As we all wait to find out how much time former disgraced Governor John Rowland will receive for his latest act of arrogance, the Record Journal wants the judge to throw the book at him...and I couldn't agree more!
Rowland served three terms in the U.S. House, then three terms as governor, and now he's up for a second term in the slammer. Years ago he was even talked about as a potential Cabinet member, but in 2004 he was impeached. He resigned, but a court convicted him of taking illegal gifts while in office and in 2005 the feds packed him off to prison for 10 months.
When he got out of the joint, a new and supposedly rehabilitated Rowland took a job in economic development in his old stomping ground, Waterbury, before becoming a host on the state's leading talk radio station, which was probably as close as he could get, under the circumstances, to his old line of work: politics. And somewhere along the line he found religion, forging a close relationship with Meriden's Rev. Will Marotti, who joined him for a time as an on-air political commentator.
But soon enough Rowland had again strayed from the straight and narrow, and in September he was convicted of conspiracy and two counts each of falsifying records in a federal investigation, causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission and causing illegal campaign contributions. Mark Greenberg turned him down as a campaign consultant (he would have been masquerading as a contractor for Greenberg's animal charity), but Lisa Wilson-Foley and her husband didn't. And although offering opinions on the air about political campaigns - among them Wilson-Foley's 2010 congressional bid, while he was secretly on her husband's payroll - may have been merely unethical, the ruse of passing his work for a health-care chain off as anything but an illegal campaign arrangement was criminal.
So far, it's a sad story all around: the one-time golden boy who couldn't fly right, and the power couple who tried to soar too high. Fortunately, comic relief was provided, although late in the game, by Rowland's lawyers when they had the gall to cite his "exemplary character" as a reason for going easy on him; they asked for a sentence of under 18 months.
It seems that the federal prosecutors were closer to the mark when they discovered "a troubling disrespect for the law" in Rowland's character and asked instead for a term of 37 to 46 months.
Rowland "has no intention to return to politics in any form in the future," his lawyers assured the judge. "And, as a practical matter, any return would be impossible now."
Correct - but that's not because Rowland's "exemplary character" impels him to do the right thing; it's because he's a repeat offender. He got off easy the first time, but then he proved that his light sentence had been a mistake.
As if we didn't already have a low enough opinion of our public servants in this country, Rowland "has repeatedly shown a willingness to manipulate the political process for his own personal benefit," the prosecutors said, undermining whatever "fragile trust" there is.
Rowland has done plenty of damage. Let him pay an appropriate price.
A Wait, What? post last Monday entitled, "The State Budget Gimmick to End all Budget Gimmicks," followed up on Keith Phaneuf' CT Mirror story "Is Malloy poised to put much of the budget deficit on CT's credit card?"
The articles outlined Governor Malloy's inappropriate use of "bond premiums" to use the state's credit card to cover the State's operating expenses and hid budget deficits.
In his piece, Phaneuf's explained,
Malloy relied heavily on bond premiums during his first three years in office, using more than $160 million to close budget deficits or to bolster the emergency reserve, commonly known as the Rainy Day Fund. Phaneuf added, "According to records from the treasurer's office, the state had taken $41 million in bond premiums through the first four months of the fiscal year. The treasurer's office said the state took another $37.7 million premium this week on $300 million in new bonds. That means more than $78 million has been added to the budget's debt service line item since the fiscal year began.
The purpose of the Wait, What? article was to try and put the deceitful fiscal move into plan language.
Now the Hartford Courant has joined the effort to shed light on Malloy's actions in an editorial entitled, "State Must Curtail Deceptive Borrowing." The Courant wisely observers,
Here's a worthwhile idea that may hinder if not stop the inappropriate use of bond premiums - a form of borrowing - to cover operating expenses in the state budget.
Republican state lawmakers Vincent Candelora and Len Fasano intend to introduce legislation that would require the treasurer to report monthly to the General Assembly on all bond premiums taken and on the interest rates involved.
Regular reporting ought to shine some much-needed sunlight on a practice that can add another layer of deception and expense to state borrowing.
It works this way: The state sometimes when issuing bonds pays a higher interest rate than originally planned in return for a premium. That's extra money the state might use to cover the cost of issuance (a legitimate use) or to retire high-interest debt or, usually in bad times, to support the state's operating budget - running the agencies day to day on borrowed money.
Of course, debt service must be paid on the premium, which makes the borrowing expensive.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is no stranger to bond premiums. He used more than $160 million to close budget deficits and bolster the rainy day fund during his first three years in office.
