Malloy’s school funding plan does not go far enough

For more than two centuries, Connecticut has been colloquially known as “The Land of Steady Habits.” But our state’s tradition of arbitrarily, illogically, and inequitably funding its public schools is a bad habit Connecticut desperately needs to break. Unfortunately, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s recent budget proposal does not go far enough to address the fundamental flaws of Connecticut’s school finance system. Instead, the proposal continues the decades-old bad habit of funding education through a maze of unconnected, arbitrary formulas and does not ensure that all of Connecticut’s schools and districts have the resources they need to ensure equitable access to educational opportunities for all of our state’s more than 500,000 students. Malloy’s proposal rightfully ends the funding of local public school districts via block grants based on little more than historical precedent and the political power of legislators by proposing the state use a formula to distribute the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant to towns.

The DNC needs an Organizer in Chief, not a Fund-raiser in Chief

As chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, Keith Ellison will bring the reformational change to the DNC and ultimately to the Democratic Party that our party’s members demand and our nation’s voters deserve. With Ellison as chairperson of the DNC, the position will no longer serve as the failed model of Fundraiser in Chief, but instead, as Organizer in Chief harnessing the grassroots zeal which is now in full bloom across our country.

Reducing illiteracy will help close Connecticut’s achievement gap

One in four children in our country grows up functionally illiterate, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Did you know we spend $2 billion nationally every year on students repeating a grade because they face challenges reading? The state of Connecticut currently sees the second largest wealth inequality in the United States. While the state ranks as the fourth richest in the United States, children are still in need. On Feb. 25, Pi Beta Phi will donate 20,000 brand new books to Hartford groups serving low-income families at a book distribution through Pi Beta Phi’s partnership with First Book®.

Tribalism runs deep among Republicans here and in D.C.

Tribalism runs deep among Republicans, even in our Land of Steady Habits. For evidence, look no further than the flap between Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Donald Trump. It is a story about how Republicans take Democrats to the wall when Democrats do wrong. But if Republicans do wrong, well, it can’t be that bad. After all, they’re Republicans.

Save — and improve — Connecticut’s Citizen’s Election Program

Connecticut has a unique voluntary public financing program for state elected offices. The Citizens’ Election Program is designed to encourage a broader range of people to seek public office. It is also designed to help increase competition and decrease the influence of “big money” donors. Connecticut now faces a serious current budget and longer-term fiscal sustainability challenge. As a result, some are calling for elimination of the state’s voluntary public campaign financing system. In my view, doing so would be inappropriate.

Data contradicts popular myths about towns’ ability to pay

In an article published in the Connecticut Mirror dated February 10 (“Legislators begin to push back on Malloy’s new budget”), Ben Barnes, budget director for Gov. Dannel Malloy, supports shifting tens of millions of dollars of school and other expenses to the towns. This shift, besides being a likely economic impossibility, ignores the fact that Connecticut is one of 33 states without a local income tax option.

Charter schools pose financial risk to municipalities

In December of last year, the Connecticut Department of Education issued a request for proposals for new charter schools – the first time in nearly three years. As the state grapples with a budget disaster and Gov. Dannel Malloy continues to propose changes that would dramatically change the way Connecticut pays for education, the state should refrain from opening any new charter schools and freeze the funding of existing ones.

Who should pay for highway sound barriers?

Building and maintaining our highways is expensive. But here’s a quiz question: on interstates 95 and 84, what costs a half-million dollars a mile to construct? The answer: sound barriers. Why are we spending that kind of money to enshroud our interstates simply to protect the peace and quiet of their neighbors? Didn’t they know that living that close to a highway came with the twin costs of increased noise and air pollution along with the benefits of proximity to the highways?

The General Assembly needs facts, not falsehoods

A recent story in the CT Mirror described a presentation to reporters a few weeks ago by the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), the largest teachers’ union, in which union leaders attempted to expose the spending practices of charter schools. The problem is that the report the CEA was referencing was deliberately misleading –seeking to villainize charter schools during a tight budget year in which education funding will be a key issue.