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Thursday roundup

by: ctblogger

Thu Mar 05, 2015 at 12:46:45 PM EST

Reading material...
  • Herbst continues to dig a hole for himself over his idiotic attempt to censoring free speech.
    A chain of emails among Knights of Columbus in Trumbull show an organized effort to get a controversial painting taken down. A few of the emails make it appear that Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst and a member of the Town Council were on board with the mission.

    The painting at The Trumbull Library, part of the Great Minds Collection, led to outcry from some area Catholics for its depiction of Mother Teresa with pro-choice feminists.

    [...]

    From email correspondences obtained by The Trumbull Times, it appears that outcry started with Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, who were joined by the Rev. Brian Gannon of St. Theresa Roman Catholic Church, in decrying the artwork as "blasphemy."

    The emails, which started Feb. 15, are part of chain with the subject: "Offensive artwork at Trumbull Library - Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Daughters of Charity Placed in False Light."

    In one email, dated Feb. 14, Father Gannon writes to thank others for a quick protest of the painting.

    "Joe Pifko told me it will be removed Monday," an email signed 'Fr. Gannon' reads. "This alleged artwork is utter blasphemy and an attempted manipulation of God. Let's keep a close vigilance, the winds of evil are blowing with greater ferocity every day."

    Pifko is a Republican Town Council member, who represents District 4. He responds on Feb. 14, indicating Herbst is on board with the cause.

    "I have contacted First Selectman Herbst and he is outraged at this display," the email reads. "The Library Board has been notified and there will be a meeting with the First Selectman on Monday morning to remove this piece!"


  • I'm embarrassed that this jerk is the mayor of Danbury.

    Every time a snowstorm bears down on Danbury, Connecticut -- which has happened a lot this winter -- students and parents turn to Twitter to find out whether schools will be closed.

    They rarely get a straight answer.

    Instead, Danbury residents see jokes, meme-filled videos and teasing references to snow days at fictional high schools from "Glee" or "Grease" -- all courtesy of Mayor Mark Boughton, a social-media prankster whose @MayorMark account provides actual updates about school closings amid all the buffoonery.

    "Attention: West Beverly Hills High School is closed for tomorrow. #90210," read one recent mayoral tweet.


  • Put him in jail already!
    Former Gov. John G. Rowland on Wednesday made what could be his final effort to win a new trial before he is sentenced in two weeks for breaking campaign finance law while advising a Congressional race in 2012..

    In legal papers filed in U.S. District Court late Wednesday, Rowland's lawyers argued the same points they have been arguing since late last year - that federal prosecutors withheld evidence the former governor could have used to persuade a jury of his innocence during his September trial.

    [...]

    "Given the significance of the suppressed evidence, and the thinness of the Government's case, the prejudice to Mr. Rowland is plain," Rowland's lawyers wrote.

    U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton has been dismissive of Rowland's claims, first during a telephone conference on Feb. 23 and again in a written decision two days later. During the telephone conference, Arterton permitted Rowland to argue once more for a new trial, but warned him the outcome would likely be the same.


  • Amen!
    For far too long, federal education policy has fixated on student testing, testing, and more testing.

    The forced over-reliance on standardized testing has eaten away at the time and attention students should have to thrive and love learning. Today the public recognizes that Connecticut has been going headlong down the wrong road, and we have the first public opinion poll on testing in 2015 as evidence.

    Some tests are more useful than others, and the distinctions make a difference. Some offer a track record of effectiveness, providing teachers with tools to respond rapidly and precisely to a student's academic needs; others simply do not.

    The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, to be taken by students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 annually beginning next month, does not advance education. But countless hours preparing students for the test have the effect of reducing precious and valuable instructional time in classrooms across the state. Our students will never get back that wasted time.

    Driven by decrees from Washington, testing has overtaken level-headed common sense. It is time to put the emphasis back on teaching and learning. That can be achieved by our state legislature approving a plan that would:

    1. Phase out SBAC, instead utilizing the progress assessments already being administered in local school districts.

    2. Reduce the percentage that testing counts toward measuring school quality from 90 percent to 20 percent. That will demonstrate that it is learning that matters most -  not a high-stakes test score.

    3. Establish a State Mastery Examination Board, composed of educators and experts, to identify the progress assessment test that will take the place of the federal and state requirement that there be one statewide test.

    4. Prohibit high-stakes testing -  such as SBAC -  in pre-kindergarten programs through second grade.

    5. Establish a commission on student learning and school quality to identify key measures that indicate how well schools and districts prepare students to meet key accountability objectives.

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Yes, you CAN opt your kids out of Connecticut SBAC testing this spring! (By Brian Gosper)

by: ctblogger

Mon Mar 02, 2015 at 09:46:58 AM EST

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

Brian Gosper is a member of the Killingly Town Council and the parent of two public school students.  This commentary piece first appeared in the CT Mirror.  Yes, you CAN opt your kids out of Connecticut SBAC testing this spring!

