Challenges and Changes Ahead for Public Education

school-buses-005-2xThe decision on CCJEF (Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding) vs Rell lawsuit was announced and should have significant impact on educational funding in Connecticut.  The decision is far reaching and looks to change not only how schools are funded but also priorities in funding allocation.

Here are the key components of the decision:

  1. A ruling that it is NOT UNCONSTITUTIONAL for the state to have a public education financing system that is NOT based on the amount of money it takes to provide every child equitable access to an adequate educational program.
  2. A ruling that the present system for funding public education in CT is unconstitutional because it is irrational.  The judge gave the State 180 days to submit to the plaintiffs in the case a system that is rational.
  3. An apparent ruling that the State has to develop a system for requiring students to actually demonstrate that they have mastered specified content and skills before being awarded a high school diploma and a requirement that there be a State graduation exit exam established for this purpose.
  4. An apparent ruling that the current system for teacher evaluation be revamped so that compensation is based on the results of teacher evaluation.
  5. An apparent ruling that would require the State not to program for children whose special needs are so severe that education cannot materially influence the quality of their lives.

Appeals in the case are likely but it would appear at this juncture all school districts will face significant changes in the future.  Under the ruling, gone would be the days of social promotion and high school diplomas presented with little basis in merit.

Teacher compensation currently structured by contractual obligations rather than individual productivity or merit would be changed to a system based on results of teacher evaluation.  In the land of steady habits, it will be difficult to facilitate real change and not window dressing to institute a realistic system of evaluation and compensation.

Special education would no longer be required for children whose needs are so severe that education cannot materially influence their quality of life.  This may not be as clear cut as it sounds and remains open to some interpretation.  Currently special education costs for a single student can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The “irrational” system for funding education must be changed in Connecticut.   The new formula, under this decision, will not be based on a false premise of a constitutional guarantee to provide every child equitable access to an adequate educational program.

One thing for sure lobbyist and special interest groups will be active to pressure our legislature to preserve, protect and promote their positions as new policies are written.

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Remembering Keith Allan Miller

Keith Allen Miller 5/27/48 - 9/7/67

Keith A Miller
5/27/48 – 9/7/67

It’s never a happy day, yes there may be outward smiles but inside there is a sense of loss, a memory and thoughts of what might have been.  It was over 60 years ago we were little kids in Buckley School, we played tag and ran on the playground.  It was the 1950’s and sometimes we walked home for lunch.

The years are long but the memory is crystal clear of the day Keith and I walked to the top of Barry Road and Keith challenged me, “race you down the hill” and with that he took off.  I was tall and thin with a long stride, Keith was short but solid and fleet of foot.  I gave it all I had but I never had a chance, I remember thinking, “I wish I could run like that”.

As I think back and remember, “run” was not a word to associate with Keith.  When we picked our teams Keith was a kid you wanted on your side.  You knew Keith would cover you, he would have your back, and Keith would stand his ground.  His hands were as quick as his feet.

We walked different paths, but I never forgot the race down the hill, I never forgot the kid that would not back down.  Now I reflect how well his choice to be a Marine fit his personality.  He was tough, he was strong, and he was determined.

When I hear the National Anthem or see a Marine I think of Keith.  I think of how young he was, I think of hopes and dreams, I reflect on life and what he sacrificed.  As the rain falls today I will think of tears of sadness shed for Keith and all our fallen soldiers.   Memorial Day, is to honor and remember those that gave their last breath in service to our United States.

I will go back to Buckley School today, I will view a memorial for my friend Keith.  I will bow my head, and say a prayer.  The tears that roll along my cheek may look like drops of rain cascading off my face but I will be remembering.  I will remember he never had a chance to live out his hopes and dreams.

I will remember Keith and I will remember his family.  I will remember his mother.  There has always been a special place within my heart for Keith’s mom.  She suffered and endured greatly for our nation, she lost both a husband and a son in service to our nation.  She will be remembered.

I will remember Keith’s siblings, and the heartache of emptiness that his passing has left.  I will remember because I can never forget my friend, Keith Allan Miller.  I can never forget what he and his family lost in Vietnam on September 7, 1967………………rest in peace, Keith.

