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Monday roundup

by: ctblogger

Mon Apr 27, 2015 at 11:07:21 AM EDT

Reading material for the start of the week.
  • Let the budget debate begin...
    One of the General Assembly's two-budget writing committees will vote Monday on their response to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's spending plan.

    The Democrat-controlled Appropriations Committee will release their budget Monday morning and the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee is expected to match their spending with a tax proposal later this week.

    "Every budget document reflects a policy perspective," House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said last week.

    He said the spending package that will be released Monday morning will look "very different," than the two-year, $40 billion budget put forward by Malloy in February.

  • Finally, a credible candidate joins the race for mayor of Bridgeport.
    University of Bridgeport vice president Mary-Jane Foster, co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish baseball team, is expected to enter the mayor's race today Monday, her second run for the city's top post she lost in a Democratic primary to Mayor Bill Finch in 2011.

    Foster plans to file a candidate committee in the Town Clerk's Office to raise funds with a formal declaration in the coming weeks. She will join a field that includes Finch, Board of Education member Howard Gardner and perennial mayoral candidate Charlie Coviello. Former Mayor Joe Ganim, in an exploratory stage, will soon form a candidate committee as well.

  • The Day gives the state GOP a reality check.
    Chances are the Republicans' 21st century losing streak will continue in 2016 regardless of their choice as nominee. Actually, they haven't elected a senator since 1982. But it would be refreshing, even inspiring, if the party could pick its best and brightest to articulate its views and not resort to its wealthiest or the candidate most likely to appeal to its extremist base.

    Defeating the popular Mr. Blumenthal would prove very difficult, but a decent showing could help a qualified Republican build toward a future run.

    The people of the state need a robust two-party system. Instead, when it comes to Senate and congressional races, the Republicans have gone bust.

  • Chris Powell nailed it!

    While Connecticut is inching toward equipping police officers with body cameras and cruisers with dashboard cameras, they won't bring much accountability to police work unless the state's freedom-of-information law is strengthened. For if police video in Connecticut ever captured a murder committed by an officer -- like the murders recently committed by officers in South Carolina and Oklahoma and captured on video that was quickly made public -- the video almost certainly would be suppressed.

    In part that's because of the exemption inserted in Connecticut's FOI law last year by the General Assembly and Governor Malloy in response to fears that someone might publish photographs of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in December 2012. The exemption allows government agencies to withhold images of murder victims if the "personal privacy of the victim or the victim's surviving family members" might be invaded.

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Will CT elected officials enact appropriate safeguards on student privacy this session?

by: ctblogger

Fri Apr 24, 2015 at 11:05:51 AM EDT

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

The Connecticut General Assembly will soon be acting on House Bill #7017, An Act Concerning Student Data Privacy.

However, as of now this critically important legislation is little more than an empty shell and it falls far short of what is needed to ensure that Connecticut law properly protects the state's child by instituting appropriate safeguards on data collected by the state and school districts about children.

Although few parents are presently aware of the problems, as a result of federal action, the Common Core testing frenzy and the ever increasing desire to collect and warehouse massive amounts of data on everybody and everything, the notion of protecting student data at the federal, state and local level has been severely undermined.

Today student data is not properly protected.

In response to these developments, states all across the country have passed new laws aimed at putting appropriate safeguards in place on student data.

This year alone, 41 states have or are considering legislation that would increase the level of protection on student data.

The Connecticut's General Assembly's opportunity to step forward and protect Connecticut's children rests with House Bill #7017, but significant changes would be needed if the legislation is to have a significant impact.

Jennifer Jacobsen, a long time educator, mother of three, a founding member of Connecticut Unites for Student Privacy and a member of the Connecticut Parental Rights Coalition has been a leading voice in the effort to ensure that Connecticut improves its laws on student data privacy.

In a recent letter Jennifer Jacobsen highlighted the steps needed to update loopholes with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), to institute appropriate provisions for dealing with online and third party vendors who contract with the state and schools who collect student data, and changes needed to ensure proper procedures for regulating Connecticut's "state longitudinal data system," known as P20-WIN, so that there is the transparency, accessibility and protection in place.

