Op/Ed

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Op-Ed: Connecticut must identify and help its many homeless children

Central to the mission at Partnership for Strong Communities is to build the political and civic will to prevent and end homelessness. As such, in 2013, the Partnership’s Reaching Home Campaign, partnered with Yale University and the Center for Children’s Advocacy to publish “Invisible No More,” the state’s first-ever comprehensive look at youth homelessness. Researchers interviewed 98 young people who are homeless in Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, New London, and lower Fairfield County and found some disturbing numbers. A third of the youth had dropped out of school. Sixty percent reported that their average income was less than $100 a week. Continue Reading →

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Op-Ed: Public hearings DO matter in insurance rate reviews

Thanks for your recent article "Do public hearings influence what health insurance costs?"  Given that Connecticut has the fourth highest healthcare costs and health insurance rates in the US, this is an especially important question for all of us. As leaders in CONECT (Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut), we have argued for public hearings as part of the rate review process for a number of years. While Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri called for the recent Anthem hearing, our grassroots organization was part of the effort that forged the 2011 deal between Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi and Veltri to allow her to request up to four hearings a year when insurers filed for rate increases of 15 percent or greater. We started out on this issue because of the numerous stories we heard from our member congregations and families about exorbitant rate increases.  We pressed for hearings because we do believe that public hearings lead to more engaged and informed consumers, to heightened scrutiny by regulators, and to smaller rate increases being allowed for insurers. While the final rates have yet to be approved, this seems to be likely in the Anthem case, given that the Insurance Department has rejected their initial filing. Continue Reading →

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Op-Ed: Reform the costly, overly generous, state pension system

The enormous unfunded pension liabilities of the State of Connecticut have hardly been discussed so far in the run up to the November gubernatorial election. Nevertheless, the question needs to be raised, for whoever is governor after the November election will inevitably have to reform the state’s employee pension plan or face the possibility of bankruptcy. A relatively small but significant first step in reforming the system would be to freeze pension benefits for all existing state employees not covered by union contractual obligations. These employees would include non-union members and employees of the state’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches. It would also include all administrators in the University of Connecticut system. Continue Reading →

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Op-Ed: Don’t judge all charter schools by scandal around one

For the record, my colleagues and I who support charter schools are deeply disturbed by the scandal surrounding Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) -- yet another charter school-related problem of criminal activity allegations. We are upset not only with the idea of anyone misusing public funds, but more selfishly perhaps, we know that we, as charter school overseers, will once again be faced with the challenge of defending our own charter schools and our charter school staffs that have worked year after year without fanfare; who do not misuse public funds; who do not misrepresent their credentials; who truly do make a difference in the lives of our students day after day, year after year. We know we will be scrutinized, put under the microscope of suspicion, asked to do more paperwork, more reporting, more substantiating.  And we understand.  And we will comply. But it is also important for the public to be aware that the majority of charter schools in the state are run by honest, hardworking, and selfless individuals.  It is also important for the public to know that our schools run on less money than their neighborhood, non-charter school counterparts, that we receive little help for buildings and infrastructure, for management or health insurance. We are asked to do much with very little. Continue Reading →

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Op-Ed: Voters should ask candidates ‘How?’

As we prepare for an election season with more financial talking points than usual, we should ask candidates who make promises a basic question: How? How will you both cut spending and address issues about which you purport to care? What is the process to “reallocate” money from an over-funded function to something that makes sense? How will you “redirect” money in a way that will generate better results?  If you plan to hold spending flat, or to cut spending, you will need to make the “reallocation” of public funds a reality. In Connecticut, a successful candidate will need to create this process, because it does not presently exist. Continue Reading →

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Op-Ed: On their 49th birthday, Medicare and Medicaid strong and healthy

In 1965, almost half of America’s seniors had no health insurance. For the men and women who survived two World Wars and the Great Depression, retirement often meant insecurity and hopelessness. Our nation’s seniors reached their most medically vulnerable years with few, and sometimes no health care options. That’s why, after decades of failed attempts to right this wrong, the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid wasn’t just health care reform, it was a turning point in our nation’s history. When he signed that legislation 49 years ago this week, President Lyndon Johnson spoke for the nation, saying, “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. Continue Reading →

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