Westport State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg returns to Stream of Conscience to discuss the key issues challenging the 2013 session of the Connecticut General Assembly. Host John Hartwell interviews Jonathan about the Governor's Comprehensive Energy Strategy, the challenges of balancing the state budget, GMO labeling, and various transportation initiatives currently under consideration.
Fresh off Malloy's "victory" of getting the Chief Operating Officer of FUSE/Jumoke Academy on to the State Board of Education, the Malloy Administration, Mayor Bill Finch and "Superintendent of Schools," Paul Vallas, have apparently concocted a deal to hand Bridgeport's Paul Lawrence Dunbar Elementary School over to Hartford's Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE)/Jumoke Academy to run.
FUSE/Jumoke Academy is best known for its complete failure to provide educational opportunities to Latino and non-English speaking children, children who go home to households that don't speak English or children who need special education services.
In fact, since Jumoke Academy opened its doors in Hartford, it has failed to admit ANY non-English speaking students or ANY students from non-English speaking households. In addition, less than 4 percent of Jumoke Academy's students receive special education services.
All this despite the fact that the Jumoke Academy is located in Hartford; a city in which more than 1 in 4 students aren't fluent in English, where more than 4 in 10 go home to households where English is not the primary language and where more than 1 in 10 require some type of special education services.
As a result of this new deal, FUSE/Jumoke will be given control of the Dunbar School where, according to the State Department of Education's School Profile Database, at least 18 percent of the students go home to households where English is not the primary language and about 12 percent of the students receive special education services. Thus Team Vallas is proposing to turn a Bridgeport school over to a company that has absolutely no meaningful experience with two of the most important populations that attend Dunbar.
The legislature's Republican minority won't propose an alternative budget this year for the first time in six years, a political shift that the GOP and Democrats are now racing to define in the minds of voters.
House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, called Cafero and McKinney's decision "disappointing."
"In difficult times, politicians have a natural tendency to run away from difficult budgets," he said. "The minority leaders are choosing to follow that route. I had hoped for more. I had hoped they would step up."
"I wish I could say this was a surprise, but it's not," Andrew Doba, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's spokesman, said. "The Republicans have shown time and again that they lack substance and leadership. Representative Cafero and Senator McKinney say they want a seat at the table, but all they do is lob attacks that are inaccurate at best.
"Leadership is about setting priorities and getting them done," Doba said. Governor Malloy's priorities are clear - a balanced budget that continues investing in public education and job creation without raising taxes.
Given the Republcians long history of offering budget proposals that were not balanced, misleading, or completely hypocritical, I guess Cafero and McKinney ran out of gimmicks and opted to do what they do best...whine and complain.
Connecticut's taxpayers cover more than 80 percent of the costs associated with running Bridgeport's Schools.
For more than twenty-five years, Connecticut's primary funding mechanism has been called the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. Underfunded by about $2 billion dollars, the money is distributed to towns based on a variety of factors including the number of students living in poverty and the town's ability to come up with their own funds via their local property taxes.
Every town gets some state aid; the poorest towns get the most.
There are three criteria that towns must meet to get their state aid;
First, the entire amount of the ECS state-grant MUST be spent on education
Second, any increase in the ECS grant CAN NOT be used to supplant local funding for education.
Third, the town must invest a minimum amount of its own money, a system that is called the ECS Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR).
As the CT Post is reporting, "Mayor Bill Finch's administration is negotiating feverishly in Hartford to shrink a state-mandated $3.3 million spike in education spending that the mayor inexplicably left out of his proposed budget."
The story goes on to read, "Since Finch did not include the money in his 2013-14 fiscal plan, Bridgeport officials are now trying to convince the state they should not be on the hook for the $3.3 million because of all the unreimbursed "in-kind" school expenses the city covers."
Connecticut's entire school funding system is based on the notion of shared expenses. Bridgeport is at the very top of the list of towns that benefit from the state system.
Although the ECS fails to allocate sufficient funds to cover what the state should be paying, rather than pay their share, Bridgeport officials claim that they should be allowed to duck their responsibility to pay their required share.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that Bridgeport appears to have any ally in Ben Barnes, Malloy's Secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management.
Barnes worked for Malloy when Malloy was the Mayor of Stamford. When Malloy left the Mayor's office in Stamford to run for governor, Barnes landed in an administrative position in Bridgeport. Soon after, he transferred over to become the chief financial officer for Bridgeport schools.