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Shakespeare, Trump and the IRS

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

The internet, newspapers, and talk radio are awash with debate, comment and opinion concerning Donald Trump’s tax returns.  What is all the fuss about?  Why such concern?  Consider this, it may well be it has little to do with his return and more to do with politics and perception.

We all pay taxes and most people would like to pay less and many people would like to have some people pay more.  The tax topic has been a hot button issue in the Democratic primary but the reality of their policies doesn’t nearly match their rhetoric.  (More on that later)

Hillary calling out Donald Trump over taxes creates a diversion from the real issues of the Presidential campaign and frankly his tax return is of little substantive value in considering him as a candidate.  How many of people so upset over not yet seeing his tax return have the tax knowledge to understand how to prepare such a return?  I am absolutely certain Donald Trump does not sit down on April 14th and write up his own return or his form 1040.

The only real question should be did he pay taxes as required by law?  He says, he is currently being audited by the IRS, ok that seems realistic considering the complexity of the return a person of wealth may have.  There are thousands of pages in the tax code and legal opinions vary as to some regulations so an audit review does not seem unreasonable.

As voters our real question and concern should be did he legally file a return based on legal interpretation of the IRS code.  The answer will be judged by the IRS auditors and that could take a considerable amount of time.  Unless the law is broken a candidate’s tax return proves little more than the fact they or their tax preparer complied with the tax laws.

Frankly the amount of tax Donald Trump paid or did not pay should be more a problem for the Democratic Party than Donald Trump.  It is a matter of record, the Democrats had control of both the House and the Senate in addition to the White House during the first Obama term.   Therefore, if Trump followed the law and passes the audit he has followed the tax code the Democrats either endorsed or did not chose to change.  Hence there should be no question or concern with his return but there could well be many questions about the Democratic Party actions that set the rules for Trump to follow in preparation of his return.

Some folks are pointing out some other Presidents have disclosed their tax returns and Richard Nixon disclosed his during an audit.  It matters little if any candidate for any office discloses their tax returns it is not a requirement for office and for that matter it is not a normal requirement for any employment application.  That being said, it is common for any employer to ask for a college transcript and yet our current President had his college transcript sealed to hide the facts from public disclosure.  Many of those making a fuss over Trump’s taxes showed little concern for Obama’s transcript.

Hillary asking about Trump’s tax return brings to mind, Hamlet and the words of Queen Gertrude when she said, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”  Shakespeare was a wise and complex playwright and perhaps if he were alive today he would pen a play about this tax issue and call it Much Ado About Nothing Part II.

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The Quilt

Sewing a quilt, more than just stitching, it delivers a message.

Sewing a quilt, more than just stitching, it delivers a message.

It was a rainy late September evening when the ladies gathered in the community room of the Congregational church, woman of different faiths and traditions.  A collection of mostly older woman, it appeared to be a gathering of grandmothers.  They had come together with the idea of making a community quilt to sell for charity.

Agnes, a woman of eighty, tried to run the meeting as best she could but everyone had an opinion and many were intransigent.  Coming together with a meeting of the minds on a single quilt was soon tossed aside and it was decided they would meet through the winter and each would work on their own quilt.  The idea soon morphed into a spring quilt show.  Mabel was the oldest and sat quietly off to the side.

Each week through the winter the group would gather share stories and hand sew another patch or two to their quilts.  Mabel watched, said little and only sewed on small patches each week.  As the other quilts grew in size the others realized Mabel was doing things a little different.

Mildred soon reached out to Mabel and asked if she needed helpMabel simply explained, “My hands are frail and I sew a little slower now, so each week I come to enjoy the company, and work only on parts for my quilt.  During the week I sew each of the pieces slowly together at home when I can think about the meaning of each new patch and how it fits, into the total picture, it would be hard for me to haul the quilt here each week.’

The cold New England winter nights were warmed by the chatter and laughter as the women stitched.  Olga was proud of the progress with her Scandinavian design, she had learned to quilt at her grandma’s table.  Anne was creating a tribute to her granddaughter and her love of flowers.   Holly thought her town historical theme would surely win grand prize.   Nobody paid much attention to the little squares of cloth Mabel slowly sewed, they were more consumed by their own quilts and the appearance of their neighbor’s quilt.

