Tag Archives: Education

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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The Scales of Justice  The Old State House  Hartford, CT

The Scales of Justice
The Old State House
Hartford, CT

If you are a resident of Hartford and your child registers for school in Glastonbury without the permission or knowledge of the Glastonbury Board of Education you would be breaking the law. You would be in essences stealing educational services paid for by the taxpayers of Glastonbury. It is a reasonable position for Glastonbury to expel that student or even prosecute the parent that knowingly registered the student illegally.

Laws are in place to protect society, to ensure safety, fairness and order among other things. When you break the law you should expect to pay a price for your transgression, you should learn early in life the meaning of personal responsibility.

Should there be exceptions to the rule, should we reward criminals for their transgressions? Should we as a society say, it is fine for you to ignore our rule of law, we as a society are willing to accept responsibility for your actions and we will pay the price for your transgression?

Before you answer that last question look at another set of circumstances dealing with education. Suppose a person illegally enters the country, illegally enrolls their child in the same Glastonbury school district as the Hartford resident did in the first paragraph. If the student stays two years and graduates from Glastonbury without Glastonbury discovering the illegal act, what should be done?

Well there is no need to answer because the reality of the situation is the Democratic leadership in the State Legislature with the approval of Governor Dan Malloy has already put the answer into law. The graduate would be rewarded with better treatment than a native born child of a taxpaying family from our neighboring State of New York.

Under our previous law an undocumented student had to attend school in Connecticut for four years to be eligible for in-state tuition fees, when a student graduates and enrolls in state institution of higher learning. Now if they entered the country illegally (call it undocumented if you like) and managed to have the taxpayers provide them with free education for only two years they will be rewarded with in-state tuition fees if they choose to enroll in a state institution of higher learning.

When it comes to personal responsibility, rule of law, and public trust the Governor and his minions in the Connecticut General Assembly have failed the law abiding taxpayers in Connecticut. While they dream up new taxes, and new burdens for working families struggling to make ends meet they willingly reward those that thumb their nose at our culture and our belief in the rule of law and personal responsibility.

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“March Madness” Is More About Life Than Just Playing Sports

trophyHigh schools across the state, colleges and university across the country competed this weekend for basketball championships.  For some it will be the culmination of a playing career for others it will be another step on the road of competition.

As a single moment in time the outcome of each game is important to the players and fans but the real reward is not found on the court in a single play or final score.  No the real value is found over a season.

Participation in high school sports is pure amateur competition.   It is the memory of the road taken together through a season that they will remember, the bonding, the thrill of victory and success they had together as a team. Win or lose the players will remember their moments of joy and the experience of the season for life. They may not recall the scores, wins and losses but 30 years from now they will remember the journey and the “brothers or sisters” they played with.  In the game of life they all won something this year; life lessons and memories.

Too often our emphasis is placed on winning and losing, too often we lose sight of the benefits of sports participation.  Too often we measure success in terms of playing time or points scored; we forget the importance and role of participation in education and life experience.  Too often we equate amateur sports participation to professional sports where winning is the only ultimate goal, where losing means coming up short and losses are never moral victories.

Soon the entire nation will turn some level of attention to “March Madness” the annual national NCAA Basketball Tournament for men and women to crown a national champion.  We will see great moments of emotion with tears of joy and tears of disappointment, but the real memory for the players will be the road traveled since October. Not all of education comes in a classroom there is much we learn about life on courts and fields.  Why would we risk losing these moments?

There is another road of “March Madness”, a political road that raises an ugly head in too many communities and too often in March.  Too often as budgets are formulated and adjusted we see politicians place sports on the chopping block.  While it may be an easy political move to create emotional support for higher spending it is “March Madness” at its’ worse.

Threatening students and using their emotions and enthusiasm to reach political goals is flat out wrong.  It is the wrong road for adult leadership and the wrong road for the long-term goals of education.  It is equally wrong to reach into the pockets of students to support sports participation as it would be to charge them to take a math or science course.

Have you ever wondered why students and parents are charged admission to view a student play basketball but are not charge to watch baseball, soccer or volleyball?  Ever wonder why taxpayers spend millions of dollars on education and yet when they want to view a student and evaluate their performance in a school play they are charged to view what their tax dollars have paid for to produce?  Just another form of “March Madness”



An Eye On Ackert, Part 4 Politics And Special Education

ackertState Representative Tim Ackert as a Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Joint Education Committee has educational issues on his mind.  One of those issues is the problem of funding for mandated State services added after a local budget has been approved.

Every year in Coventry and many other towns across Connecticut, funding for local education consumes more than 75% of the annual town budget.  A significant expenditure in the education budget is the allocation of limited resources for our investment into special education services.  The addition of one or more students can make a significant impact in many budgets.

