Thursday, February 08, 2007

Rell Unleashed, The 2007 Budget

We’ve been here – multiple times. Gov. Jodi Rell’s budget plan increases to 50% the funds given to municipalities by the state, largely for education. It is, in a word, warmed over DeStefano, the Democrat candidate who ran against Rell for governor. Rell prevailed in that contest because most voters thought she would be a less high maintenance governor than her Democrat counterpart.

It is doubtful whether there is one legislator at the capitol, with the possible exception of Edith Prague, who sincerely believes there is a direct correlation between money spent on education, most of which is consumed in salaries, and the quality of education.

If there were such a correlation, urban students in Hartford would be outpacing students in the suburbs, and the performance of students from the Amistad Academy, an “Achievement First” college preparatory school in New Haven, would not exceed that of public schools that draw from the same pool of students. By every measure of academic excellence, the Amistad students outperform their pedagogical counterparts in public schools -- even in toney New Canaan. The myth that more money produces more educated scholars persists because legislators at the beck and call of powerful and resourceful teacher unions lack the intestinal fortitude to do what has to be done to improve the educational product, especially in urban pedagogical environments.

Non-performing urban public schools should have been closed down long ago; that measure at least would have saved the state and municipalities some money. The Rell budget plan finances failure; it maintains non-performing public schools and adds to the mix money – lots of new money – that will finance both failing public schools and a smattering of magnet schools.

In addition, the Rell plan will finance with new tax money – lots of new money -- earlier schooling, which ought never to be confused with earlier education. The difference between schooling and education is the difference between the educational product offered in non-performing urban schools and that offered in the Amistad Academy. Pre-pre-kindergarten classes are pedagogical holding pens for the children of parents many of whom must hold down multiple jobs or work longer hours to meet their own private budget obligations -- which will be increased by the Rell budget.

Moments after Rell unveiled her budget plan, Greenwich Republican William Nickerson said he needed to take a pill. Some Democrats were more ebullient and described the two-year, $35.8 billion budget plan as “historic” and “brilliant.” The sinking of the Lusitania, it may be recalled, also was “historic,” and it is not at all surprising that a plan which borrows heavily from “Big Idea” Democrats would be described by them as “brilliant.”

The powerful Speaker of the state House of Representatives, Jim Amman, was not among those throwing rose petals at Rell’s feet.

Scratching his head, Amman pondered, “The big question here right now is: Do we really need all that revenue?” Raising the state income tax by $3.4 billion over five years may seem to some more fiscally conservative Democrats a tad excessive. The additional spending proposed by Rell would break the constitutionally mandated spending cap and increase the state income tax by 10%, not the brightest of strategies at a time when businesses and young people are fleeing the state.

Ordinarily, one could count on Republicans to be guided by perceptions that low tax states serve as magnets for new business, but in the Rell plan one sees the lead Republican in Connecticut jumping the ideological barricades, with a flash of petticoats, in a crude attempt to be more Democratic than the Democrats.

Some southern states are laying plans to eliminate state income taxes, and the legislature in Utah is on the point of passing, by one slender vote, a voucher system for their public schools. Under such a system, parents are given vouchers representing the amount taxpayers shell out for education per child to purchase education in schools of their choice. A voucher system in Connecticut undoubtedly would result in more Amistad Academies and fewer non-performing public schools, which would be definanced by empowered consumers. The “historic” voucher system sprang from the fertile and “brilliant” brain of noted conservative economist Milton Friedman. The Iowa voucher plan will, over a period of time, separate the pedagogical chaff from the wheat and encourage education rather than schooling.

No such luck here.


Judy Aron said...

Don I blogged about the Utah Voucher plan at

and you are correct that the more money one spends on education will not translate into better education or better schools.. in fact I will wager that most of that money never shows up in the classroom.

This is an effort to pump money into universal pre-k which will add members to the NEA (new pre-k credentialed teachers) and shut down many local private pre-schools.

Somehow I get the feeling some sort of a deal was cut here.. for example..Rell may have said I'll give you guys more money if you don't override my veto of gay marriage.. who knows?? it just doesn't seem quite right..

Why in heavens name would she raise the income tax when we already have had so much in budget surplus being collected? It really doesn't make sense and will further kill business and raise the cost of living here.

Don Pesci said...

Thanks Judy. I linked to your blog.

bluecoat said...

When you compare the cost per student from school district to school district, you really should remove the cost of security which tends to be greated in the urbs thatn the suburbs. That said, Rell is delusional. And with both Rell and Fedele being college drop outs, I don't know why they consider more money in the state's higher education system to be necessary. There is not a single measure of performance here that Rell set up for herself to show that all this spending would be good fpr the state.

Don Pesci said...


Right. But see the plaudets in today's Courant editorial. Hopefully, this betrayal by the nominal head of the Republican Party will cause a rebellion on ship -- but I doubt it. This is the worse and most consequential budget I've seen 30 years of reporting on Connecticut politics. An absolute disaster.

bluecoat said...

I haven't studied what's going on in NJ in detail but from what I understand in order to lower property ttaxes, the guv and legislature passed a law capping local real estate tax increases at 4% per annum while doing things to lower costs and raising the sales tax by 1% or so. In NY Spitzer is wants to do it by cutting payments to the bloated hospital industry. For all its wealth, CT doesn't have very wise people running it's govt. DeStefano was way past Rell in understanding the challenges even if he was off base on universal healthcare.

Anonymous said...

Don--this tax proposal/budget is a farce. Chris Healy was on TIC today trying to defend it and he sounded like a buffoon. Don't they realize they have doomed the R's in this state? Can we impeach Rell?? this is a nightmare.

Don Pesci said...


Don't know about NJ either, but Utah is interesting. You should click on the link and then follow the links on Judy's site to see what happened. Basically, the people who wanted vouchers bought off the teacher's unions, and they developed a great site on vouchers.


Right, And he just stuck his toe in that water too. I heard him on the Visivich show -- not too convincing.

bluecoat said...

Utah is too far away and too different in profile from CT to be very relevant. NJ, NY, MA and RI , however, are.

turfgrrl said...

Always excellent analysis. But I don't think voucher systems do anything more than chip away at one of the greatest programs our country has ever had, a public funded free education. Yes, the system is broken, it costs too much etc. But it's not the the myth of overpaid teachers that is the root of the problem. Rather its the idea that our public school system should function as some daycare system for parents that have ceased to take responsibility for rearing kids. The system derailed when the idea that you needed more than a principal and school secretary to run a school.

Don Pesci said...


The state of Connecticut is now being run by the ghost of John DeStefano, the education lobby, and the editorial board of the Harford Courant. Tell me you like it that way. I think you're right in your remarks about the administrative boondoggle in schools. But what's driving up educational costs is binding arbitration, which makes taxpayers the prisoners of the education lobby. Nothing Rell has said will do anything consrtuctive.

bluecoat said...

Binding arbitration is a red herring. Yes, it sounds bad but if you look at anyof the recetn awards, they were found in favor of the governements not the unions. Getting ris of it won't lower the cost of the contracts.

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