Saturday, August 05, 2017

Leveraging Connecticut’s Democrat Produced “Crisis”


Here is an addendum to Rahm Emanuel’s now infamous apothegm, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” especially when you are responsible for having produced the crisis: to leverage the crisis you have caused so that it will be politically useful, it is vitally important to fob-off on the opposition the logical and inevitable consequences of your own failed policies.

Emanuel, once a Barack Obama campaign maestro, is now the Mayor of shoot’em up Chicago, a failed Democratic city in a failing state.

Politics, in both our state and nation, has become a Darwinian struggle among political insiders in which the most fit rise to the top. And the fittest are those whose narratives, partly fiction, are the most compelling; the narratives themselves occasionally have only a remote connection to a) the truth, and b) objective reality; i.e. the real-world consequences of prevailing political programs.

Consider the following headline: “Budget Crisis Prompts Malloy To Weigh A Shift In Education Aid." No doubt Connecticut is suffering both a budget crisis, and a crisis in education. Any number of questions immediately present themselves. Why do we have a budget crisis? Who is responsible for the crisis? Will solutions proposed by the narrative-makers solve the crisis, or are they political palliatives? The same questions apply to educational spending.

The cautious reader will note that it is the “budget crisis” caused by Connecticut Democrats that has “prompted” the most progressive governor in Connecticut history to offer a plan that will further progressivize educational spending, a coincidence that is, shall we say, more than coincidental. If there were no budget crisis, Democrats would have had to invent one so as to be able to progressivize educational funding and move tax dollars at its distribution point from so-called rich towns to so-called poor towns; pointedly, to cities that Democrats traditionally have depended upon for vote and campaign funding. Lucky for Democrats, they were able to produce a budget crisis that now may be utilized in a campaign narrative, partly fictional, in which those who caused the temporary “crisis” are portrayed as wonder-working heroes of a drama they do not wish to waste.

Here is the Hartford Courant reporting on Governor Dannel Malloy’s use -- misuse? -- of plenary powers. The story quotes Malloy: “We will reevaluate how we’ll be distributing aid to communities in the coming weeks to make sure we honor our constitutional requirement for education in the state of Connecticut… That may mean that some districts will have to receive less money so that other districts will receive an appropriate amount of money that would honor the constitutional requirement.’’

These few remarks, made by a governor who has been invested with anti-democratic plenary powers, should awaken critical instincts among reporters whose business it is to question false narratives. How did it happen that a chief of state had been unconstitutionally invested with plenary powers which, in a functioning republican government, are distributed among three separate but equal branches of government? Does the constitutional provision to which Malloy points necessitate a progressive scheme to shift funds from so-called “rich” to so-called “poor” towns? The provision cited by Malloy merely says that “children in Connecticut shall have a free education.” What is the current imbalance of funding per student in rich and poor towns? Does a student in Hartford, for instance, receive substantially less money for educational purposes than a student in, say, New Canaan? Hartford school District per-pupil spending from all revenue sources  -- Federal, State and local – in 2015 was $19,342; New Canaan was $19,171.

Most importantly, is there a direct connection between per-pupil expenditures and quality of education? If there is such a connection, how did it happen that Catholic schools in Hartford, drawing upon the same pool of students as public schools, were able to provide their charges with an education that was equal or superior to that provided by tax supported public schools? The past tense is necessary here because the last parochial school in the city, much to the dismay of Hartford parents whose sons and daughters attended Catholic schools, closed months ago.

Questions such as these are not being answered because they are not being asked.

Malloy began his first term as governor by introducing measures that, if conscientiously followed, might have marginally improved education in urban areas. The centerpiece of the Malloy program, quickly  dismantled by an aggressive education lobby, involved the creation and enforcement of standards that would reward successful teachers and weed out unsuccessful teachers. Initially, Malloy had proposed to link tenure to job performance, a redoubt he soon abandoned under fire. It is one thing to move bad students into good schools, quite another to move money from good to bad schools on the dubious assumption that there is a direct causal connection between money spent and a quality education.


Malloy’s current progressive ploy is a political rather than a pedagogical gambit. Making Hartford great again by shifting educational dollars from New Canaan no doubt will purchase votes for other Democrats from Connecticut’s powerful public education lobby. But it will not procure a quality education for students in major cities in Connecticut that, for half a century and more, have been ruled by the usual Democratic Party hegemon. The real educational lesson to be drawn here is that votes matter to progressives more than kids.


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