Barnes knows very well that Bridgeport's schools are underfunded and he knows the requirements of the local Minimum Budget Requirement law.
However, instead of demanding the Bridgeport, like every other Connecticut city, meet its MBR Requirement, Barnes is quoted in the CT Post article as saying, "If a city takes over some $1 million activity for the (school) board, they get a credit, or vice versa...So we've agreed to look for some additional information from them. (And) we'll provide them with some additional clarification of how we're interpreting the statute."
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy dug his heels in Monday, rebutting criticisms of his budget and insisting it is not a departure from his espoused principles of fiscal responsibility.
Appearing on WNPR's "Where We Live," Malloy insisted that state finances would not fall into deficit down the road --even though his budget office projects a shortfall after the 2014 state elections.
"I think we're going to end up with a very good budget, a very sound budget that continues us down the path to restoring fiscal health in the state of Connecticut," the governor told host John Dankosky.
Malloy and state lawmakers have their work cut out for them before the regular 2013 General Assembly adjourns June 5.
Both the administration and nonpartisan legislative analysts had projected a $1.2 billion deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
And that was before they downgraded revenue projections last week for the next budget by more than $250 million. That pushed the potential shortfall close to $1.5 billion, or more than 7 percent of annual operating costs.
Though Malloy said, "We've got to figure out more ways to save money," he also said, "We won't have a deficit in the future."
About 60 people attended Tuesday's meeting of the council's Budget and Appropriations Committee to make it crystal clear they are fed up and will not tolerate another tax hike by the city's Democratic administration.
"Do you realize what you have done to us? Your people are broken," testified Bill Pelletier, whose property taxes for his home in the city's Black Rock neighborhood have ballooned from $6,000 to $36,000 in 18 years. "You want more. There is no more ... Leave this meeting tonight and hand this budget back to (Mayor) Bill Finch."
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty acted wisely last month when she returned $3,500 in campaign contributions from executives and lobbyists for Northeast Utilities, an energy company regulated by her husband, Dan Esty, who is the commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
It would also be smart of her to return campaign contributions she has received from those representing other companies in Mr. Esty's regulatory orbit, and to accept no more like them.
Ms. Esty, a first-term House member who is knowledgeable in the energy and environmental fields, has apparently broken no laws or rules in taking the money. But there's no sense in her handing political enemies a club or creating possible doubt about her husband's decisions.
In returning the donations to NU's executives and lobbyists, Ms. Esty's campaign spokesman said she was doing so "in the interest of ending an unnecessary distraction." The distractions and questions of conflict of interest won't end with the return of the NU contributions as long as she has accepted donations from people representing other regulated companies. She'll find it difficult to explain why she returned one set of contributions and not others from the same sector.
City Council members chastised Danbury school officials Tuesday, with one councilman giving administrators and the Board of Education a failing grade on their budget presentations, before approving the $227 million budget for 2013-14.
Council member Colleen Stanley, who had led an education subcommittee that called for cutting the school district budget request by $1.25 million, said questions about school spending go unanswered "year after year" by committee members.
About 30 minutes into an hour-plus discussion, council member Warren Levy said he would give school officials "an F for budget preparations."
Stanley cited budget items from previous years in the school budget that haven't been updated, money for textbooks that was never spent for that purpose, and "unprepared" school officials who didn't have answers to council members' questions.
"We always talk about getting tough," she said. "Well, I am standing by my committee's recommendation. It's time to get tough."
Help a hungry kid. Grow jobs. Speak to all constituents the same.
Those visions of "social justice" emerged Tuesday night as six candidates squared off in a mayoral debate.
The visions emerged at a "New Haven Mayoral Social Justice Debate" at Gateway Community College's downtown campus. The New Haven Independent, La Voz Hispana, and the Inner-City News sponsored the debate in conjunction with the New Haven Democracy Fund.
The event brought issues confronting New Haven's neediest to the forefront-and different visions of what it means to be a "social justice" mayor.
A standing-room only crowd packed Gateway's north cafeteria to hear clients and staffers from four social justice agencies-New Haven Legal Assistance, Christian Community Action, Junta for Progressive Action, and Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS)-pose questions to six Democrats who are seeking the nomination to replace retiring two-decade incumbent Mayor John DeStefano. Staffers at the agencies preparing the questions came up with the grassroots approach to this debate. Their goal: To make sure that low-income and working-class New Haveners have their voices heard right from the start of an important citywide election campaign.