A Connecticut Superior Court judge has rejected the state's request to throw out a lawsuit charging that Connecticut has failed to provide enough money to its poorest school districts and that Connecticut must revise its school funding formula because it is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit known as CCJEF v. Rell was brought by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, a coalition of municipalities, boards of education, unions and other groups. In a statement CCJEF called the court's most recent action a "a major win" for public school children, adding, "The opinion sets the stage for students of Connecticut to finally get their day in court, nine years after the case was initially filed."
The case has already been before the Connecticut Supreme Court which ruled three years ago that Connecticut's school funding formula is unconstitutional and sent the case back to the superior to conduct a full trial and determine what the state must do in order to meet its constitutional duty to provide Connecticut students with an "adequate" education.
With this latest ruling a full trial should finally begin on July 1, 2014.
Not only is the case extremely important because it will force the state to re-do its school funding system, but the lawsuit has significant political ramifications.
Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in the case court aimed at forcing the State of Connecticut to implement an adequate school funding formula.
Candidate Dan Malloy campaigned on a promise to settle the case and help Connecticut's local property taxpayers by requiring the state to provide more funds for local schools
But Governor Dannel Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen switched their positions after getting elected and have been working hard to have the case dismissed.
They want the case eliminated despite, as noted above, the fact that the Connecticut Supreme Court has determined that Connecticut's system of funding its schools is unconstitutional and it was the Supreme Court that sent the case back to the superior court for a full trial on the issue.
But even then Malloy and Jepsen have been trying to prevent the trial that the Connecticut Supreme Court demanded.
As the CT Mirror reported;
"When asking that the case be dismissed, the state's top attorneys argued earlier this year that such a trial would be premature. The state's education commissioner told the court that the education reforms that became law in 2012 needed a few years to roll out before the changes they made would be realized.
But the attorneys for the plaintiffs called the reforms championed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy "trivial." Those reforms to date include the state intervening in 11 low-performing schools, launching new teacher evaluations based on student performance and the state providing more money to struggling districts."
Now Superior Court Judge Kevin Dubay has thrown out Malloy and Jepsen's motion to dismiss the case and ordered the trail to go forward.
Judge Dubay wrote, "The extent to which these reforms impact the adequacy of the state's education system in the context of constitutional standards, however, remains unascertainable at this stage."
Judge Dubay added, "The plaintiffs should be given an opportunity to prove the allegations set forth in the complaint, specifically that the education system remains unconstitutional in spite of the 2012 reforms."
The defeat for Malloy and Jepsen is a stunning development considering the two incumbents were trying to get the case dismissed or at least postponed until after the next election cycle.
Now, rather than being able hide from their about-face on the critical issue of school funding, Governor Malloy and Attorney General Jepsen will be facing a court trial on Malloy's failure to deal with Connecticut's unconstitutional school funding system right in the middle of the election.
"Nelson Mandela's 'long walk to freedom' changed our world for the better. The cause of his life became the world's cause, and in 1987, the State of Connecticut joined him by banning state investments in companies that did business in South Africa in support of his mission of ending racial segregation policies.
"His reverent passion for justice will continue to inspire generations of citizens to improve social, political, racial, and humanitarian conditions around the world. While the news of his passing is cause for sorrow, we should be forever grateful for his incomparable contribution to the cause for equality."
From Congressman Jim Himes:
"Nelson Mandela rose above the crushing constraints of apartheid to become a beacon of hope for a world bitterly divided by race. His passion for justice and social change combined with his commitment to the principles of nonviolence and perseverance made him a powerful messenger of freedom, peace, and equality where these ideals had been spurned for too long. The world has lost today one of the most influential and compelling figures in modern history. I join the nation of South Africa - and all those who were inspired by Mandela and the ideals he embodied - in mourning this great loss."
From Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro:
"My heart is broken over the passing of this great man. An anti-apartheid icon and father of modern South Africa, Nelson Mandela was so much more than a president. He was an inspiration and symbol of how the world should be, not how it was. Being in Johannesburg for South Africa's first ever all-race election was an honor I will never forget. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of South Africa. May he rest in peace."
It is with the deepest regret that we have learned of the passing of our founder, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela - Madiba. The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa will shortly make further official announcements.
We want to express our sadness at this time. No words can adequately describe this enormous loss to our nation and to the world.
We give thanks for his life, his leadership, his devotion to humanity and humanitarian causes. We salute our friend, colleague and comrade and thank him for his sacrifices for our freedom. The three charitable organisations that he created dedicate ourselves to continue promoting his extraordinary legacy.
Not long ago Connecticut adopted a landmark campaign finance reform law.