Although Mr. Malloy recently found $48 million in spending cuts to partially bridge the $100 million projected budget deficit for the current fiscal year, Republican legislators speculate that he'll resort to bond premiums to cover the rest.
The Malloy administration hasn't ruled out the use of premium money.
Mr. Malloy, who has become a prodigious borrower, should resist the temptation. Find more budget reductions. It's time for discipline."
When Dan Malloy was running for governor in 2010, he said, "Increasing debt makes responsible budgeting less possible... And, it is simply irresponsible to leave more and more debt for future generations."
However, despite his campaign pledge, since becoming Governor, Dannel Malloy has been engaged in a excessive borrowing spree that has irresponsibly put more and more debt on the taxpayer's of the state and our children.
The editorial from the Hartford Courant is spot on and extremely timely.
Check out the great new video by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mark Fiore: "ProfitShip! Cashing in on Public Schools."
The Progressive commissioned the short, sharable cartoon to help get the word out about the corporate education reform industry's attack on public education.
This animated feature on school privatization stars little Timmy, a kindergartner who likes his public school. Timmy gets a confusing lesson in corporate education reform, starting with the right-wing mantra "Public Schools have failed."
(The Bradley Foundation, a top right-wing think tank, has devoted more than $30 million to label public education as "failing" and promote privatization as the "solution.")
Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mark Fiore uses his trademark humor to show the absurdity of this argument. Despite poor results, charter chains like Rocketship are replacing real teachers and classes like art, social studies, and gym with a computer-aided test-prep curriculum straight out of science fiction.
At the same November meeting that the New York Board of Regents approved Capital Prep Steve Perry's application to open a charter school in Harlem, they voted to grant a charter to Ted Morris Jr. and the Greater Works Charter School to open a charter school in Rochester, New York.
Days later, the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper of Rochester reported that the Greater Works Charter School "will no longer open in Rochester in 2015, part of the continuing fallout over lies in the resume of its 22-year-old founder."
The Newspaper, along with fellow education bloggers led by Mercedes Schneider, have been reporting on the school and its founder, Ted Morris Jr. who "represented himself to the New York State Education Department as a precocious businessman and educational advisor with bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees."
However, it turns out that Ted Morris Jr. has no college degrees at all.
According to the Greater Works Charter School application,
"Ted [Morris Jr.] is the Lead Applicant for and Founder of GWCS. He is a life-long resident of Rochester, NY. Currently, Ted is an education consultant with the Morris Firm and has previously held positions such as the Director of Operations, Finance, Development, and Assistant CEO with various non-profit youth, education, and human service-related agencies. He has 7+ years of experience in these fields. Ted has a B.S. in Human Services, an M.S.W. in Non-Profit Leadership and is finishing up his Ed.D. in Administration.
But Morris doesn't have a Bachelor's Degree or a Master's Degree nor is finishing up his Education Doctorate.
In fact, at age 22, Morris doesn't even have "7+ years of experience" in the education management field.
But the fact that his resume was obviously falsified and the charter school application was a fraud, Governor Andrew Cuomo's Department of Education and Board of Regents decided to give Morris and his company the lucrative charter.
In a quote worthy of Connecticut's Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, when the New York Board of Regents was asked how they could have granted a charter to someone with falsified their resume and had no college degrees, the New York State Department of Education spokesman said, "We don't grant charters to individuals. We grant charters to boards based on the application."
Considering the fall-out with the Greater Works Charter School, it will be interesting to see how the New York Board of Regents handles Steve Perry, now that it appears that Perry doesn't have the legal right to replicate "Hartford's Capital Prep Magnet School" since the concepts, ideas and materials associated with Capital Prep are owned by the City of Hartford and not Steve Perry's private company.
Pepe Huaman of New Haven said obtaining a driver's license will decrease his commuting time and open up more job possibilities.
"I take the bus to work. I lose two to three hours a day on the bus," Huaman said as he sat with a dozen others waiting in the basement of St. Rose of Lima Church to get online to start the long process to obtain a driver's license.
"Driving will take probably 30 minutes," said Huaman, 49, a native of Peru.
The state law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses goes into effect Jan. 2, but Monday was the first day they could apply for an appointment to take the written portion, which only can be done online.
Cecilio Cuapio, a longtime parishioner of St. Rose in the Fair Haven section and one of several parish leaders, said volunteers have been preparing for weeks to help the large undocumented population in the church with this latest project.
"We tell the people the process will be long," Cuapio said. The Department of Motor Vehicles makes the point that new procedures are permanent and there is no need to rush.
Commissioner Stefan Pryor, the leader of the state Department of Education who helped craft controversial legislation during his tenure, will leave office the first week of January.