The proposed law needs to include the following provisions;

  • Clarification that All student records are the property, and are under the control of, the parent or legal guardian of the child, and may be held in trust by the local board of education. The local board of education shall safeguard the privacy of student records, and shall protect student records from all unlawful release to third parties, in accordance with state and federal statutes and regulations.

  • A requirement that, upon request, the local board of education shall provide immediately to the student, parent, or legal guardian, a copy of any student record, or data of any kind, that is in the possession and/or control of the local board of education and its agents and the state longitudinal data.

  • Adding language ensuring that certain data elements cannot be disclosed to third-parties without parental consent including; (a) Juvenile court delinquency records; (b) Criminal records; (c) Student biometric information; and (d) Student medical Records.

In addition, tougher provisions are needed to limit the likelihood or a data breach and ensure that proper steps are taken if and when a breach of data security occurs. As Jacobsen notes, the legislature should add that:
The State Department of Education and its agents, and the local board of education and its agents, shall notify the student and parent or legal guardian of a student of any unauthorized access, or suspected unauthorized access, to any student record or data of any kind that is collected, maintained, or in the possession and control of the State Department of Education and its agents, the local board of education and its agents, and any other authorized third party.

Each unauthorized release of, or breached access to, any student record or data of any kind that is collected, maintained, or in the possession and control of the State Department of Education and its agents, the local board of education and its agents, and any other authorized third party, shall be considered a separate violation, punishable by (add appropriate penalties- fines, denied access to data systems, etc).

Upon notification of an unauthorized release or breach, or suspected unauthorized release or breach, of student records or data of any kind, the State Department of Education and its agents, the local board of education and its agents, and any authorized third party, immediately shall ensure that all necessary corrections are made to prevent further release or breach, and shall repair and rectify all harm caused by the unauthorized release or breach.

The additions are necessary to update Connecticut's law on protecting student data.  As Jacobsen explains,
"These proposed changes and additions allow third party vendors and state agencies the opportunity to ensure their proper handling of the data they collect with ultimate responsibility to safeguard the students behind the data while still having access to de-identified data for research or product development purposes.

These recommendations also permit parents the access they need to ensure the accuracy of the data collected on their children and assures them that the state has taken every measure possible to protect their children's information with serious consequences for those who would either intentionally or unintentionally misuse that information."

The Connecticut General Assembly should add these provisions, Connecticut's parents and students deserve nothing less.
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Fears of 'Runaway Convention' Thwart Citizens United Resolution in CT Legislature

by: abg22

Tue Apr 21, 2015 at 13:58:52 PM EDT

( - promoted by ctblogger)

When HJ 64, a joint resolution calling for a 'people's convention' to overturn the infamous Citizens United ruling, came up for a hearing in the Connecticut General Assembly's Government Administration and Elections Committee last month, none of the state's many well-known progressive organizations testified in favor of the bill. The absence of support from Common Cause, Connecticut Citizen Action Group, and progressive labor unions made it somewhat surprising, if not shocking, that the bill passed out of committee at all.

This orphaned legislation is not expected to be called for a vote on the House or Senate floor.

What is going on here? Did Connecticut drop the ball on one of the progressive movement's overarching priorities -- checking the power of billionaires, big corporations and dark money, and restoring power to the people? Not exactly; understanding why progressive groups suddenly became so reticent on Citizens United requires an understanding of the disagreements about how to tackle the problem of dark money and unlimited corporate spending on political "speech."

There are at least two significant internal divisions among people who believe the increasingly skewed role of money in politics is an existential threat to American democracy: one is between those who believe a constitutional amendment nullifying Citizens United is necessary, and those who believe a legislatively enacted system of public financing (such as the one proposed by Rep. John Sarbanes's Government by the People Act) can both leave Citizens United intact and make it functionally irrelevant; the other division is between those who support a constitutional amendment initiated by congress (how all 27 previous amendments began) versus those trying to use the process outlined in Article V of the Constitution, which requires 2/3 (or 34) of the state legislatures to initiate a constitutional convention. Making an 'end run around congress' (as it is sometimes called) to amend the constitution has been attempted many times but never fully realized.

