Archives for category: Connecticut

 

Wendy Lecker, civil rights attorney, reports that Connecticut, one of the nation’s richest states, neglects the needs of its neediest students. What a disgrace! While shorting the poorest districts, Governor Malloy has poured $100 million into charter schools supported by hedge fund managers.

 

 

 

“Hartford parents, teachers and students came out in full force to last week’s Board of Education meeting to protest devastating school cuts. Owing to budget shortfalls, the district is cutting guidance counselors, intervention specialists, and other critical staff, art, sports, enrichment, SAT prep, textbooks, summer school, tutors and more. Many of Hartford high schools will be left with one counselor for 350-400 students. As one parent said, they are cutting the support Hartford students need; and the subjects that motivate them to come to school.

 
“Hartford schools already suffer severe resource deficiencies. One high school has no library or computer lab. Another has no copier in the library, and no curricular material for certain classes. The culinary academy has no money to buy food for cooking class. The nursing academy cannot offer physics, though physics is a prerequisite for any nursing school. One high school is so overrun with rodents a teacher came in one morning to find five mice in traps she laid the night before. Teachers are forced to find vendors themselves and fill out orders in vain attempts to obtain supplies that never arrive. So they buy them out of their own pockets.

 

“The conditions in which these students have to learn, and these teachers have to teach, is shameful — especially in Connecticut, a state consistently in the top five on the list of wealthiest states in America.

 

 

“Hartford is not the only Connecticut school district suffering. According to a supplement to this year’s “Is School Funding Fair: A National Report Card,” issued by the Education Law Center (my employer) and Rutgers, Connecticut is the only state consistently among the five wealthiest states to have districts on the list of America’s “most financially disadvantaged school districts.” This year, two districts are featured on this list: Bridgeport and Danbury.

 

 

“Since this list has been compiled, starting in 2012, Connecticut districts have been featured every year. Connecticut also has the dishonorable distinction of being the only wealthy state featured on the list of states whose funding system disadvantages the highest share of low income students; as measured by the percent of statewide enrollment concentrated in those most disadvantaged districts.”

 

 

Shame on Governor Malloy.

Jonathan Pelto, a former legislator in Connecticut, warns about proposed legislation that would allow the state to take control of local schools, without regard to wishes of local school board.

 

He writes:

 

“A new piece of legislation before the Connecticut General Assembly (H.B. 5551) would be the most far-reaching power grab in state history – a direct attack local control of schools, our democracy and Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, local school officials and public school.

 

“The legislation would enable Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education to takeover individual schools in a district, remove the control of the elected board of education, “suspend laws” and eliminate the role of school governance councils which are the parent’s voice in school “turnaround plans.

 

“The bill is nothing short of an authoritarian maneuver by grossly expanding the Commissioner of Education’s powers under the Commissioner’s Network. The bill destroys the fundamental role of local control because it allows the state to indefinitely take over schools and even entire districts, without a vote of local citizens.

 

“The bill removes any time limit on Commissioner’s Network Schools. It removes the cap on how many Commissioner’s Network schools can be taken over by the state. It removes the right of the local community to appoint their own turnaround committee. It eliminates the requirement that local parents, through their school governance council are included in the process.”

 

Governor Dannell Malloy is chairman of the Democratic Governors’ Association, but the proposed legislation comes from the rightwing group ALEC.

 

 

Governor Dannell Malloy can’t do enough for the charter industry. He forgives their malfeasance, he gives them more money than the public schools that educate the vast majority of the state’s children, he puts their leaders on the state board of education. The hedge fund managers of Greenwich have been the governor’s reliable financiers, but maybe that is mere coincidence.

 

The latest appointment raised eyebrows not only because the gentleman runs a charter but because the state department of education system pays him over half a million dollars a year for his services.

 

Jonathan Pelto thinks that is a conflict of interest. 

 

Charter representatives on the board should recuse themselves in any decision affecting charter schools.  Will they? Don’t count on it.

 

By the way, Malloy is chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

 

 

What at do you think?

Superintendents in Connecticut (CAPSS) have endorsed the idea of putting children in front of machines and calling it “personalized learning.” As Wendy Lecker shows in this post, this machine work is neither “personalized” nor is it “learning.”

 

How can a machine be more “personal” than a human?