Yes, you CAN opt your kids out of Connecticut SBAC testing this spring!

If you child is in grades 3-8 or 11, he or she will be sitting for the SBAC or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test this spring. SBAC is the testing arm of the Common Core, or what Connecticut has cleverly renamed "Connecticut Core Standards."

This rename is no doubt an attempt by the state to deflect from the national and local groundswell of opposition to Common Core. But have no doubt, this is the same sub-par, incredibly expensive, developmentally inappropriate (especially in younger ages), privacy and data-mining nightmare - a top down national attempt at taking over education and stripping local control of standards and curriculum.

This post is not specially written to address Common Core itself - there is plenty of information available on that - but rather to remind all parents that are concerned about the data and privacy issues and content of these tests, that they have the absolute 100 percent right to opt their kids out of the SBAC testing -regardless of what they are told by their child's school.

Again, there is plenty of support for that position you should research if you are not convinced.

It has been suggested by state Department of Education officials that if SBAC testing participation rates fall below 5 percent that the State could suffer potential negative consequences from the federal government in the form of holding back funding as punishment for this reduced participation.

This is a scare tactic and whether true or not, you should still feel confident in opting out if that is your wish. Only by creating push back in the form of financial impacts to the state and municipalities can we affect the change that we need - a full exit of Connecticut from Common Core - and return local control of education to parents, local school boards and teachers.

Whatever you decide, be informed and educated on the matter. Do not take anyone's opinion or comments at face value, no matter who is saying it. Do your research and decide for yourself what is best for your child and their future.

Here is a great on line resource: ctagainstcommoncore.org.

Brian Gosper is a member of the Killingly Town Council and the parent of two public school students.  

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Achievement First Inc. New Haven charter money grab tabled

by: ctblogger

Fri Feb 27, 2015 at 09:07:50 AM EST

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

Public opposition to another privately run, publicly funded charter school in New Haven has led to the City's pro-charter superintendent of schools withdrawing his plan to turn over even more scarce public funds to Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

As reported in an article entitled, Charter Deal Tabled, the New Haven Independent writes;

"Elm City Imagine" died Wednesday-at least the version that would have had New Haven's Board of Ed entering into a partnership this year with the Achievement First charter network on a new school.

Superintendent Garth Harries announced, through a memo sent to Board of Education members, that he has tabled the proposal.

Controversy over the plan had drowned out the public schools' other efforts at improving education, Harries said in an interview. He said the proposed deal got swallowed in the broader national debate over the role of charter schools.

"This began to threaten the foundation of school change, which is collaboration on behalf of kids," Harries said.

[...]

Elm City Imagine began as an effort by Achievement First (AF) to design, with the help of the inventor of the computer mouse, an experimental K-8 school of the future. AF, which runs local charter schools such as Amistad Academy, planned to open Imagine in the fall as a K-1 at first, eventually expanding to fourth grade. Saying it couldn't raise enough money privately to launch the school, AF negotiated a "partnership" with Harries under which New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) would provide $700 in cash and in-kind services per student for a school that AF would run and staff (not including the legally required contribution for transportation and special education services).

The proposed deal sparked intense opposition. Teachers began organizing against it. So did school administrators. Opponents lined up for hours at public meetings to blast the deal. They said it shifted needed money and autonomy to well-funded charters. They argued that the deal didn't represent a true partnership-but rather the first step toward a private takeover of public schools.

You can read the full article at:  http://www.newhavenindependent...

You can read the earlier Wait, What? posts about the money grab at:

The "done deal" to divert scarce public funds to another Achievement First Inc. hits a road block

New Haven (& CT) Taxpayers to subsidize Achievement First's corporate development plan?

Parents, Teachers and Taxpayers - Beware the Achievement First Inc. Money Grab in New Haven

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Moales and Charter School Industry go down to crushing defeat in Bridgeport - Again

by: ctblogger

Wed Feb 25, 2015 at 09:44:18 AM EST

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

Despite the support of Governor Malloy's political operatives, including Bridgeport Mayor Finch and the ConnCAN/Achievement First Inc. charter school industry, pro-charter school candidate Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. couldn't even muster enough voters to impact yesterday's Special Election for a seat in the Connecticut State Senate.

The infamous Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. came in a distant 3rd place in yesterday Special Election collecting only 503 votes compared to the winner, Working Party Candidate and former state senator Ed Gomes, who received 1,504.  The Democratic Party endorsed candidate Richard DeJesus, who Finch initially supported before turning to Moales, got 791 voters.

According to the Working Families Party, Ed Gomes becomes the first candidate in the country to win a legislative seat running only on the Working Families Party line.