The second division is more pronounced than the first. Most progressive groups support a constitutional amendment in principle, recognizing that it is extremely improbable given GOP control of Congress and most state legislatures, and instead focusing their energies on enacting public financing and other more practical legislative solutions. Yet many of these same groups not only do not support, but actively oppose, calls for introducing an amendment under Article V for fear of a "runaway convention" -- a constitutional convention not focused on Citizens United but on a so-called balanced budget amendment, restrictions on women's reproductive rights or even fringier items on the tea party wish list. According to this argument, the price of overturning Citizens United shouldn't be overturning Roe v. Wade.

A situation analogous to Connecticut's exists right now in Virginia, where conservatives are opposing other conservatives' efforts to initiate an Article V convention on a federal balanced budget amendment, with Democrats staying mostly on the sidelines.

Are fears of a runaway convention legitimate? There are persuasive arguments on both sides. Historically, the Article V process has been an instrument more of the right than the left, so progressive groups have become naturally wary of it, apart from the legal questions involved. (At least 27 state legislatures have called for a convention to introduce a federal balanced budget amendment; only a handful have called for an amendment overturning Citizens United.) But that is not really an argument against HJ64. And even if the Connecticut legislature cannot limit the scope of an Article V convention, it could always rescind its call for a convention if it became clear that Citizens United would not be the focus; or as a last resort simply refuse to ratify the results of a runaway convention.

With Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and Ruth Bader-Ginsburg on the far side of age 75, the next president could have the opportunity to appoint three new justices and substantially tilt the political orientation of the nation's highest court. If a Democratic president is elected in 2016, there is hope that a more progressive-populist, or at least less corporate-friendly, Supreme Court could overrule its own disastrous decision in Citizens United -- as it once did when Brown v. Board overturned Plessy v. Ferguson -- and restore power to the people. But if a Republican is elected, and Super PACs continue to tighten their grip on our fading democracy, then progressive groups may no longer have the luxury of continuing to oppose the Article V process because of questionable fears of a runaway convention.

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Say it ain't so...Chris Dodd encouraged people to donate to Republicans in Congress?

by: ctblogger

Mon Apr 20, 2015 at 10:59:17 AM EDT

So much for loyalty to the principles of the Democratic Party...

Given the fact that he was driven out of the Washington by misinformation and outright lies from the American Taliban Party, it's speaks volumes that Chris Dodd is now supporting candidates that are against President Obama and everything the former Senator stood for.

After the Republicans took over the House of Representatives in 2010, Hollywood bigwigs, often stereotyped as liberals, adapted. In order to build clout with the new Congress to help ensure favorable legislation, the entertainment industry started moving its money to Republicans.

The Wall Street Journal chronicled this major shift last year. Now, emails from executives at Sony Pictures Entertainment, stolen in a massive data breach last year and posted in a searchable archive by anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks on Thursday, provide details about how the movie industry -- at the direction of a Democrat, ex-Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who leads the Motion Picture Association of America -- sought to quietly raise funds for Republican national party committees.

Oh...there's more...
On January 28, 2014, Dodd emailed executives from major motion picture studios to share two news articles. One revealed that Google had shifted its campaign donation strategy, giving more to Republican lawmakers, and another projected that the GOP would likely perform well in the midterm elections that year.

The articles, Dodd wrote, "underscore the point I've been trying to make, which I'm sure you all understand - while loyalty to a person and/or party is admirable, we also need to be smarter about being supportive of those who are and will be in positions to make decisions that affect this industry."

A prefect example of the former Senator's fall from grace is his love affair for Tea Party darling, Virginia Congressman (and House Judiciary Committee chairman) Bob Goodlatte...
Dodd in particular encouraged industry executives to donate to Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over intellectual property and copyright issues important to the movie industry. Dodd evidently had to overcome one hurdle, however: Squeamishness about giving money directly to the National Republican Congressional Campaign, whose goal was to increase the GOP House majority.

