Like some type of gigantic octopus, the pro-charter school, pro-common core, pro-SBAC testing scheme and anti-teacher corporate education reform industry has set up multiple front groups while dumping more than $7.9 million dollars into their lobbying effort on behalf of Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy's "education reform" initiatives.
By now you'd think these hedge-fund managers and corporate executives would have created enough different groups to create the impression that they are more than what they seem.
But that's just not the way it works...
Connecticut's education policy arena is being honored with the presence of yet another "reform" front group.
And as with their earlier pronouncements, the charter school and education reform industry is claiming that their latest front group is an "independent source of accurate data and information that transcends special interests."
The newest corporate funded education reform group to invade Connecticut's education policy debate is called the Connecticut School Finance Project and according to its PR;
"Founded in 2015, the nonprofit Connecticut School Finance Project strives to be a trusted, nonpartisan, and independent source of accurate data and information that transcends special interests."
Transcends special interests?
File this one under - There is truly no lie that is too big for the charter school industry and its corporate education reform associates.
Earlier this year, the so-called "independent" Connecticut School Finance Project posted an advertisement that it was hiring a "Communications Manager." Applicants were instructed to send their resume and cover letter to Katie Roy at email@example.com.
At the time Katie Roy was actually serving as the Chief Operating Officer for the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, one of the leading entities lobbying on behalf of Malloy's anti-public education policies.
According to CCER,
"Katie Roy is responsible for the organization's day-to-day operations, finance, and human resources. She also works on organizational strategy and leads CCER's education finance work."
Now with their own website, the self-described, non-profit, "independent" Connecticut School Finance Project has three employees, although it is yet to reveal where it is getting is money.
Katie Roy (Director & Founder) is the former COO of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).
Patrick Gibson (Data & Policy Analyst) is a former employee of CCER, who, the site claims, "worked in close collaboration with Education Resource Strategies and three Connecticut public school districts to improve student learning outcomes and better align allocated resources with district strategy through an understanding of people, time, and money utilization"
Michael Morton - the new Communications Manager who recently transferred from Texas to take on the task of explaining to Connecticut voters why charter schools, privatization and Malloy's damaging education reform strategies are what Connecticut's students, parents, teachers and public schools need to ensure a better future.
CT School Finance Project asserts,
"The goal of the Connecticut School Finance Project is to collaborate with everyone who is impacted by this problem to find solutions that are fair to kids and taxpayers, and work better for schools, towns and cities."
And yet, although they claim to be engaged in addressing Connecticut's education funding issues, they fail to make any mention of the critically important CCJEF v. Rell School Funding lawsuit, a case that will go to trial this fall... A case that is finally forcing the State of Connecticut and the Malloy administration to address that fact that Connecticut's school funding formula is not only unfair, discriminatory and hurts Connecticut's students and property tax payers, but is blatantly unconstitutional.
Connecticut School Finance Project states that, "The way that Connecticut funds its schools is broken. It's unfair to kids and taxpayers, and it doesn't work for many schools, towns and cities."
Yet this corporate education reform front group FAILS to even mention the CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit.
They fail to mention that their hero, Dannel Malloy, was an initial sponsor and plaintiff of the CCJEF lawsuit when he was Mayor of Stamford but turned tail when he became governor and actually had chance to do something about the way Connecticut's public schools are funded.
They fail to mention that Connecticut's Attorney General George Jepsen, a former state representative and state senator from Stamford, is fully aware of the problems with Connecticut's school funding formula and yet is spending massive amounts of public funds and staff time in an immoral and unethical fight against the interests of Connecticut's children and property taxpayers.
Proving just how much of a farce this new Connecticut School Finance Project is, the group doesn't even address the State of Connecticut's historic under-funding of Connecticut's schools or the battle to dramatically increase the amount of state funding for public schools as the only fair and constitutional method for reduce the unfair burden on local property taxpayers while ensuring all Connecticut's public schools students get the support they need and deserve.
But that is because the Connecticut School Finance Project is most definitely not a "trusted, nonpartisan, and independent source of accurate data and information that transcends special interests."
One need only look at its origin and its employees to know that the corporate education reform industry has rolled out yet another front group in their effort to undermine Connecticut's public schools.
