000 reward to anyone with information about the driver of the van involved in the deadly accident.
Rachel Sack, 23, was killed when a van struck her as she was crossing the road in the area" of South Street and Great Pasture Road, police said.
Sack has been described as a woman full of love and adventure by friends and family. Sack had 3-month-old son, Jackson, and was in the process of buying her first home.
A few days after incident, the Danbury Police Department identified a car of interest in the death of Sack. The car that has been identified is a white van with a ladder rack and passenger side windows. The van was going south on South Street at Great Pasture Road at approximately 11:57 p.m. Friday Nov. 7.
However, the driver of the van has yet to be identified, said Sgt. Rory DeRocco, of the Danbury Police Department.
"There are no new details in the case, we are still investigating and using every resource we have,"DeRocco said. "The owner or driver of the van has not come forward, but we are following up every possible lead that comes our way."
Hartford and Connecticut taxpayers appear poised to subsidize Steve Perry's private charter school management company thanks to an agreement announced last Friday between Perry and Hartford's Superintendent of Schools.
Although labeled by Hartford Superintendent as an "informal, non-binding'" agreement, the plan would require the Hartford Board of Education and the taxpayers of Hartford and Connecticut to subsidize Steve Perry's charter school management company [called Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. (CPS)] by paying the salaries of Capital Prep Magnet School Assistant Principal Richard Beganski, [who is slated to serve as "Chief Academic Officer" for Perry's private company], as well as paying the salaries of seven other Capital Prep Magnet School teachers [all of whom are will be serving key roles in Perry private company].
The lucrative deal for Perry was put together and announced without a vote of the Hartford Board of Education.
In announcing the agreement, "outgoing" Capital Prep Magnet School Principal Steve Perry wrote,
"I am pleased to announce that together with our superintendent, Dr. Beth Schiavino-Narvaez, we have generated a plan that will establish "sister schools" between Capital Prep and our new schools.
In turn, according to a Hartford Courant article entitled, "Capital Prep's Steve Perry, Superintendent Work On School Collaboration," Hartford Superintendent of Schools Beth Schiavino-Narvaez provided the Hartford Board of Education with a memo explaining that she had developed "'an informal, non-binding'" pact with Perry that would allow Capital Prep and Perry's new charter schools to "share training among staff, guidance on best practices" and "opportunities for student collaboration on projects and visits."
Later on Friday, when a Perry supporter Tweeted, "I'm sorry to see you leaving Hartford!" Perry responded;
Dr. Steve Perry@DrStevePerry
"Not leaving, just expanding."
As for the parameters of the deal, The Hartford Courant wrote,
"Narvaez said the district would not pay a fee for the goodwill arrangement... [And] Narvaez stressed that Hartford does not cede any power to Perry or his charter group."
However, what Hartford's Superintendent failed to address is what appears to be the massive financial subsidy for Perry's private charter school operation that is hidden inside the "agreement."
As part of his application to the New York Board of Regents for his proposed Harlem Capital Prep Charter School, Perry wrote;
"CPS [Capital Preparatory Schools Inc. which is Perry's private charter school management company] is designed to be a fiscally fit "boutique" charter management organization ("CMO") ....Geographic clustering will allow us to stay small yet generate the revenue necessary to effectively maintain a CMO. Hartford, Bridgeport and Harlem are the three cities in which we have decided to manage schools."
"Our anticipated enrollment across all four CPS network schools is approximately 2,500 students between 2015 and 2020. Capital Prep Hartford has 700 students."
According to Perry's application to open Harlem Capital Prep, his private corporation's financial plan was based on collecting management fees from all of his schools, including the public school in Hartford. The Harlem Capital Prep application reads;
"Surpluses are projected in each year beginning in 2015. The annual ending cash balance per year for CPS will be just over $500,000 in management fees collected. Conservative five year estimates have our year end cash balance at $2 million by year five between Hartford, Bridgeport and our Harlem 6 to 12 school."