In a November 7, 2013, email with "Call from Dodd regarding $$$ for Republicans" in the subject line, Keith Weaver, a senior government relations executive with Sony, wrote:

Chairman Goodlatte has established a new fundraising committee that would allow contributions to his effort WITHOUT giving to the NRCC (all of the studios had the same sensitivity on this as we did). Dodd is likely to call you with this news, tell you that the studio should support with $40k each, and tell you about the tentative date/time for this fundraiser (likely a lunch on 11/22). Our PAC can give $15k, the rest would need to come from individual execs.

At least Joe LIEberman displayed his support for the Republican Party in public...ugh!  
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Shine Comes Off GOP Golden Boy Tim Herbst

by: abg22

Thu Apr 16, 2015 at 10:00:20 AM EDT

( - promoted by ctblogger)

After last November's election, Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst finally came into his own as the Great White Hope of the Connecticut GOP. Herbst had been considered a top prospect for higher office since 2009 when he was first elected as Trumbull's top official at age 29 -- a shining exception to the party's miserably shallow 'bench' for statewide candidates. Now he had come within a hair's breadth of defeating longtime incumbent Denise Nappier and vaulted to the top of many GOP strategists' shortlist for the 2018 race for governor, as an experienced politician with solid elective experience at the local level, rather than a self-funding vanity candidate like Linda McMahon or Tom Foley whom the CT-GOP finally realized has been leading them to ruin. While ultimately unsuccessful, Herbst's run for treasurer proved that he was an able fundraiser (he easily qualified for public financing) and helped him build a statewide organization and name recognition.

But a series of disastrous mistakes over the last few months have taken the luster off Herbst's golden boy image, and left him looking like damaged goods. First there was his attempt to engineer a coup in the state party by deposing party chairman Jerry Labriola and installing his 2014 campaign manager JR Romano as Labriola's successor. Nobody in the GOP thinks Labriola has been the greatest fundraiser or electoral strategist, having led the party through another election without a single statewide or congressional victory, but the party faithful weren't ready to dump him six months before the end of his term in what would have been a humiliating and unprecedented statement of ingratitude. Labriola survived the coup attempt, making Herbst look not only like a jerk but also one without that much sway with party insiders. Romano may have been first out of the gate, but now a host of other potential successors to Labriola have thrown their hats into the ring with at least as much support as Herbst's handpicked choice.

Then Herbst stepped into the shrapnel of the 'Painting-Gate' clusterf---, in which the golden boy demanded that an "offensive" painting be removed from the walls of the Trumbull Public Library. Catholic groups objected that the painting showed Mother Theresa marching alongside pro-choice feminists like Margaret Sanger. Herbst claimed he wasn't bowing to political pressure and unconstitutionally censoring the work of art, but rather was responding to the fact that the painting wasn't properly insured. The trouble is that the painting had been on display for months without incident, and Herbst only took action when he started getting complaints from the Knights of Columbus and other anti-abortion groups. By taking down the painting under pressure, then agreeing to put it back up when the proper paperwork was obtained, Herbst basically managed to piss off everyone. His awkward, defensive and dishonest handling of the situation suggested a highly ambitious politician not quite ready for primetime.

Then last week there was a particularly petty, juvenile, and unflattering flare-up of the on-again, off-again war of words between Herbst and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch. Herbst had tried to schedule a vote on moving the offices of a regional planning agency out of Bridgeport without notifying Finch beforehand, and when Finch found out, he had a tantrum at the planning agency's next public meeting. This prompted Herbst to write a nasty and accusatory letter to Finch saying that Finch would be thrown out of the room if he had another tantrum in the future. Finch responded in kind. The war of words continued for several days in the pages of the CT Post. Like similar episodes in the past, the details of this spat aren't really important; what is important is the extremely childish behavior of these two elected officials who should be working together amicably on very serious regional problems facing greater Bridgeport, and who are old enough to know better.