When it comes to the "NEW" Connecticut School Finance Project, remember the wise words of Matthew who warned;
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening and ferocious wolves."
The CT Newsjunkie headline reads- Union Leader 'Stunned' By Malloy Veto of Standards For Education Commish while the CT Mirror exclaims Malloy vetoes qualifications for education commissioner
The leader of Connecticut's teacher unions are stunned because the Right Honorable Governor Dannel P. Malloy decided to veto legislation that would have required that the state education commissioners have "a strong classroom background, something his first education commissioner lacked."
The legislation passed the Education Committee 32 to 0
It passed the State Senate 36 - 0
And it passed the Connecticut House of Representatives 138-5
Only one Democratic legislator voted against the bill in the House.
But Dannel Malloy vetoed it anyway.
Harken back just over one year ago, and the Connecticut AFL-CIO's was holding its political endorsing convention.
As a candidate attempting to petition on to the ballot, the union refused to allow me to address the delegates.
Instead, as the CT Mirror called it, the convention was "a two-day infomercial promoting the re-election of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, with one carefully choreographed note of discord: A rebuke to the Democratic governor's choice of Stefan Pryor as commissioner of education."
Before formally endorsing Malloy, the statewide labor federation adopted a resolution Tuesday calling for a requirement that an education commissioner hold the same credential as a school superintendent, a standard that Pryor does not meet.
"We're hoping the governor's listening," said Melodie Peters, the president of AFT-Connecticut, one of the state's two major teachers' unions.
The resolution drawn up by the AFT, which separately endorsed Malloy ahead of the AFL-CIO convention, was a message to a Democratic governor and to labor's rank-and-file. It was meant as a gentle rebuke to Malloy, not a rejection; a way to soothe educators, not provoke them.
Pryor never was mentioned by name, but he has become a pressure-relief valve for labor, which acknowledges a need to draw anger away from the governor. Peters agreed when asked if the resolution was a second-term message to Malloy about a need for a new commissioner.
Now, a year later, having failed to testify against the union's proposed bill or even voice any opposition what-so-ever, Malloy vetoed the very concept was submitted as a result of that AFL-CIO resolution.
As the CT Mirror explained last year,
Teacher unrest has given Jonathan Pelto, an education blogger and former Democratic state legislator, an opening to try to organize a third-party run for governor.
Malloy told the delegates Monday in a well-received speech that he's made mistakes, but he stopped far short of apologizing for what teachers still say was a gratuitous and deliberate insult.
The task for union leaders has been to manage the anger of the rank-and-file, sharply contrasting the overall labor record of Connecticut's first Democratic governor in a generation with the hostility to labor and collective bargaining by GOP governors in once-union friendly states like Wisconsin and Michigan.
A procession of delegates stepped up to microphones Tuesday to speak in favor the resolution.
"Education is a profession, not a hobby," said Edward Leavy of AFT Local 4200 A.
The delegates cheered.
Anna Montalvo, the president of AFSCME Local 1522, which represents paraprofessionals in Bridgeport, said a superintendent and education commissioner should meet standards, as do her members.
The delegates cheered again.
But the message of the convention eventually circled back to a simple equation: What would be best for labor, the re-election of a Democratic governor or a Republican?
Sharon Palmer, a former AFT-Connecticut president who is Malloy's labor commissioner, vouched for the governor's commitment to labor.
"Let me say from up close and personal, he is a good boss," Palmer said. "Sometimes he has a sharp tongue, but more often than not he uses that sharp tongue to fight off those who would diminish us."
Palmer, Peters and Randi Weingarten, the national AFT president who was the second-day keynote speaker, all reminded the members of Malloy's support for a broad labor agenda and his defense of locked out health workers represented by AFT at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.
Weingarten ended the convention with a loud, passionate pitch for Malloy. She acknowledged rough spots in AFT's relationship with Malloy over tenure.
"Yeah, I don't like some of the things he's said, either," Weingarten said. "But what he's done, he's increased funding for K-12, increased funding by seven percent for K-12, making Connecticut the second-highest education spender in the country since the recession."
She called Pelto a friend who has some important things to say, but his candidacy is a distraction and a danger that can only draw votes away from Malloy.