 

 

Lecker writes:

 

 

In CAPSS’ incoherent version, schools will no longer be age-graded, students will design their own curricula and progress when they develop “competencies” rather than completing a school year. Rather than being grouped according to age, students will be grouped according to “mastery.” In order to progress to the next level, children will have to undergo four standardized tests a year.
Of course, any system that depends on standardized tests for advancement cannot be “personalized.” In addition, the CAPSS plan institutionalizes tracking; a harmful educational practice rejected by the Connecticut State Board of Education. Worse still, CAPSS’ version of tracking, where there is no age-grading, would humiliate a student who fares poorly on standardized tests by grouping her with children years younger than she.
The CAPSS muddled vision also proposes students not necessarily learn in school, meaning that much learning will be conducted online; a method with little evidence of success.

 

What should school look like?

 

 

If we are concerned with our children’s development into healthy responsible citizens, then personalization should mean that schools should focus on relationships — with humans, not computers. Relationships with teachers and other students are the key to keeping students engaged and in school. A longitudinal study of diverse California high schools confirmed previous research that students who feel connected to their teachers improve academically, engage in less risky behavior, and are more likely to complete high school.

 

Another recent study comparing “personalized learning” to a control group in traditional schools found that students in the control group “reported greater enjoyment and comfort in school, and felt their out-of-school work was more useful and connected to their in-school learning.” As Harvard economics professor N. Gregory Mankiw recently observed in the New York Times, “after 30 years as an educator, I am convinced that the ideal experience for a student is a small class that fosters personal interaction with a dedicated instructor.”
The need for human interaction to promote effective learning is rooted in brain development. As neuroscience expert Adele Diamond has written, the brain does not recognize a sharp division between cognitive, motor and emotional functioning. Thus, research has shown that feelings of social isolation impair reasoning, decision-making, selective attention in the face of distraction and decreases persistence on difficult problems….

 

A truly “personalized” education would ensure small classes with supports for every need; and a variety of subjects to develop students’ interests as well as their cognitive, motor and social capabilities….

 
Our children are complex, multi-dimensional beings who need deep and rich experiences to develop properly. They are not characters in a video game who just need enough points to jump to the next level. Anyone who cares about healthy child development should reject CAPSS’ narrow and de-personalized vision of learning.

 

 

“Personalized learning” on a machine is an oxymoron.

 

 

 

 

Governor Dannell Malloy of Connecticut sold his soul to hedge fund managers and corporate reformers.

 

Jonathan Pelto reports the tawdry details:

 

 

“Call it the new American Way. The billionaires, millionaires and corporate elite who fund charter schools give generously to Democratic and Republican politicians and the politicians return the favor by shifting public funds into the coffers of the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.

 

“Here is in Connecticut the system was clearly on display last week when Governor Dannel Malloy and his sidekick, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, rolled out their new “austerity budget” for 2016-2017.

 

“In classic fashion their plan slashes the full array of vital services while giving the wealthy yet another tax break. Their plan makes absolutely no effort, what-so-ever, to require Connecticut’s richest resident to pay their fair share in taxes.

 

“But their budget certainly targets the middle class and all of Connecticut’s working families, along with those who rely on state services to lead more fulfilling lives.

 

“Failing to even identify where 40 percent of the budget cuts would even come from, Malloy proposed a spending plan that would provide $720 million less than what would be necessary simply to maintain the current level of state services.

 

“Malloy targeted some of his deepest cuts for programs that help children in crisis, the developmental disabled, those with mental illness, Connecticut’s public schools, the state’s public colleges and universities, and municipal aid.

 

“Of course, the Governor promised – yet again – that he would not raise taxes … overlooking the fact that his budget would force cities and towns across Connecticut to raise taxes.

 

“But while everyone else loses under Malloy’s budget, charter schools win!

 

“In the midst of their budget slashing frenzy, Malloy and Wyman are actually increasing the amount of taxpayer funds going to Connecticut’s privately owned charter schools…..

 

“The Democratic governor and Lt. Governor who used to decry the lack of adequate funding for the state’s public schools are now proposing the deepest cuts to public education in Connecticut history.

 

“At the same time, their “generosity” toward charter schools only grows.

 

“The reason seems pretty obvious. Connecticut’s charter schools and their supporters have become a “golden egg” for Malloy’s political aspirations.

 

“In the months leading up to and through his re-election campaign, corporate education reform proponents and the charter school industry poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Malloy’s various campaign entities and organizations.

 

“Take, for example, Greenwich millionaire Jonathan Sackler.

 

“Sackler, whose company brought the world OxyContin, likes charter schools … a lot.

 

“Sackler serves on the Board of Directors of Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island and the Board of Directors of ConnCAN, the Connecticut charter school advocacy front group. Sackler helped bankroll the formation of Achievement First Inc. and was the founder of ConnCAN. He is also a major player in the national charter school movement.