On the last Saturday of May just before Memorial Day the woman all arrived early at the community room, each to hang their quilt for the afternoon show.  There was a buzz in the air, as each lady hung her finished quilt, the judging would be at noon.  At 11:00 Rachael noticed Mabel’s spot was empty and word quickly passed as thoughts of concern spread from mouth to ears.

At 11:20 a tall young man with a big box opened the door.  There coming slowly up the steps was Mabel, “I hope I am not too late, I just could not carry my quilt”.  She showed her grandson where to put the quilt and asked if he could be the one to hang it.  “I want the next generation to understand, who we are” she said.

He opened the box and ever so gently with reflection of reverence he lifted the quilt sewn by his grandmother’s frail hands and hung it up for all to see.  The room fell silent, as the others gathered around, before them was more than a quilt, before them was a work of art, a treasure of perfection.  There was no doubt in anyone’s mind the Grand Champion Blue Ribbon quilt would be Mabel’s.

What hung before them looked like a tribute to America.  A quilt large enough for a king-sized bed, with an American Flag in the four corners, along the borders were the faces of people from different cultures, and ethnicity.  The patches were filled with outlines of each State and patches depicting professionals like firemen, teachers, doctors and barbers.  There were famous American’s like Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant and Ronald Reagan.

The women swelled with pride on being an American, a country so diverse and tolerant, a country more tolerant than the group had been when it first got together.  The display was not complete, for each entry had to be finished and had to have a title card.  It was nearly noon, Mabel’s card was not hung and one square in the middle was covered with a tissue.  Rose asked, “Why it was hung without being finished?”

Mabel smiled and said, “I wanted all of you to see my work without preconceptions, to think about it with an open mind, to understand what a big tent we have in this nation, that we are a sum of our parts, working together to accomplish great things for our great nation”. Voices rang out, we get it, you are so right, and some began to chant USA, USA.

Mabel raised her hands to quiet the crowd, she had only 30 seconds to finish her display.  As her grandson took out a card and pinned it to the top, Mildred tore away the tissue, and with that she yelled, “It is time to come together”.  The card read, “The Republican Party” and the center patch was the face of Donald J. Trump.

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Courtney Fails To Deliver, Ann Brookes Is The Answer

Ann Brookes, Candidate for Congress

Ann Brookes, Candidate for Congress

My Congressman, Joe Courtney sent me an email telling me how Obamacare is saving money for people all across his district on healthcare.  Then I went to a Town Meeting and my local government leaders told me about my taxes going up due to the increases in health insurance for town employees due to requirements of Obamacare.

Gone was the smoke and mirrors, gone was political rhetoric of Congressman Courtney, the light of day was upon us and the financial facts were a stark reality,  Obamacare is costing every taxpayer more money.  It is an undeniable fact.

Joe Courtney has failed the 2nd District, his voice is an echo for the Progressive Liberal Wing of the Democratic Party.  Joe has taken the wrong road, a dirt road where the dust kicks up to cover his tracks and he disappears in a cloud of dust when it counts the most.  The fact is Connecticut can’t trust Joe Courtney to take the right road.

Congressman Courtney followed the political path of least resistance, guided by Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama, a path of poor economic policy that has given us the only American President in U. S. history who did not deliver a single year of economic growth over 3%.  When the people of the second district needed a shepherd, Joe was a sheep in a flock of misguided Democrats.

When we needed Joe, in the dark of night, he failed to read the bill, he failed to do the job.  Now he wants our votes and says he has the answer to fix the problem he created.  Well Joe, I have an answer too and her name is Ann Brookes.

Ann Brookes is a new political face with the experience and intellect to do the job right the first time.  Ann is an accomplished leader, she has created and executed economic recovery strategy both at home and aboard.  She has worked with world leaders on large scale projects and worked with folks like us when they needed assistance to deal with the burdens of government taxation.  Ann Brookes, gets the job done and done right the first time.  Unlike Joe, Ann Brookes will not have to go back to fix a law she voted for, Ann will do it right the first time, that’s the way Ann Brookes has always done the job.

Ann Brookes is proud to be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and understands our Constitution, Ann believes in the importance of that document.  She understands the important contributions immigrants have brought to this county, and she supports legal immigration.