She told reporters after the convention that she spoke by telephone the previous day with Pelto, who had complained he wasn't invited to speak. Only the major-party endorsed candidates addressed the convention.
Weingarten said third-party candidates can play an important role, and she has supported some in the past.
She said the stakes in Connecticut are too high: "The stakes here are whether you're going to have a Dan Malloy or a Tom Foley as governor, whether you are going to have a Connecticut that acts as Connecticut or that emulates Wisconsin."
As to why Dannel Malloy would veto the bill out of the blue?
According to the CT Newsjunkie,
In his veto message, Malloy said the legislation "encroaches on the purview" of the chief executive and would prevent them from picking "the best candidate to lead the department."
Connecticut Education Association Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said he was "stunned" by the veto. He said it's good public policy that doesn't take away any of the governor's authority to choose a qualified individual for the job.
Just like teachers have to be certified, the state's Education Commissioner should have minimum qualifications, Waxenberg said.
He said his members will be angry about this veto and will speak with legislative leaders to "seriously consider an override session."
AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel said she's "disappointed" in the veto, but to Malloy's credit he heard their voices and "chose a new commissioner with extensive background in the classroom."
Hochadel added: "We expect that he and future governors would follow this example in recommending leadership for the state's education agency. Our state's students and their parents deserve nothing less."
But Malloy made it clear in his veto message that he should have the ability to hire the most qualified candidate, regardless of their background.
"Open-mindedness and flexibility are paramount in a search for the right candidate who can best respond to the educational challenges that face our state," Malloy said in his veto message. "The establishment of qualification for the Commissioner of Education in statute closes the door on a broad pool of talented and diverse leaders who would otherwise be eligible and could foster greatness in our schools."
Malloy said he's concerned it would unintentionally reduce the diversity of future commissioner applicant polls, since representation of African American and Hispanic teachers and administrators remains disproportionately low.
As the legislative report (JR report) explains, when the Education Committee held its public hearing, the testimony was almost unanimous in favor of the bill.
"Ms. Peters and AFT Connecticut support the proposed bill citing the role of the Commissioner in providing, "direction and guidance to districts, schools and educators." AFT believes the credibility of the Commissioner of Education depends, in part, on the shared experience of the Commissioner with teachers, administrators, and superintendents."
Dr. Anne Jellison, Chair, Connecticut Association of School Administrators spoke:
"Dr. Jellison testified in favor noting that it is critical for the Commissioner of Education to have credibility and expertise among all stakeholders in Connecticut's education system. She included that an effective, credible Commissioner needs "first-hand knowledge" of Connecticut schools and understands the impact of not only day-to-day situations but how policies impact the school environment."
Jeff Leake, Vice President, Connecticut Education Association spoke:
"Mr. Leake testified in support of the bill, commenting that many of the members of the CEA are also in favor of a person with a background in the education field serving as Commissioner. The CEA feels the bill may be too basic in the required qualifications but stressed to the committee that their organization is looking for a commissioner who understands the qualities necessary to be a true educator."
Lori Pelletier, Executive Secretary Treasurer, Connecticut AFL-CIO spoke:
"Ms. Pelletier testified in support of the bill. The position of the AFL-CIO is that high standards that have been set for teachers, administrators, and superintendents should also be a standard for the Commissioner of Education."
But there was one person who rose to oppose the requirement that Connecticut's Commissioner of Education have substantive educational experience...
Jennifer Alexander, Chief Executive Officer, ConnCAN:
"ConnCAN opposes the proposed bill because they believe the requirements laid out in the bill for the Commissioner of Education would severely limit Connecticut's ability to recruit talent and would, "unnecessarily exclude qualified and experienced candidates from being considered for appointment as Education Commissioner."
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren spoke about trickle-down economics and also offered her thoughts on some of the Republican presidential candidates Monday to about 1,300 Democrats at the party's largest fundraiser of the year.
A special legislative session prevented Democratic lawmakers from attending the dinner at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, but it was still the biggest turnout the party has had since 2006 when then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama headlined the Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey dinner.
Warren, who was introduced by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro of New Haven, was described as someone who speaks truth to power.