Pryor announced in August his intention to leave the post if Gov. Dannel P. Malloy won re-election.
The state board is scheduled to vote to create a search committee that is tasked with recommending an interim commissioner by Jan. 7.
"The Connecticut State Board of Education accepts with deep regret the resignation of Stefan Pryor, and extends him appreciation for his service to the state of Connecticut," states a resolution that the board is expected to approve today.
Residents Carl and Melissa Meyer have started a MoveOn.org petition asking the board of selectmen to reverse its decision to cut Glassman's salary. As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had garnered 264 signatures. Carl Meyer said that he was hoping to obtain 500 signatures.
The salary cut was the result of a consultant's report - commissioned by Glassman - that recommended shifting some responsibilities of the first selectman's office to other people, and that the position's pay be cut accordingly.
Meyer said that 80 percent of the residents he's talked to are upset about the board's decision.
"Given that [Glassman] has devoted 16 years to public service when she could be making a lot more, it's not right," he said.
Meyer said that Glassman had always supported town residents, especially when many asked her to improve public school security in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012.
"She didn't blink, she was right there with us," he said.
As 2013 came to an end, Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry had missed about 30 of 127 school days, which was about 24 percent of all school days since the 2013-2014 Capital Prep school year had begun.
As of the beginning of October 2014, Perry had already been way from Capital Prep for an incredible 55 days, of which about 30 or so were school days.
In fact, since the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, Perry's absentee rate is nearly 25 percent.
This disregard for his duties as a full-time employee of the Hartford Public Schools comes at a time when federal, state and local officials are cracking down on absenteeism.
The Connecticut State Department of Education's own report says, "Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing ten percent or greater of the total number of school days for ANY REASON. It includes both excused and unexcused absences."
According to state law, "Parents who do not assume responsibility for their child's attendance as required by law, may be referred to the State Prosecutor for prosecution."
The State Department of Education's level of concern is about chronic and excessive absenteeism is so great, that just last month the State Board of Education announced their intention to "rank order" all Connecticut public schools based each school's level of student absenteeism and that poor absentee rates could lead to state takeover of local schools.
Absenteeism rates among teachers have also been receiving attention lately. A June 2014 report released by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) claimed that, "When teachers are absent 10 days, the decrease in student achievement is equivalent to the difference between having a brand new teacher and one with two or three years more experience...Worse yet, a number of studies have found there to be a disproportionately high rate of teacher absenteeism in schools serving low income and minority students, providing yet another obstacle to closing the achievement gap."
But considering the vital role that administrators have in public schools, policymakers should be even more concerned when top administrators, like Capital Prep's Steve Perry are missing in action for dozens of school days.
In the past, Perry has defended his excessive absenteeism by claiming that he was simply using banked "vacation time," but the Hartford Board of Education and the contract between the Board of Education and administrator's union limits the use of banked vacation time.
For example, the Hartford's administrator's contract notes that principles shall not take vacation time for the five days prior to the return of teachers to school, and yet, this year, Perry skipped out on two of the five days leading up to the beginning of the Capital Preparatory Magnet School year and even took a vacation day during one of the two "Professional Learning Days" at the beginning of the school year when administrators are supposed to be getting teachers ready for the arrival of students.
State and local policies also say that key administrators should be in their buildings and on duty when students are engaged in the major standardized testing periods, but Perry was away multiple days last spring when students were suffering through the unfair and inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test.
An equally troubling question is how Perry is even getting permission to take so many vacation days.
While principals in Hartford Public Schools can bank their vacation and sick days, the Hartford Board of Education Policy requires principals to receive permission from an assistant superintendent of schools before they can take any day off.
Of course, the backdrop to this entire issue is the actions that Perry and his top administrators and teachers are taking when it comes to their efforts to start up a charter management company. According to the charter school proposals Perry and his operation submitted in Connecticut and New York, he and eight of his senior administrators and teachers have been working for the past two years to turn Perry's private company into a charter school management chain.
As has been noted in earlier Wait, What? blogs, their actions raise serious legal and ethical issues since the concepts, ideas and materials that they have been using to promote their charter school company actually belong to the City of Hartford.
Official complaints have now been filed with the Hartford Ethics Commission, the Connecticut State Auditors and appropriate entities in New York where Perry is trying to open a charter school in Harlem.
With the extent of Perry's chronic absenteeism comes the question of whether, in addition to violating copyright laws, Perry or any members of his team have inappropriately been collecting full-time salaries and benefits, all of which are paid for by Hartford and Connecticut taxpayers.