Our economy, our security and our future are the driving motivations behind Ann Brookes running for Congress.  We need new economic policies and Ann, as a tax attorney understands the impact that changes will bring.  Our security depends on a strong military, secure borders and wise leadership in foreign affairs.  Ann Brookes will bring an intellectual level of excellence with reasoned judgement to Congress as a voice of the people in the 2nd district.  Ann will be an independent voice of the people not a pawn of the politically powerful.

The voters of the 2nd District have seen the failures of Joe Courtney as America is being taken down the wrong path on the issues of; national security, immigration, economic stability, healthcare, national debt, even our infrastructure is crumbling and our veterans are being ignored, enough is enough.

The good news is the solution for the voters of the 2nd District is easier to understand than Joe’s common core math.  The solution is a move back to the basics.  Getting rid of Joe Courtney is as easy as learning your ABC’s.

All you need to know is:  Ann Brookes, Congress

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The University of Connecticut Foundation Goes South With The Money

From Raising HaleRecently the University of Connecticut Foundation announced the selection of a Houston-based investment management firm to oversee $130 million of endowment funds. Covariance Capital Management shall act as an outsourced chief investment officer of the foundation.

While the $130 million only represents a portion of the approximately $363 million endowment funds most recently reported as of last September, there are opportunities to increase the management opportunities based on Covariance’s performance. Covariance is an established and known firm within the industry managing approximately $2.3 billion for clients as of September 30, 2015.

Why the interest you may ask? Well recently the Connecticut media focused attention on General Electric relocating corporate headquarters outside of Connecticut. Much was made about the impact on Fairfield County. The same county that is nationally known as a mecca of financial service firms.

The expertise in the field of investments and banking available in Fairfield County is well known on a national basis. It is these very services that generate enormous funds for the State of Connecticut in the form of taxes. The very taxes UConn depends on for funding.

The importance of buying locally is recognized by the growing popularity of farmers markets across Connecticut and other efforts to support local small business. We all know that local business supports our communities, with jobs and taxes providing money for our schools and local government.

UConn should be more cognizant of the hand that feeds them. Taking their business opportunities out of state does not strengthen our economy, does not provide jobs, nor generate taxes to support their very institution.

Legislators should be asking questions about this decision. Our legislators are being pressured to increase funding for UConn at the same time UConn is taking business opportunities out of Connecticut.

One hand washes the other, and perhaps it is time for UConn to get a lesson in the economics of having clean hands. Somebody has to tell the University of Connecticut Foundation this is a two-way street before our financial services industry takes a one-way street out of Connecticut like General Electric and a growing number of taxpayers already have.

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Why Valentine’s Day?

red_heart_312695A while back, in the year 270, the Roman emperor Claudius II had the idea that married men made poor soldiers; it seems they didn’t want to leave home and go fight wars. So the simple solution was to declare by proclamation that marriage be forbidden.

Secretly people would seek out a Christian bishop named Valentine and he would marry folks in defiance of the emperor. Claudius soon had Valentine brought before him to answer for his actions. The emperor tried to convert Valentine to be a roman pagan and the bishop tried convert the emperor to Christianity. An obvious bad move for Bishop Valentine, he was merely sent to prison and sentenced to death for his audacity.

While awaiting his final day, the bishop fell in love with the jailer’s blind daughter. You have to be thinking this was not going to be a long term relationship but, I digress. On February 14th Bishop Valentine was executed but not before he left a note to his love and signed it, Your Valentine. Years went by and Valentine was declared a saint. There you have it, today we celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day with a day dedicated to thoughts of love.

Now as it so happens in ancient Rome February 14th was the eve of the feast of Lupercalia. Ok guys listen up and check this out. The maidens would put their names in a jar and the men would draw a name to be matched up as partners for the festival and frequently for the year.

The custom was not considered exactly moral by the Christian church, in fact it was considered a rather obscene custom. The Church later replaced the Feast of Lupercalia with Saint Valentine’s Day.

So there you have it, and now you know why we buy cards for Valentine’s Day and celebrate love. Today it may even be considered a Hallmark Holiday as we buy more cards for this day than any other except Christmas.

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