 

“During Malloy’s re-election campaign, Sacker and his immediate family donated well in excess of $100,000 to Malloy’s campaign operation and the spigot didn’t stop when Malloy won a second term as governor. Since the 2014 election, the Sacklers have donated an additional $50,000 to Malloy’s political activities.

 

“According to reports filed with the Federal Election Committee and the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission, over the past few years, Dannel Malloy’s fundraising operatives have collected more than $330,000 from the people who serve on the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors, the ConnCAN Board of Directors or play a leadership role in Connecticut’s charter school and corporate education reform organizations.

 

“The truth is that the corporate elite behind the Pro-Common Core, Pro-Common Core testing, Pro-Charter School and Anti-teacher agenda that Dannel Malloy has been pushing have become one of Malloy’s most important sources of campaign cash.”

 

 

 

 

 

Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy is faithful to his state’s hedge fund managers, who supported his campaigns. But he is not faithful to the children, parents, and educators of his state.

 

Malloy is offering a nice increase for charter schools, but budget cuts for the public schools that educate the vast majority of students. Perhaps Malloy forgot that the charter sector was rocked by scandal less than two years ago.

 

Malloy broke his promise to legislators and the public.

 

“Charter schools have escaped Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget knife and are slated for a $9.3 million boost in his newly proposed state budget.

 

“But the Democratic governor also wants a $52.9 million cut in funding for special education, after-school programs, reading tutors and other services in low-performing public schools across the state.

 

“Malloy also wants to rescind an $11.5 million funding increase in the Education Cost Sharing grants for next school year. It is the state’s principal education grant to municipal schools, and the idea of a reduction is not sitting well with some of the lawmakers who helped approve the ECS money last year.

 

“In order to secure the votes needed to pass the two-year budget last June, lawmakers reached a deal to appease both the urban legislators upset that state aid for neighborhood schools was not increasing and the governor, insistent on increased state funding so two new charter schools could open. The budget agreement upped funding for both charters and traditional public schools in each of the following two years.

 

“Rep. Edwin Vargas, D-Hartford, one of the more than dozen concerned legislators last spring, is upset that the governor is now backing off the increase for neighborhood schools but keeping the increase for charter schools.

 

“This was bad-faith bargaining,” said Vargas, a former teacher and union leader. “We swallowed this bitter pill of spending millions to open new charters and the sweetener was the additional money for the local districts. That was the way many of us could bring ourselves to support the budget.”

 

“It was a very close vote,” he continued, “and had people known that they were going to renege on part of the deal, it might have affected some of the votes on the final budget.”

 

In Stamford, the governor’s proposal means the public schools will not get the $225,000 increase they would have received, but the new charter school in town will get about $3 million more so enrollment can increase. That charter school and another in Bridgeport are to expand by about 650 seats.

 

“Other towns in line not to receive previously scheduled increases include Danbury ($1 million), Rocky Hill ($450,000), Shelton ($500,000), Southbury ($600,000), West Hartford ($1.6 million) and Wethersfield ($530,000). These increases would have ensured that every district receives at least 55 percent of what the state’s education funding formula says they deserve when factoring in town wealth and student need.”

 

Jonathan Pelto, former legislator and current courageous blogger in Connecticut, says that his daughter will not take the SAT test required of all juniors.

In response to parental objections to the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment, Connecticut dropped SBAC and replaced it with the Common Core-aligned SAT.

“Thanks to a contract signed by Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Dianna R. Wentzell and approved by Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education, Connecticut taxpayers will be shelling out in excess of $4.3 million in scarce public funds, over the next three years, to the College Board, the company that owns the SAT. In return, the College Board will allow students to take their NEW SAT — a test that has yet to be validated and has come under increasing criticism because, despite their claims, the SAT fails to adequately predict how students will do in college.

“This latest debacle started last spring when, in the face of growing opposition to the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme, the Connecticut General Assembly and Governor Malloy decided to replace the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory 11th grade SBAC test with a new mandate that all high school juniors take what is likely to be an equally unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory NEW SAT.

“However, neither Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education nor the legislators had ever seen the NEW SAT that they are now trying to force 11th grader to take. They hadn’t seen it because the new version of the SAT isn’t even being released until March 2016.

“As the College Board website proclaims, students across the United States can take the NEW SAT for the first time on March 5, 2016 which means that Connecticut’s 40,000 juniors are truly little more than an initial round of guinea pigs for a testing company whose revenue is already in excess of $841 million a year….

“In my daughter’s case, of the dozen or so colleges that she is considering applying to, the majority DO NOT require an SAT test.

“For those schools that do require a standardized test score, my daughter will be taking the old version of the SAT on February 20, 2016. The last date for taking the old version of the SAT was supposed to be last week (January 23, 2016) but due to the snow storm on Saturday, the testing was postponed until the end of February….