The application goes on to note;
"CPS [Perry's private company] will support Capital Prep Harlem through its oversight of the principal, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, and its overall monitoring of fidelity to the Capital Prep model. CPS will also utilize its two other schools in Bridgeport and Hartford to provide professional development and to share resources. The three schools will act as a 'boutique' network in which faculty, staff, parents and students participate in academic and social exchanges."
According to the application, "MANAGEMENT CPS will launch operations with a core management team representing a mix of deep education experience, business expertise, and political savvy. This 'hybrid' team will be crucial to CPS' success as a high-growth organization in a rapidly changing industry."
The application states that Stephen D. Perry will serve the charter school management company's "Head of Schools" and Richard Beganski will serve as CPS' "Chief Academic Officer." Beganski presently serves as Capital Prep's Assistant Principal.
The New York application states that, "Ten founding group members from Capital Prep came together to launch CPS as the school management organization to lead replication of the Capital Prep model." The founding members of the charter management company are then listed, nine of the ten being full-time employees of the Hartford Board of Education.
The application reports that the CPS "GOVERNANCE" team includes;
Stephen D. Perry, MSW, EdD...
Richard Beganski, MA, has been the Academic Dean of Capital Prep since the school began in 2005. Mr. Beganski has created or co-created most of the original documents that have constituted the structure for Capital Prep...
Scott F. Wojnarowicz, MA has been a teacher at Capital Prep in the Math Department since 2005. Mr. Wojnarowicz was the founding member of the Capital Prep Magnet School planning committee. In addition, he was the primary author of the original draft of the Capital Prep Student Expectations manual, co-author of Capital Prep's Blueprint, and author of Capital Prep's Physical Education and Wellness Plan...
Kelly Horan, MA, has been a teacher at Capital Prep in the Science Department since July 2011. Since joining the Capital Prep, Ms. Horan has taken on increasing levels of responsibility in an effort to improve teaching and learning through data-driven instruction...
Scott Kapralos, MA, has been a teacher at Capital Prep in the Math Department since 2005. Mr. Kapralos was one of the founding members of Capital Prep and has committed most of his career to the development and improvement of the Capital Prep model...
Kitsia Ferguson, MBA, EdD, has been a teacher at Capital Prep in the English Department since 2006 and is currently the Head of Capital Prep's Lower School.
Monique Ethier, MA, has been a teacher at Capital Prep in the Math Department since 2007.
Lauren Davern, MA, has been a teacher at Capital Prep in the History Department since 2007...
Lisa Loomis, has been Head of the English Department at Capital Prep since August 2013 and a teacher at Capital Prep in the English Department since July 2012...
All of these individuals are presently full-time employees of Hartford Public School System.
What is absolutely clear is that according to the documents Perry and his private company provided the New York Board of Regents, control of Hartford's Capital Prep Magnet School was critical to his plans, not only since he would be collecting a multi-million dollar management fee for running Hartford's public magnet school but because he would be using Capital Prep to employee the majority of the members of his private company.
By deciding not to turn Capital Prep Magnet School over to Perry and his charter school management company, Hartford put Perry's financial plan in serious jeopardy.
However, as a result of the Hartford Superintendent's new "informal, non-binding'" agreement, the Hartford Board of Education and the taxpayers of Hartford and Connecticut seem ready to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in subsidies to Perry's operation by paying the salaries of Richard Beganski,( the "Chief Academic Officer" for Perry's company) and seven other Capital Prep Magnet School teachers, who according to the New York charter school application, will be playing key roles in Perry private company.
Considering the financial issues facing the City of Hartford and the State of Connecticut it is astonishing that the Hartford would agree to divert scarce resources to support Steve Perry's ambitions to develop a lucrative charter school management company.
Pensions: Congressional leaders signed off on a provision offered by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and John Kline, R-Minn., that will allow multi-employer pension plan trustees to slash current retirees' pension benefits as a means of shoring up funds.