Tim Herbst has plenty of time before 2018 to recover from these mistakes. It would be foolish to suggest otherwise.  But by his own actions he has managed to seriously tarnish his image and diminish his prospects for higher office in a matter of months, going from the gubernatorial shortlist to a puerile, thin-skinned hack politician about whom many Republicans, not to mention centrists and independents, now have serious doubts.

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CT Teacher Unions - Please stand up for CT Parents and their right to opt out

by: ctblogger

Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 09:36:58 AM EDT

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

On behalf of parents, students and teachers across Connecticut, we are publicly asking the Connecticut Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers - Connecticut Chapter and local teacher union chapters to end their silence and take immediate steps to speak out and support the growing effort by Connecticut parents to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC test.

While the leadership of the Connecticut teachers unions have said they want to phase out the destructive Common Core SBAC testing, they have failed, to date, to join their colleagues in other states and at the national level in speaking out, passing resolutions and engaging in political action on behalf of parents and their fundamental, inalienable and constitutionally protected right to opt their children out of Connecticut's Common Core testing scheme.

In New York State, NYSUT - a federation of more than 1,200 local unions representing more than 600,000 members - a union that is affiliated with both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) has become a leading example of the critically important role that teachers and their unions can play in supporting parents, students and public education.

NYSUT and dozens and dozens of local teacher unions across New York are taking strong, principled action in opposition to the Common Core testing program and the right of parents to refuse to have their children bullied, abused, tormented or labeled by the disastrous Common Core tests.

NYSUT writes;

"Parents and teachers share deep concerns about over-testing resulting from the state's botched implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS). Concerns include: stress on students, appropriateness of tests, erosion of learning time and lack of state transparency on test content.

Parents who decide it is not in their children's best interests to take these assessments are part of an "Opt-Out" movement that is growing nationally and in New York state.

NYSUT fully supports parents' right to choose what is best for their children - including NYSUT members who decide as parents to opt their child out of state tests.

In addition, NYSUT encourages members to exercise their rights as professionals to speak out against the harmful effects of high-stakes tests - and will vigorously defend members if a district brings disciplinary charges in that event."

Not only is the New York Teachers' union speaking out, but they are putting their words into action.

As the Wall Street Journal reported on April 10, 2015, NYSUT is calling on its members to remind them that students can opt out of the Common Core tests.  The Wall Street Journal explains,

"In an aggressive move against testing, the New York State United Teachers union started robocalling members Thursday with a reminder they can have their children refuse next week's state exams.

"This is insanity," says the robocall's recording of union President Karen Magee."

The massive common core testing, a program designed to fail the vast majority of students is absolutely the definition of insanity and NYSUT's President Karen Magee is absolutely right when she urges parents to consider opting their children out of these Common Core tests.

American Federation of Teachers National President, Randi Weingarten, has done the same.

And National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia has written,

"Parents don't want their children to be treated with a one-size-fits-all education approach. And educators know that students are more than a test score, so let educators teach and put an end the toxic practice of punishing students, schools and educators based on test results."

In Connecticut the Common Core SBAC test is designed (rigged) to label more than 60 percent of all public school students as failures and the way the test is scored will mean the failure rate will likely exceed 90 percent for students who need special education services or aren't fluent in the English language.  Governor Malloy's administration approved "cut scores" that will discriminate against African American and Latino children pegging as many as 75 percent as failures.

But while New York teachers, along with teachers in Massachusetts, Chicago, Washington State, Oregon and dozens of other locations join parents in support of the opt out movement, neither the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) nor the American Federation of Teachers - Connecticut Chapter (AFT-CT) have taken any meaningful action in support of parents who are opting their children, or trying to opt their children, out of the Common Core SBAC test.

The candidates challenging the leadership of the CEA in this spring's union election, Martin Walsh (President) and Scott Minnick (Vice President) have been very strong supporters of the opt out effort.  Both have written commentary pieces in support of parents and their right to opt out and Scott Minnick's decision to opt his own children even made the front page of the Hartford Courant.