“While she won’t be participating in the SAT test being “mandated” by the state of Connecticut, on March 2, 2016, if we determine that she should take the NEW SAT, then there are plenty of options to take the test in the spring, summer and fall, after the initial problems with the NEW SAT have been identified and resolved.

“What we won’t do is serve as pawns for the state of Connecticut’s attempt to collect standardized tests results so that they can unfairly evaluate teachers. Governor Malloy’s “education reform initiative” requires local school district to base 22.5 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on the standardized test results of their students.

“My daughter won’t be relegated to being a test subject for the College Board’s attempt to reclaim market share.

“Instead, we will do what is best for my daughter’s college aspirations – the state and its testing obsession be damned.”

Jonathan Pelto is a veteran political analyst in Connecticut and a former legislator. He is concerned about the rise of Donald Trump, and he understands that Trump taps into middle-class and working-class anger. Why are they angry? Connecticut has seen little economic growth, jobs are not increasing, the gap between rich and poor is getting wider.

Ever wonder who is the supplying the money behind the privatization of public schools?

It is a long list, and it starts with the U.S. Department of Education. Every year since 1994, your taxpayer dollars have been used to open schools that drain resources from your public schools while selecting the students they want. If your state has charters, you can expect that they will lobby the legislature for more charters. They will close their schools, hire buses, and send students, teachers, and parents to the State Capitol, all dressed in matching T-shirts, to demand more charters. Since the children are already enrolled in a charter and can’t attend more than one, they are being used to advance the financial interests of charter chains, which want to expand.

The big foundations support the growth of the charter industry: the Walton Family Foundation has put more than $1 billion into charters and vouchers; the Gates Foundation and the Eli Broad Foundation also put millions into charters, often partnering with the Far-right Walton Foundation.

There is a long list of other foundations that fund the assault on public education, including the John Arnold Foundation (ex-Enron trader), the Dell Foundation, the Helmsley Foundation, the Fisher Family Foundation (Gap and Old Navy), the Michael Bloomberg Foundation, and many more.

Here is a list of the funders of 50CAN, which started in Connecticut as ConnCAN, created by billionaires, corporate executives, and hedge fund managers, led by Jonathan Sackler, uber-rich Big Pharma.

Here is an example of a foundation that is very active in support of privatization. Check out where their money goes.

ALEC uses its clout with far-right legislators to promote charters and vouchers, as well as to negate local control over charters.

To see where the Walton Family Foundation spread over $202 million to advance privatization, look here.

The money trail is so large, that it is hard to know where to begin. Certain recipients do collect large sums with frequency, including KIPP, Teach for America, Education Trust, to name just a few.

As we say at the Network for Public Education, we are many, they are few. They have money, we have votes. Out ideas for children and education are sound, their ideas fail every time, everywhere.

Jonathan Pelto notes the arrival of a new front group to promote charters in Connecticut. He also notes that the name is new, but the people are the same as the existing front groups.

“As Connecticut faces yet another massive state budget crisis, even more Pro-Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry money is flowing into Connecticut to help grease the charter school operators’ efforts to grab additional public funds courtesy of charter school aficionado and “education reform” groupie Governor Dannel Malloy.

“This time the corporate funded charter school lobbyists are calling themselves “Fight for Fairness CT” and are rallying in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford.

“Charter school organizers are using http://www.fightforfairnessct.org, a website that was created by a New York City advertising company on October 23 2015.

“Although they are calling themselves by a different name, the group is actually the same controversial New York based charter school lobby group known as “Families for Excellent Schools” http://www.familiesforexcellentschools.org/ except when they call themselves “Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy.”

“While their primary purpose has been to support Eva Moskowitz and the other New York Charter School operators, Families for Excellent Schools arrived in Connecticut from New York last year and registered both Families for Excellent Schools AND Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy as lobbying entities with Connecticut’s Office of State Ethics.

“However, Families for Excellent Schools immediately created a new front group called Coalition for Every Child, setting up a website named http://www.foreverychildct.org/

“When slapped for failing to register Coalition for Every Child with the Connecticut’s ethics office, the New Yorkers quickly changed their name to Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child.

“This year Families for Excellent Schools has spent nearly $1.2 million lobbying in favor of Governor Malloy’s charter school and education reform initiatives.

“A quick glimpse at the newly formed http://www.fightforfairnessct.org will reveal the same logo as the old http://www.foreverychildct.org/, although they did change the color from Yellow to Blue to go along with the new t-shirts that Families for Excellent Schools are handing out to charter school parents and students in New York and Connecticut.”

The charter school kudzu.

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