Kenneth Moales Jr. has been one of the most outspoken supporters of Governor Malloy's Corporate Education Reform Industry initiatives.

Moales was not only a leading champion of education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas but has been a major proponent of Steve Perry's plan to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. sits on the Board of Directors for Perry's charter school and was a lone voice on the Bridgeport Board of Education when the democratically elected Board asked the Malloy administration NOT TO approve Perry's charter school application.

However, Malloy's Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education overlooked the position taken by the Bridgeport Board of Education and last spring approved Perry's plan to open a privately owned but publicly funded charter school in Bridgeport.

Although Governor Malloy's proposed state budget actually cuts funding for public schools in Connecticut, the governor's plan adds funding for four new charter schools in the state, including Steve Perry's charter and one in Bridgeport that will be owned by an out-of-state company.

Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. previously served as Mayor Bill Finch's campaign treasurer and his loss yesterday marks the fourth time in a row that Bridgeport voters rejected Finch and the charter school industry agenda.

Finch is up for re-election this fall and opposition to granting him another term is gaining steam.

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Municipal Elections Preview: Incumbents Look Strong, Chance for D Pickup in Meriden

by: abg22

Tue Feb 24, 2015 at 16:00:42 PM EST

( - promoted by ctblogger)

The 2013 municipal elections were a mixed bag for Connecticut Democrats. On the one hand, Team Blue lost mayoral seats in the overwhelmingly Democratic cities of Meriden and New Britain; a Democrat-turned-independent almost pulled off a huge upset in New Haven; and Democrats lost ground in the smaller towns. On the other hand, Democrats defeated an incumbent Republican mayor in Norwalk and picked up an open mayor's seat in Stamford.

How will Democrats, progressive and otherwise, fare in this year's mayoral races? The two most interesting races will probably be in Bridgeport and Hartford, where incumbent Democratic mayors are likely to face primary challenges. Intra-party warfare is good bruising fun, so these challenges are likely to get a lot of traction with the press. But not necessarily with voters. Overall, with the exception of Meriden and possibly New London, incumbents look pretty strong across the board.

Some things to watch for: Will there be a unified opposition to Bill Finch and Pedro Segarra, or will fragmented opposition help re-elect these two Democratic incumbents? Will Dan Malloy get away with not endorsing Segarra, because the governor's brilliant young protege happens to be one of Segarra's challengers? Will anyone dare to run against Toni Harp? Will Democrats be able to win back the mayor's seat in Meriden that they lost in 2013? Will Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary be indicted (hey, it's Waterbury), get appointed to a job in the Malloy administration, run for re-election, or some combination thereof?

Here is a run-down of what's happening in big-city mayoral contests:

Hartford: Incumbent Mayor Pedro Segarra, who took office when former Mayor Eddie Perez resigned in disgrace to face trial for corruption, is confronting potential primary challenges from all over the political map, including attorney John Gale, Probate Judge John Killian Jr., and city councilman Joel Cruz (who represents Working Families Party on the council but might switch to Democrat to challenge Segarra in the September primary). A wild card is Luke Bronin, the governor's former legal counsel, who has the connections to be a prodigious fundraiser but will face accusations of being a carpetbagger and Malloy stooge. Hard to predict what will happen here: Segarra is not a particularly strong candidate but the divided opposition may have trouble unseating him.

Bridgeport: There has been a lot of talk of former mayors/convicts Joe Ganim and John Fabrizi challenging two-term Mayor Bill Finch, but none of that appears to be going anywhere. There's also been amusing but baseless speculation about former US Comptroller General and failed lieutenant governor candidate David Walker getting in the race. The Working Families Party has made inroads against the Finch machine in some legislative and Board of Ed races, but citywide the opposition looks fragmented, without a strong candidate, and unlikely to seriously challenge Finch as he seeks a third term. Finch has already amassed an impressive $300,000 in his campaign war-chest.

New Haven:  Mayor Toni Harp came into office in 2014 after twenty years of John DeStefano, the longest serving mayor in New Haven history. She hasn't made any major errors and is expected to turn in an election-year budget that keeps the mill rate flat. With six months left to go before the September primary, nobody has even expressed interest in challenging her presumed bid for re-election -- "presumed" because she has not even bothered to announce that she is seeking a second term since it seems like such an inevitability.

New London: Amidst severe budget problems that almost led to a state takeover, first-term Mayor Darryl Finizio announced in April 2014 that he would not run for re-election, something that no intelligent politician should ever do in the middle of his or her term. Then in November he suddenly announced that he had changed his mind and would seek a second term. Going back on his word may be Finizio's biggest liability as a candidate, along with lingering budget problems and antagonism from public safety unions. He is facing a strong primary challenge from Democratic City Councillor Michael Passero. Passero is less progressive than Finizio, but whatever the primary result the seat will remain in Democratic hands.