As far as the Republican presidential candidates were concerned, Warren had some choice words for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
"Jeb Bush, if you believe the next president's job is to privatize Social Security, then I believe it is our job to make sure you aren't president," Warren said to a cheering crowd.
She said Cruz is running on a platform of repealing Obamacare and implementing a flat tax.
"Ted Cruz, if you believe the next president's job is to cut taxes for billionaires and then say there's no money for healthcare for our families, then I believe it is our job to make sure you aren't president," Warren said.
An organization with the goal of stopping domestic violence has criticized the House of Representatives' minority leader for comparing Democrats to "a battered spouse support group.".
State Rep. Themis Klarides, a Republican who represents Woodbridge, Orange and Derby, was quoted in a recent Danbury News Times story about how the state's budget problems have strained the relationship between Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Democratic legislators.
The story by reporter Neil Vigdor quotes Klarides as saying, "Every Democrat up there distanced himself from the governor the whole session. And then the governor tried to distance himself from the legislature. It's like a battered spouse support group."
The comment is insensitive, Karen Jarmoc, chief executive officer of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said Thursday.
"To compare a political body that is divisively debating a budget to a domestic violence support group completely negates the effectiveness of this element of service, which helps thousands of victims in shelters and communities across the state," Jarmoc said.
Denise Gamache, director of the national Battered Women's Justice Project, said the comment is "insulting to women struggling with the reality of ongoing violence in their lives - some of whom face the threat of homicide - and not worthy of a public servant."
Thomas Ruocco Scott - looks like the folks on the left don;t like a lesson in civil disobedience - let alone free speech. I guess flying the confederate flag is considered a violent way to protest PC. Maybe they should take a close look at themselves - while they burn down businesses, riot in the streets and kill cops.
Yup...Veley didn't learn a thing...which, given his history, is not shocking.
Governor Dannel Malloy must have been singing the children's song "Roll Over, Roll Over," because it appears that Democrats in the Connecticut State Senate and House of Representatives will return to Hartford today to "fix" a bad state budget by making it worse.
As the CT Mirror reported on Friday,
"The House and Senate will return Monday at 10 a.m. for what the leaders hope will be a one-day special session to pass budget revisions and implementer bills, a bond package and two criminal justice measures."
In an effort to appease big business, the changes to the budget include another $25 million in health care cuts to Connecticut's poorest residents and a $25 million in cuts from an "undisclosed list" of government services and programs.
Among the most bizarre maneuvers is an effort to screw state employees by predetermining the outcome of next year's state contract negotiations, unless of course, it is just a ruse to make it look like a cut when, in fact, they intend to put the money back in to the budget in the 2017.
As CT Mirror explained,
"House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said the bill also would reduce salary reserve funding in the second year of the biennium, a nudge to the administration to obtain concessions in coming contract negotiations.
"We are setting a direction to the governor as to what we'd like to see in terms of concessions, so to speak, in year two when he negotiates those contracts," Sharkey said."
According to the CT Mirror,
"With these changes, overall tax hikes in the new, two-year budget would drop from $1.5 billion to just over $1.3 billion. The new budget also cancels close to $500 million in previously approved tax cuts that were supposed to be implemented in the coming biennium."
Under both the "old" and "new" budget plan, the state will continue to implement record budget cuts to a variety of vital state programs and services.
In addition, although the legislature's original tax plan added a minor bump in the income tax rate for the super-rich; both the original and revised versions of the state budget continue Governor Malloy's long-standing commitment to coddle Connecticut's wealthiest taxpayers by refusing to require them to pay their fair share in income taxes.
On another front, the "new" state budget continues to send the vast majority of the new money for nursing home care to those facilities that are unionized rather than the long-standing approach which treated residents of long-term care facilities the same - regardless of whether they are living in unionized or non-unionized nursing homes.
The decision to favor the unionized facilities raises serious legal issues which are being reported by CT Newsjunkie in an article entitled, Association Says Nursing Home Allocation Violates Federal Law.
The state's largest association of skilled nursing facilities says the way lawmakers are planning to distribute funds to nursing homes violates federal law.
The Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities warned Sunday night in a statement that distributing $9 million to raise wages in 60 unionized nursing homes and only $4 million to 170 non-unionized skilled nursing facilities is "blatantly unfair and discriminatory to the non-union workers who do the exact same work as the union workers with the same Connecticut taxpayer money."