As a result of that law, candidates running for governor who wanted to participate in the public financing system could not accept donations greater than $100.
For few short years Connecticut's campaign finance law served as a model for the nation.
When more and more large corporate and private financial contributions were flowing into American political campaigns, Connecticut did the right thing and adopted a system that limited the growing influence of "big money" on politics and public policy.
But then Dannel Malloy got elected and started chopping away at Connecticut's campaign finance model.
With the help of the Connecticut General Assembly, Connecticut has quickly gone from having one of the best campaign finance systems in the nation to one that borders on being a complete and utter joke, at least as it applies to the gubernatorial election of 2014.
Governor Malloy's re-election dreams count on millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to pay for his campaign plus millions more in private contributions that he is trying to syphon through the Democratic State Central Committee. The scheme is the result of a loophole that Malloy expanded in order to create a pipeline for large private donations to flow through to his campaign effort.
The change was achieved when Malloy pushed through legislation that doubled the amount of money an individual can give to the state parties, raising the limit to $10,000 per person.
Financial donations to political parties ARE NOT supposed to be "directed" to the benefit of any one candidate but Malloy and his advisors have created a new system in which it is very clear to corporate interests and the rich that if they want to support or reward Governor Malloy they should do so by writing out large checks to the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee.
Under Connecticut's new system, while Malloy will still need to collect some $100 checks to qualify for his share of public financing dollars, he can and is telling donors to write out checks for up to $10,000 that he can then use those extra funds to benefit his campaign.
Perhaps the best example of this outrageous strategy can be seen in the recent action taken by the CEO of Northeast Utilities.
As explained in a story written by the Hartford Courant's investigative reporter, Jon Lender, the head of Northeast Utilities sent out an email in September to top NU executives that they should support Malloy - not by giving him $100 so he could qualify for public financing - but by writing out a check for up to $10,000 and sending it to the Connecticut Democratic Party.
As Lender revealed, Northeast Utilities Chairman and CEO, Thomas J. May's email read;
"The next gubernatorial election cycle is upon us, and I am asking each of you to join me in financially supporting Connecticut's Governor Dannel P. Malloy"
May added, "Please make contributions payable to: CT Democratic State Central Committee - Federal,"
The email was sent to 48 NU executives and has resulted in about $50,000 in contributions and counting.
Northeast Utilities and the Connecticut Democratic Party both claim that the fundraising letter was legal.
Maybe, although the directed donation portion of the fundraising solicitation definitely highlights a potential problem for NU, Democratic State Central and Malloy.
But as importantly, is the fundraising letter moral or ethical?
And the answer to that is absolutely not.
Regardless of whether it meets the "letter of the law," the gimmick Malloy and Northeast Utilities has engaged in is not only offensive but violates the spirit of Connecticut's historic campaign finance reform effort.
Democrats worked hard to pass campaign finance reform.
Almost every single Democratic member of the Connecticut State Senate and Connecticut House of Representatives campaigned on their vote for the campaign finance reform legislation and pledged to continue to support Connecticut's premiere campaign finance legislation.
And yet here we are just a few years later and Connecticut's Democratic governor and Connecticut's Democratic State Central Committee have managed to turn Connecticut's campaign finance law into a charade.
Democrats across Connecticut should be outraged that while we talk of good government and a government dedicated to the People rather than to the big donors, we have a Governor who is turning our efforts into a joke.
Recordings of the Emergency 911 telephone calls received by Newtown police from people at Sandy Hook School on the morning of December 14, 2012, reflect tension and fear in the callers' voices as they urged police to rapidly respond to 12 Dickinson Drive to help them during Adam Lanza's attack on the school.
The town released the 911 recordings on Wednesday after blocking their disclosure for nearly one year due to privacy concerns.
On November 26, a judge ruled that that the town must disclose the recordings, as had been ordered by the state Freedom of Information Commission in September.
The first 911 call received at the Newtown Emergency Communications Center came in at 9:35:39 am. In it, a fraught woman tells a dispatcher that she believes someone is shooting a firearm within the school in urging police to send help.
Within four minutes, police started arriving at the school, and about a minute later, Adam Lanza killed himself.
At 9:36:13 am, a custodian's 911 call is received. He tells the dispatcher that shooting is under way. A male dispatcher urges the man to take cover. The dispatcher also urges a sergeant to send as many police as possible to the school.
The custodian informs the dispatcher that the shooter has shot out a glass panel at the front of the school to gain entry to the building.
"I keep hearing shooting. I keep hearing popping," the custodian says anxiously.
When asked, the custodian tells the dispatcher that he is not aware of any injuries caused by the attack.
