PELTO: "When Government Fears Democracy; It's Time to Fear Government"

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

In a blatant and disgusting abuse of power, Governor Malloy, with the support of the vast majority of Democratic Legislators, has taken away the fundamental democratic rights of Connecticut citizens, in this case, the people of Bridgeport.

Last night, during the Legislature's Special Session, the House of Representatives and the State Senate adopted House Bill #6001, An Act Implementing Provisions of the State Budget the Fiscal Year Beginning July 1, 2012.

Deep within the bill, in Section 292 of the 297 section document, the Malloy Administration is authorized to "loan" the City of Bridgeport $3,500,000 to cover a school budget deficit they face this year.

In return, as a condition of making the loan, the City of Bridgeport must select a "superintendent of schools or chief financial officer of the Bridgeport school district from a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner."  In this case, the commissioner being Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy's Commissioner of Education.

Let there be no confusion.  While this language applies "only" to Bridgeport, the depth of the power grab is extraordinary.  The citizens of every Connecticut community should be concerned and fearful when government officials take action that removes our ability to choose our own leaders.

What is really going on?

There's more below the fold...
Last year, the Connecticut Board of Education voted to take over Bridgeport's schools and appoint a new Board of Education.  That appointed Board then replaced Bridgeport's superintendent with Paul Vallas, the "education reformer" who is in the process of "restructuring" (many would say destroying) Bridgeport's Schools.  In the last few months, Vallas as distributed millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to consultants and companies while laying off teachers who live and were educated here in Connecticut.

The State Supreme Court ruled that the State's action was illegal and ordered that a democratically elected Board of Education be re-installed.  The voters of Bridgeport will be voting to select a new Board of Education this fall.

The Malloy Administration and the "education reform" leadership are so worried that a democratically elected Board may choose to move the City in a different direction, that they are implementing two incredible actions.

First, they are planning to sign a multi-year contract with Paul Vallas so that should the elected board want to choose a new superintendent, the cost of buying out Vallas' contract will be so great that they will be forced to keep Vallas in place.

Second, to assure that Bridgeport's voters don't have a voice in who is running their schools, the Malloy Administration put forward this language preventing Bridgeport's future Board of Education from selecting any superintendent unless that person is one of the three names given to them by Malloy's Commissioner of Education. (Not so coincidently, Commissioner Pryor, another "education reformer has previously worked with Paul Vallas and some of the other consultants and companies that Vallas had hired.)

Governor Malloy's original "education reform" bill included language that mandated that when the State of Connecticut takes over a school system, the education commissioner will have the authority to approve or reject the local board's choice for superintendent.  However, that provision was rejected by the Legislature and, more importantly, it still left the community with the fundamental authority to choose its own education leadership.

Now, with no public hearing, or even the opportunity for the public to know what was happening, the Governor proposed and Legislature adopted a provision that forces a democratically elected board of education to choose a leader from a list provided them by a non-elected political appointee.

Those who would say "it's only Bridgeport" or "it's appropriate collateral for a $3.5 million loan" are very wrong.

In our democracy, no state government has the right to say to a local community that you must choose a leader from the list of three people I give you.  Even giving a non-elected state official veto power over who a local board can choose is disturbing, but to actually limit who a democratically elected board may choose, violates the most fundamental principles that this nation was founded upon.

This action may be away to protect some people's political and financial interests, but the cost is our freedom.

Here is how legislators voted:

House:  http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/VOT...

State Senate: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/VOT...

For additional coverage see http://ctmirror.com/story/1662... http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ct... and http://courantblogs.com/capito...

The actual language of the bill is below;

Sec. 292. (Effective July 1, 2012) (a) The sum of $2,300,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for Personal Services, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(b) The sum of $700,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for Sheff Settlement, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(c) The sum of $500,000 appropriated in section 67 of public act 11-61 to the Department of Education, for OPEN Choice Program, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, shall not lapse on June 30, 2012, and such funds shall continue to be available for the purpose of funding a loan to the city of Bridgeport to be included in the budgeted appropriation for education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, for the city of Bridgeport during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.

(d) The Commissioner of Education may, upon approval by the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, provide a loan of up to three million five hundred thousand dollars to the city of Bridgeport for the purposes of inclusion in the budgeted appropriation of education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, to cover education expenditures incurred during such fiscal year. As a condition of making such loan under this section, the commissioner (1) shall require the selection of a superintendent of schools or chief financial officer of the Bridgeport school district from a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner, and (2) may require additional process or outcome targets and objectives to be included in the alliance district plan submitted by the board of education pursuant to section 34 of public act 12-116. The city of Bridgeport shall repay such loan not later than June 30, 2015. The commissioner may permit the city of Bridgeport to repay such loan by reducing the equalization aid grant received pursuant to section 10-262h of the general statutes, as amended by this act, in each fiscal year of such repayment. The commissioner may, upon approval from the secretary, forgive all or a portion of such loan if the city of Bridgeport has complied with the conditions of such loan and the commissioner has approved the alliance district plan submitted by the board of education pursuant to section 34 of public act 12-116.

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