Waterbury: Until recently many thought Democratic Mayor Neil O'Leary would leave office for an appointment -- head of the Department of Public Safety, perhaps -- in the Malloy administration. Last fall the Waterbury Observer noted: "The whispers started before Election Day. If Governor Dan Malloy won re-election Neil O'Leary was going to step down as mayor... and join the Malloy administration."  But now it seems that still-swirling allegations about campaign misconduct (the FBI has been investigating possible improprieties having to do with on-the-clock police officers doing work for O'Leary's 2011 campaign) have put the possibility of a state cabinet-level appointment for O'Leary on hold. O'Leary says he will decide sometime "in the spring" whether to run for re-election. After a historic charter revision last year, the mayor's term is now four years instead of two. If O'Leary's legal problems escalate, there is an outside chance of a Republican pick-up.

Danbury: Popular, twitter-loving Republican Mayor Mark "Big Poppa" Boughton appears to be coasting to re-election for an eighth term. Republican hold.

Norwalk: Mayor Harry Rilling announced his bid for a second term earlier this month. No Republican challenger has yet emerged. Rilling has overcome, and in some ways united, a dysfunctional Democratic party in Norwalk and appears to be in a strong position for re-election. Democrat hold.

Middletown: Two-term Mayor Dan Drew won't face a primary opponent in his bid for a third term, and might not face any Republican opposition either. (He had no Republican opponent in 2013, just a third-party challenger.) Drew is widely thought to be looking at a gubernatorial bid in 2018, should Malloy not seek a third term.  Democrat hold.

New Britain: GOP Mayor Erin Stewart is vulnerable, having lost the popular local baseball team to Hartford and caused commotion with her "unprofessional" behavior on social media, but she is not up for re-election until 2017.

Stamford: First-term Mayor David Martin is not up for re-election until 2017.

Meriden: Republican Mayor Manuel Santos, who won office in 2013 in a major upset, is facing a difficult re-election fight. The politically inexperienced Santos has struggled to find common ground with the City Council and hasn't been able to enact much of his agenda. His first term has been largely pre-occupied with a battle with the council over whether he could legally dismiss the corporation counsel. Santos won that battle but his political capital is severely diminished. Meriden is a strongly Democratic city where Santos would face stiff headwinds even without his record of mis-steps and lack of accomplishment. He may not even seek re-election. Likely pick-up for Ds.

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Tuesday roundup

by: ctblogger

Tue Feb 24, 2015 at 09:24:37 AM EST

Headlines...
  • War of words between Gov. Malloy's office and State Treasurer Denise Nappier heats up.
    Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes told state Treasurer Denise Nappier Monday that the administration isn't backing off its position that debt service will be $325 million lower than her estimate.

    "We can not afford to over-budget your debt service account in order to simply make the year easier for your office," Barnes wrote Nappier. "In the event that market conditions change, lowering the demand for higher coupons in new issues during the coming year,or in the event that you are otherwise unable to prudently manage the bond program within the budgeted funds, we will work with you to identify funding to support a deficiency appropriations in the debt service account."

    Like Nappier, Barnes released his letter to the media.

    Nappier told Barnes in a letter Friday that the debt service figures included in the budget were "too aggressive" and could harm Connecticut's reputation with investors.


  • CT NEWS JUNKIE: "Teachers Union Wants To Get Rid of High-Stakes Tests"
    The state's largest teachers union asked lawmakers Monday to reduce "high-stakes" standardized tests, like the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or SBAC test, and replace it with "progress tests."

    "A child is more than a test score," Connecticut Education Association President Sheila Cohen said, "and the time is now for the General Assembly to act by phasing out SBAC and turning to a progress test already in use in Connecticut classrooms."

    SBAC is one of two multi-state consortia developing assessments based on the Common Core State Standards, which were developed under the leadership of the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. This is the first year the SBAC test would be administered by Connecticut school districts.

    "The test is time consuming and has not been verified," CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, said Monday.


  • CT MIRROR: "Providers, advocates call Malloy Medicaid cuts short-sighted"
    Medicaid is one of the state's largest expenses, and a big target for savings in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed two-year budget. But health care providers and social service advocates say the way Malloy would cut Medicaid is financially short-sighted and threatens to undermine recent progress in a program that has added thousands of new members as part of the federal health law, expanded the network of providers willing to treat them, and reduced its per-client costs.

    One head-scratcher, critics say, is Malloy's proposal to ax a pilot program to coordinate care for some of the highest-cost Medicaid clients, an initiative that even the administration's budget documents say could generate long-term savings.

    "That one makes no sense," said Sheldon Toubman, an attorney with the New Haven Legal Assistance Association.

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