Special education services are mandated by the State with only a portion of the cost being funded by the State.  This can create a financial hurdle when one or more students are added after the budget approval.  The financial impact can be multiple times higher for a single special education student than a student not requiring such services.

Representative Ackert has not only identified this as a problem, he is proposing something be done to address the problem.  Ackert is proposing in HB-5399 that the state be required to reimburse school districts one hundred per cent of the cost of special education for a student who enrolls in the school district in the middle of the school year.

The problem however occurs once a student enrolls after a budget is passed and not just by enrolling after the school year is half over.  The proposal will not totally fix the problem but it is a step in the right direction and may be a compromise to gain support for serious consideration.

In the present form the proposal represents a compromise of fairness between the State and local or regional school districts.  In proposing legislation, it is sometimes wise politics to take small steps to the greater goal than attempting to leap frog over the goal line.

This proposal should receive wide support from every Board of Education and they would be prudent to alert their own Representatives to strongly support HB-5399.  It would be equally sensible for taxpayers to pass this information along to friends across the State of Connecticut.  Activating support from every Board Of Education would be the right thing to do for every student of special needs and every Connecticut taxpayer.

Representative Ackert has voiced concern in the past for the financial burdens State mandates place on local budgets.  This proposal clearly shows he is not only thinking about it, but he is trying to do something about it.

Tim’s concern for taxpayers and the burden of state mandates is also reflecting in his proposal HJ-18 calling for a resolution to amend the State Constitution.  This amendment would require a vote of two-thirds of the General Assembly for municipal mandates.  The proposal would have major political impact and therefore will have little chance of passage at this time.  That does not however, diminish the value of the idea or character of the man making the proposal.

Standing up for your constituents is always the right thing to do; getting things done is not always so easy.  A good politician is the one that can get what he wants for the people he represents.

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An Eye On Ackert, Part 3, Education A Risky Proposal

ackertThere is no question as to State House Republican Tim Ackert’s interest and dedication to education.  He is the Ranking Member for his party on the Education Committee and his resume shows a history of involvement with education.  Tim has a strong desire to improve educational opportunities but his latest proposal (HB-6178) needs some scrutiny.

We have all heard the expression, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.  So let’s take a look at the path Mr. Ackert wants to walk, as he offers what is no doubt a proposal of good intention.

HB-6178 is An Act Establishing A Tax Credit For Donations To School Districts it is Tim’s proposal and his alone, with no co-sponsors.  Tim is asking to amend State Statutes to provide a tax credit to individuals and businesses that donate money, supplies or equipment to local or regional boards of education.  On the surface this sounds wonderful but below the surface the idea has trouble written all over it.

This is not a tax deduction proposal, it is a tax credit, and there is a major difference.  A deduction allows for the donation to be deducted from calculations to determine the amount of money from which taxes will be paid.  A tax credit on the other hand is a direct deduction from the amount of taxes due.  The impact could be enormous and devastating to some communities and equally devastating to state government.

This proposal opens a “can of worms” a “Pandora’s Box” when it directly diverts tax dollars to a specific line item without a vote of the community but rather by the actions of individuals.  It would allow for special interests to divert tax dollars to special causes.  If we applied the same thinking to other issues we could see diversion of funding for hunting, political races or environmental protection.

To illustrate the danger let me provide a scenario.  The Town of Coventry votes in May on a budget that is developed largely from Dec. to March.  If the budget were to pass in May it would be based on anticipated tax revenue to be collected starting in July.  If however, a tax credit were to be allowed where you could donate money directly to Boards of Education in lieu of taxes the amount collect could be substantially altered.

In many towns the largest employer is the Board of Education, like it or not those employees are a special interest group that could easily wait until the budget is passed then divert a huge percentage of tax dollars to their employer.  This action could severely harm the general government budget and in fact require layoffs and major cuts in services.

The problem gets exacerbated if other top taxpayers decided to also follow suit.  Major companies could as a public relations matter suddenly decide not to support government at all and divert all tax money to educations.

There is more to government than education, we still need, roads, bridges, fire and police departments not to mention other vital services.  While the example above points out the problem if a tax credit is allowed on local taxes the same holds true for state taxes.

This proposal is a case of good intentions with risky actions, potentially opening the door to financial disaster.  Opening a door to diversion of tax dollars by individuals and businesses, while well intentioned, is not good policy.  The allocation of tax dollars should continue to be a matter voted on by the taxpayers and or their representatives.

This series will continue with the next Opining Quill

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An Eye On Ackert, Your Voice At The Capital Part 1


Tim Ackert

Tim Ackert is a second term Republican State Representative serving the towns of Coventry, Columbia and a portion of Tolland and Vernon.  Representative Ackert is a member of the legislature’s Education Committee, Higher Education & Employment Advancement Committee, and Human Services Committee.