Another caller who reaches another dispatcher by telephone reports that she is a teacher in a classroom where the door to the hallway is not locked.
Through yet another call, the dispatchers learn that a woman has been shot in the foot and that she is in a room with two other adults.
The dispatcher urges that the woman keep pressure on the wound until help arrives.
Also, in one call a dispatcher is heard alerting state police of the shooting incident.
Later, a dispatcher informs a caller in the school that police have arrived there.
In a statement on the release of the 911 calls, First Selectman Pat Llodra said, in part, "The release of the [recordings] will create a new layer of pain for many in the Newtown community.
"Hearing those calls takes us back to a day of horror and tragedy," she said.
"My plea is for the media to treat us kindly ... to recognize that there is great personal pain in this event and little public good to be garnered through the general release," she added.
WARNING: As a former resident of Sandy Hook who lived a mile from the school, I can tell you that listening to these 911 calls is not easy...in fact, it's heart breaking.
As readers are aware, Governor Dannel Malloy traveled to Washington D.C. yesterday to speak to the right-wing, neoconservative American Enterprise Institute. His speech was entitled, "School reform dos and don'ts: Lessons from Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy."
As originally proposed, Malloy's "education reform" initiative was the most anti-teacher, anti-union education reform legislation proposed by any Democratic governor in the nation. Even after the proposal was modified by the Connecticut General Assembly is still held out as a prime example of the corporate education reform industry's obsession with more standardized testing and inappropriate teacher evaluation programs that utilize standardized test results.
What as most noteworthy about the Malloy's speech to the American Enterprise Institute was that while taking full credit for the legislation he tried to re-position himself for the 2014 gubernatorial election by praising teachers rather than playing his traditional role of criticizing and demeaning them.
As the CT Mirror reported yesterday, in his speech to the American Enterprise Institute, "the governor acknowledged that he could have been more delicate when introducing his proposals...'I've probably used the wrong language more than once. I know I have,' he said, routinely pointing out how important teacher buy-in is to the success of the initiative."
Apparently his remarks were supposed to appease teachers who might still be upset that in Malloy's major education speech in 2012, he called for doing away with tenure while saying, "In today's (public education) system, basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours."
Malloy infamously added, later that year, his observation that he didn't mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up."
But despite a carefully written script yesterday, Malloy's real personality and opinions couldn't stay hidden for long.
During the question and answer period following Malloy's talk, Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of ConnCAN and co-founder of A Better Connecticut, the corporate education reform lobbying group, tossed Malloy a soft-ball question about the town meetings Malloy held around the state to promote his education reform initiative in 2012.
Readers will recall that A Better Connecticut, ConnCAN and other corporate education industry organizations have spent a record $6 million and counting lobbying in support of Malloy's education reform initiative to date, including more than $2 million in television advertisements thanking Malloy for his "leadership."
In response to a question from ConnCAN's CEO, Malloy talked about how people were mad and how he stood up to the angry teachers and led the way forward for the General Assembly.
Malloy summarized the situation saying he was needed because "folks [were] spending a lot of money to try and defeat an organized effort at school reform...."
It was another great truly another great Dannel Malloy moment.
When teachers, parents and public school advocates came out to public meetings to speak out on behalf of public education, Malloy says that they were part of a group of "folks" who were "spending a lot of money to try and defeat" education reform.
But there he was - speaking at the ultra-right wing American Enterprise Institute and happily taking a question from the paid lobbyist whose organization has led the most expensive lobbying campaign in state history.
Tucked into the safety of a right-wing "think tank," the Malloy we have come to know couldn't resist the opportunity to attack teachers and their unions while accepting the accolades of the corporate education reform industry.
That said, not everyone who watched Malloy's performance came away with the same reaction.
While you can read my take on the Malloy speech by reading the Wait, What? post entitled "Malloy tells right-wing American Enterprise Institute he is the "education governor", you may also want to read what the Connecticut Education Association posted to their blog yesterday.
While both blogs report on Malloy's speech at the American Enterprise Institute, the different interpretations of same event is rather extraordinary.
From the 12/2/2013 CEA Blog: Malloy on Teachers & School Reform
Governor Dannel P. Malloy told a national audience today that teacher concerns about the rapid pace of change in Connecticut public education are real, adding that "we're going to get through it."
The governor called teachers "good, hard-working people." Malloy said, "I probably used the wrong language more than once. I know I have. It's not because I don't appreciate what teachers do."
Malloy's comments came in an interview this afternoon at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
Malloy talked about the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that are being implemented and new CCSS tests-so-called Smarter Balanced Assessments that could be linked to teacher evaluations down the road. According to Malloy, teachers are ready, but that doesn't mean they are not scared. "Far better a carrot than a stick," he said.