But at the very moment when parents need support, the present leaders of the CEA and AFT-CT have remained silent about the opt-out movement.

Now is the time for Connecticut's teacher unions to step up and speak out in support of the opt-out effort.

The following is just a partial list of New York teacher union chapters who have officially endorsed the opt-out movement. Connecticut's state and local unions need to do the same thing.

Amityville Teachers' Association
Amsterdam Teachers' Association
Associated Teachers of Huntington
Babylon Teachers' Association
Baldwin Teachers Association
Bay Shore Classroom Teachers Association
Bayport- Blue Point Teachers' Association
Bellmore Faculty Organizaton
Bellmore-Merrick United Secondary Teachers
Bellmore Teachers' Organization
Bellport Teachers Association
Bethpage Congress of Teachers
Brentwood Teachers Association
Brockport Teachers Association
Buffalo Teachers Federation (a variation of the I Refuse resolution)
Carmel Teachers' Association
Camden Teachers Association
Center Moriches Teachers' Association
Central Islip Teachers Association
Clarkstown Teachers Association
Commack Teachers Association
Connetquot Teachers Association
Cortland United Teachers
Deer Park Teachers' Association
East Aurora Faculty Association
Eastport/South Manor Teachers' Association
East Williston Teachers' Association
Elwood Teachers Alliance
Farmingdale Federation of Teachers
Freeport Teachers Association
Fulton Teachers Association
Garden City Teachers'Association
Garrison Teachers Association
Glen Cove Teachers' Association
Half Hollow Hills Teachers' Association
Hamburg Teachers Association
Hauppauge Teachers Association
Hastings Teachers Association
Hewlett-Woodmere Faculty Association
Hicksville Congress of Teachers
Holley Teachers' Association
Ichabod Crane Teachers Association
Islip Teachers Association
Kingston Teachers Federation
Lancaster Central Teachers Association
Lake Shore Central Teachers' Association
Lakeland Federation of Teachers
Lawrence Teachers' Association
Levittown Teachers Union
Lindenhurst Teachers Association
Little Flower Teachers Association
Locust Valley School Employees Association
Lynbrook Teachers Association
Mahopac Teachers' Association (adopted a variation of resolution)
Malverne Teachers' Association
Merrick Faculty Association
Middle Country Teachers Association
Middle Island Teachers Association
Miller Place Teachers Association
MORE Caucus (NYC)
New Hartford Teachers Association
New Paltz United Teachers
New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees
New York Mills Teachers' Association
Newburgh Teachers' Association
North Babylon Teachers' Organization
North Bellmore Teachers Association
North Merrick Faculty Association
North Rockland Teachers Association
North Shore Schools Federated Employees
North Syracuse Education Association
Oceanside Federation of Teachers
Oneonta Teachers' Association
Orchard Park Teachers Association
Ossining Teachers Association
Patchogue-Medford Congress of Teachers
Plainedge Federation of Teachers
Plainview-Old Beth Page Congress of Teachers
Port Jefferson Teachers Association
Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association
Ramapo Teachers Association
Rocky Point Teachers Association
Rockville Centre Teachers' Association
Rome Teachers Association
Sauquoit Valley Teachers Association
Sherburne-Earlville Teachers' Association
Smithtown Teachers Association
Spencerport Teachers Association
Springville Faculty Association
Shoreham Wading River Teachers Association
Somers Education Association
Teachers Association of Sag Harbor
Three Village Teachers Association
Troy Teachers Association
United Teachers of Harborfields
United Teachers of Northport
United Teachers of Seaford
Valley Central Teachers' Association
Valley Stream Teachers Association
Wallkill Teachers Association
Wappingers Congress of Teachers
Waterville Teachers Association
West Babylon Teachers Association
West Canada Valley Teachers Association
West Genesee Teachers' Association
West Hempstead Education Association
West Islip Teachers' Association
West Seneca Teachers Association
- See more at: http://www.nysape.org/resoluti...

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