Tim acts in a role of leadership as the Republican Ranking House Member of the Education Committee.  Education is the largest component in every local budget and this makes Ackert’s leadership all the more important to constituents.

While committee participation is important it is not the only work or contribution a Representative makes to our government.  Committee work is often an exercise in cooperation, concessions and compromise.  It is the individual proposals written by any Representative that give us an idea of their priorities, direction and desires.  So it is there we shall look for some insight into our voice in government, Representative Tim Ackert.

Each proposal is called a Bill and each is assigned a number.  The number preceding the information below is the Bill Number, useful if you would like to track the Bill or communicate to your Representative interest in the Bill. The following are some of the proposals put forth by Rep. Ackert for this session of the General Assembly.

Some of the Bills are self-explanatory such as Bill HB-5414 which would eliminate hunting fees for bow and arrow hunters who are sixty-five or older.  Bills of this type are often a direct result of a constituent request.

In some instances Tim has identified a problem and taken action to correct the situation for the betterment of all citizens.  Bill HB-5447 is just such a case it is an act to require to require the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles to mail each registered motor vehicle owner’s motor vehicle registration renewal application and such owner’s notice of emissions testing requirements in a single envelope.

It is a bill designed to save postage fees and to reduce the amount of late fees being paid by drivers across Connecticut.  According to Rep. Ackert “In 2005 the state didn’t collect any emission late fees, a few years later it was a couple hundred thousand dollars and in fiscal year 2012 the state collected more than $3.4 million in late fees,” Ackert said. “It’s obvious that the state is not clear enough in the emissions testing notification. The fee has gone from a penalty for a few to a source of income for the state. That can’t continue.”  A public hearing on HB-5447 will be held today.

Sometimes Representatives work together on an issue and such is the case on HB-5772 where Rep. Ackert joined with Rep. Miller from the 122nd District to co-sponsor a Bill to prohibit the imposition of new unfunded state mandates on municipalities for a period of two years.  This would be particularly helpful as local communities struggle to control tax increase in current weak and harsh economy.

This is only the first look at Tim’s proposals in the next posting we shall look at proposals for the treatment of persons with psychiatric disabilities, revisions of gasoline taxes and the treatment of prison inmates.

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It’s Time To Pick Up “The Can” And Get In The Game

Kick-the-CanThe problem of illegal immigration has been kicked down the street so far it can no longer be avoided.  Political pundits rightly point out that the law breaking Latinos have become a political liability for Republican politicians.  Actually the numbers make it an issue for both parties.

For decades American politicians from both parties have failed to properly secure our borders, particularly our border with Mexico. Our elected representatives in Congress have kicked the can of responsible government down the street when it came to the issue of illegal immigration.  Now the number of people in this country illegally has become a major issue, it can no longer be ignored.

For the politicians it is not about people, it is all about numbers, after letting so many people violate the law for so long and failing to enforce regulations and law we are now overwhelmed with the problem.  Unfortunately it is a political pattern we are repeating.

We have become a country of lazy citizens abdicating our responsibility to elected leaders and putting our heads in the sand to ignore their activities.  We listen to their rhetoric and blindly follow, lacking the education or the will to understand and participate in our own government.

Our problem is not illegal immigration, our problem is poor political leadership weak of character and strength in the skills of real leadership.  Our leaders are afraid of the voters, with spines of wet noodles they pander and placate when faced with real responsibility.

They could not say, “no” to illegal immigration instead they turned away and failed to act responsibly.  Now a price will be paid as they pick up “the can” they have kicked down the street.  But the game goes on and this time the stakes are even higher.

We are kicking “the can” of fiscal responsibility so far down the street we a placing our nation at risk financially.  We are risking the future for instant gratification we expand government to answer our needs and willfully remove our own responsibility.

Our leaders bury us in a mountain of debt as we sit silently by ignoring the problem and trusting that what they do will be right.  We have allowed our country to be run without a budget, surpassed our limits for debt and we have kicked “the can” of financial responsibility down the street.

The day is coming when we must pick up “the can”, the game will be over.  We will have a choice to make, either we will hear the word “no” or we will have gone so far down the road of self-destruction as a nation, we will not recognize American as the land of the free, full of economic opportunity.

We as citizens allowed illegal immigration, and we have allowed financial irresponsibility. The only question that remains is how much longer we will vote to continue down the path to our own national destruction.  Our rights as citizens are being eroded, our financial future is at risk and our very foundations of government are being questioned.

It is time to pick up “the can”.  America, it is time to get in the game.  Citizen participation in a Republic is a responsibility; apathy is the road to destruction.

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