Apparently referring to Connecticut's new teacher evaluation system, Malloy said "the vast majority of Connecticut teachers are doing a great job," and they will be recognized for this. Malloy said he's taken steps to make the magnitude of education reform easier on public schools. Connecticut school districts have flexibility on two fronts: administering just one test to students during this school year-the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessments or the CMT and CAPT-and giving local school districts the power to decide whether or not to include that test data in teachers' evaluations.
Malloy took questions from an AEI audience, including one about the legislative battle over Connecticut school reform. Referring to his role, he made a number of comments, including that somebody had to be the leader, somebody had to bring the discussion to communities, and that somebody had to emphasize we needed to change direction in public education.
Malloy said "I had to fly in the face of traditional Democratic constituencies." He added that reform cannot be accomplished top down. He called it a combination of leadership, getting buy-in, and staying at it year after year.
State Senator John McKinney would be a formidable Republican challenger even to a much less vulnerable incumbent than Governor Dan Malloy. The Fairfield-Easton-Newtown Republican is an experienced legislator with a track record as a principled moderate and someone willing to stand up to obstructionists in his own party to get things done. McKinney's father Stewart served 16 years as a congressman from Fairfield County, giving Senator McKinney exceptionally strong statewide name recognition for a state legislator. Like his father, the younger McKinney appeals to the socially liberal, fiscally conservative suburbanites that Republicans need to win if they are going to succeed in statewide races in Connecticut, where Obama won election twice by nearly twenty points. In short, McKinney is a sane Republican, and that is precisely why he cannot win the GOP primary.
McKinney's dilemma was on display this week when he endorsed Mark Greenberg, the tea party-backed real estate developer seeking the GOP nomination in the fifth congressional district, where vulnerable first-term Democrat Elizabeth Esty is being heavily targeted by the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. Greenberg is a serial loser (he ran and lost in the previous two congressional elections) and his extreme views on social issues clash significantly with McKinney's, but neither of those inconvenient facts got in the way of McKinney's pathetic display of obsequiousness in appearing with Greenberg and giving him an important political blessing from the moderate wing of the party. Still, as Christine Stuart reported in CT News Junkie, when asked if he was endorsing McKinney's bid for governor, Greenberg refused to return the favor, saying only that "any of our gubernatorial candidates is way better than what we have now." Sorry, John -- the tea party doesn't believe in reciprocity, and they're just not that into you.
Even in Connecticut, one of the birthplaces of moderate Republicanism, it is difficult to win a GOP primary when the tea party is not only lukewarm about you (as they were about Tom Foley in 2010), but actively despises you. The gun-obsessed far right never really liked McKinney, but now they loathe him with a passion because of his support for gun control legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre last December. McKinney has been called "traitor, "quisling," and "our Benedict Arnold" by gun rights advocates (as well as many unprintable epithets). "[He] stood on the throat of our forefathers and crushed the breath out of them," Enfield Republican Town Committee chairwoman Mary Ann Turner said about McKinney's vote to approve the gun bill earlier this year. Larry Benedetto of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League said he would even vote for Malloy over McKinney because "If we're going to have a Democrat up there, [he] might as well have a D in front of [his] name instead of an R."
Ironically, perhaps, it is the evolution of Mark Greenberg from fringe to serious candidate that spells doom for his newly minted supporter, John McKinney. Greenberg, who opposes all gun control measures, has been lining up endorsements from Republican officials across the state, many of whom endorsed establishment favorite Andrew Roraback over Greenberg in 2012. Capitalizing on GOP anger about the gun bill and other Malloy policies, and drawing on his own deep pockets, the self-funding Greenberg has developed a commanding head start on any of his potential GOP rivals. The GOP establishment halfheartedly tried to kneecap Greenberg by talking up Dr. William Petit as a potential candidate in the 5th CD, but that effort seems to be going nowhere. Greenberg's embrace by the GOP grassroots, and increasing acceptance by the GOP establishment, is great news for Elizabeth Esty and northwest Connecticut Democrats. Because it represents a right-wing resurgence that is occurring statewide, it also spells serious trouble for a moderate gubernatorial candidate like McKinney.
There is no doubt that conservatives in Connecticut have been energized by Governor Malloy, in particular his handling of the gun control issue. The "enthusiasm gap" will hurt Connecticut Democrats in 2014, an off-year election when Obama won't be on the top of the ballot. But that disadvantage could be more than offset by energized tea partiers nominating candidates in the GOP primaries who are simply too conservative or flat-out insane to win in November.