Matthew Barrett, executive vice president of the association, said nursing homes in Connecticut are overwhelmingly non-union with only 30 percent associated with organized labor.
That means non-union workers would see overall wages increase 0.75 percent, while unionized nursing homes would receive a 5.5 percent increase. According to Barrett this amounts to a 10 cent raise for non-union workers, and an 80 cent raise for union workers - eight times the increase non-union workers would receive.
Barrett warned that if lawmakers approve the allocation they are putting at risk federal matching funds for $1.2 billion in Medicaid nursing home expenditures.
Legislative leaders Friday said they put an additional $1 million into the budget for non-union homes, bringing the wage increase funding for those homes up to $4 million.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said Friday that they were giving an additional $1 million to the non-union homes to "provide a little bit more equity."
Barrett said there's well-established case law that doesn't allow for this type of inequity to exist between union and non-union homes.
Of course it's time to change the name of the Jefferson Jackson Bailey Dinner (or "JJB" as it is now almost universally known), which is taking place next Monday. Like the removal of the confederate battle flag from the South Carolina statehouse, this is a glaringly overdue step that should have been taken decades ago. And like removing the confederate flag, the reasons for doing so have as much to do with correcting historical amnesia as they do with bowing to political correctness.
The Connecticut Democratic Party released a statement this week saying that the full name of the Party's annual dinner would be "re-evaluated." The statement didn't make any specific commitments or outline a specific time-frame for doing so. But there's no reason for foot-dragging. Aside from Jim Webb, there's no real constituency in the current Democratic coalition (the so-called "Obama coalition") that would object, strenuously or otherwise, to dropping the names of the third and seventh presidents.
Many other state and local party organizations aroud the country have already changed the name of their Jefferson Jackson Day dinners, even before the current public debate about the appropriateness of public displays of the Confederate flag and calls to remove Jackson's image from the $20 bill. A few years ago the Florida Democratic Party renamed their annual dinner "Leadership Blue Gala," which is insipid but accomplishes the important feat of not pissing anyone off. Both the Wisconsin Democratic Party and Minnesota Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party have renamed their annual dinners the "Founders' Day Gala." Sometimes 'boring but inoffensive' is the right way to go.
Is it necessary to remove both Jefferson and Jackson? Andrew Jackson was a fascinating and seminal historical figure, the first Westerner and non-aristocrat to rise to the presidency. But he was also a white supremacist, slaveowner, and an unrepentant perpetrator of genocide against Native Americans. Ending the practice of ennobling him as an icon of the Democratic Party is a no-brainer.
What about Jefferson? While Jackson's reputation has suffered considerably in recent years, Jefferson is a more ambiguous figure still held in reverence for his brilliance and statesmanship. The problem with naming a Democratic Party dinner after the third President is that he had nothing to do with the modern Democratic Party. When he ran for the presidency in 1800, Jefferson essentially made up a party, the Democratic-Republicans, as a vehicle for challenging the Federalists led by John Adams. (This inter-party competition in the early republic is known by historians as the First Party System, to distinguish it from later party formations.) There is a tenuous genealogical relationship, and no ideological one, between Jefferson's party and the modern Democratic Party which took shape under FDR. Aside from the confusing similarity of the names, the modern Democratic Party has about as much a relationship to the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans as it does to the Connecticut For Lieberman Party. Is the Democratic Party so devoid of accomplishment and neurotically insecure that it cannot find someone who was actually a member of the party to name its annual dinner after?
Long before he was US Senator, Joe Lieberman actually wrote a book about legendary party boss John Moran Bailey, whose name was added to the Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner after his death in 1975. Bailey was a colorful and capable figure whose name is worth retaining. Bailey is no longer well-known, but neither is Prescott Bush, whose name graces the Connecticut GOP's annual dinner.
Some good names to replace Jefferson and Jackson would be Ella Grasso, Connecticut's first female governor, and Boce Barlow, Connecticut's first African-American judge and state senator. Both were proud Democrats.
Personally I think the Grasso-Barlow-Bailey Dinner has a nice ring to it.