This "bargain" upends the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) that until now has expressly forbidden any cuts to the earned pension benefits of workers who have already retired. Think about it. An employee's hard work was an integral part of the CEO's great salary. Now, that retired employee's income - despite sound decisions about what he or she could afford - is torn apart, with no way to replace it.
Weakening ERISA also gives credence to the false premise that pensions are a gift from employers. Pensions are a mutual obligation paid for in part by workers who, in many cases, contribute a significant portion of their earnings toward what they hope will be a decent and dignified retirement.
Using the threat of insolvency as a hammer, Congress responded with a provision that could leave private sector retirees facing cuts of up to two-thirds to their fixed income. There may be some retirees who have other sources of income or family who could make up that difference, but I don't know any, and I suspect you don't either.
Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: The spending bill strips from the Dodd-Frank banking reform law a vital consumer safeguard, the so-called "swaps push-out" rule. This means Wall Street can once again use derivatives, the same risky transactions that triggered the financial meltdown of 2007 and led to the "Great Recession" from which we are still recovering.
That's right! The House just voted to make it much easier for big banks to gamble with taxpayers' money again.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren blasted the effort to roll back derivatives regulation. "Middle-class families are still paying a heavy price for the decisions to weaken the financial cops, leaving Wall Street free to load up on risk," she said.
Warren's absolutely right. What's good for Citigroup is not necessarily good for the rest of us. In this case it's very bad for working America.
Campaign Finance: The ominous - oops, omnibus - bill allows wealthy individuals and PACs to increase the amount they contribute to party committees.
It's not often you're asked to jump to page 1,599 of a 1,603 document, but take a good look, because the language is just plain scary. It allows wealthy donors who have donated the maximum of $32,400 under federal law to the Democratic or Republican National Committees to give up to $324,000. That's 10 times as much!
Wrap your head around that. In a two-year election cycle, a wealthy couple could donate more than $1.2 million to political parties. Around the country, multi-millionaires and billionaires are rejoicing. As if they don't have enough influence in politics now.
The funding bill is speeding through the lame duck Congress like a gleeful child on a water slide. Its next stop is the Senate, and then on to the President's desk. Credit is due those who voted against the measure in the House of Representatives, including Connecticut's own John Larson, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, and Elizabeth Esty.
But the product and the process so far are nothing short of hideous. No public hearings, no input from citizens - just an epic, incomprehensible document crafted behind closed doors that promises to further aggravate income inequality and, quite possibly, set the stage for another shakedown of American taxpayers for the benefit of corporations and the ultra-wealthy.
I've heard the Democrat's argument that when the new Congress is sworn in next month, it can do even more damage in a bill to fund the government. Maybe so. But tell that to the retired worker who, after a career of hard work that paid for their CEO's golden parachute, has to close the front door on a house suddenly too expensive to call home.
Washington - For Rep. Jim Himes, House approval late Thursday of legislation that would allow banks to trade certain derivatives -- a measure he's been promoting for years -- is a bittersweet victory.
"I'm not happy that it became a super-hot button issue when it always received bipartisan support," Himes said.
The provision stirred up a Democratic firestorm that threw passage of the country's omnibus spending bill into a last-minute tailspin.
Backed by Himes, D-4th District, the legislation was included in the massive $1.1 trillion budget bill the House approved on a 219-206 vote just hours before current legislation funding the federal government expired at midnight.
Himes was the only member of Connecticut's delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives and one of only 57 Democrats to vote for the budget bill.
Jon Pelto gives us the latest on education for profit stooge Steve Perry.
When Steve Perry, who serves as the principal of Hartford's Capital Prep Magnet School Principal and is a full-time Hartford employee, submitted his application to the New York Board of Regents to open a new charter school in Harlem that would be owned and operated by his private charter school management company, Perry not only claimed that he controlled Hartford's public school but that his business plan included receiving significant income from running Hartford's Capital Prep.