Monthly Archives: March 2011

Making teacher evaluations work

Some people think that teacher tenure is a guarantee of a job for life. It isn’t, and it shouldn’t be. The American Federation of Teachers in Connecticut has worked closely with the chairs of the General Assembly’s Education Committee to draft legislation (Senate Bill 1160) that will redesign teacher evaluation systems and align them to due process for tenured teachers. Teacher evaluation is meant to be a tool that accurately assesses teacher performance and informs practice, but in too many school districts, it has become a sporadic, pro-forma process that does not reliably help identify teachers’ weakness, nor provide them opportunities to improve. SB 1160 will put in place a collaborative, comprehensive teacher evaluation framework and align it to our due process system. Continue Reading →

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House Democrats propose overhaul of federal budget process

WASHINGTON–Imagine that after you filed your taxes this month, the IRS sent you back a receipt, showing how much of your income tax went to pay for everything from foreign aid to education, transportation, and entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. That’s one provision of a bill, introduced by Rep. Jim Himes and several other Democrats, that seeks to significantly revamp the federal budget process. The legislation aims to make the federal budget a more true and transparent picture of government spending by barring the use of accounting gimmicks that hide certain expenditures and forcing lawmakers to immediately pay for any new tax cuts. Perhaps most controversially, the bill also calls for Congress to “promptly consider” the debt-reduction recommendations issued last year by President Barack Obama’s national fiscal commission. Those recommendations include, among other things, increasing the Social Security retirement age, eliminating popular tax breaks, hiking the gas tax, and cutting $100 billion each from domestic and defense spending. Continue Reading →

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With medical records going digital, patient control becomes subject of debate

Say you end up in the emergency room. It’s not connected to your doctor’s office and you don’t have a list of the medications you’re on. But because your doctor keeps your medical records electronically, and because his system is connected to a larger network, the emergency room doctor can tap into the network and pull up your records. He can find out what medications you take, what you’re allergic to, and any conditions that might affect your treatment. That’s the sort of system health care providers, policymakers and government agencies across the country are trying to build. Continue Reading →

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The perks of Congress: Members tout their work in free mailings

WASHINGTON–“Next Stop: 8,000 New Jobs,” beckons the headline of a flashy four-page flier, featuring a fast-moving train and a photo of Rep. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from the 5th District who is running for Senate. The mailing has all the trappings of a savvy campaign piece. It touts Murphy’s support for a new “cutting-edge” high-speed rail line, which he says would create 8,000 new jobs in the state, along with his work to strengthen U.S. manufacturing, help homeless veterans, and other issues. Ah, the perks of incumbency. The mailing wasn’t sent by his Senate campaign. Continue Reading →

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Midwestern states joining the clean energy party

Leadership on clean energy issues is often thought to be a bicoastal affair, with states in the West and Northeast in the forefront, Oakley Brooks reports at Miller-McCune. But a new report says some Midwestern states are stepping up. Seven of the top 10 states cited for clean energy leadership still are on the East and West coasts, consulting firm Clean Edge says (Connecticut is No. 8).  But things are going on elsewhere as well. Continue Reading →

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OPM’s word of the day: ‘dekatherm’

The Office of Policy and Management said today it has secured new fixed-price contracts to supply natural gas to state agencies at a savings of $660,000. One contract provides a new price for 453 natural gas accounts of $6.68 per dekatherm, compared to the old price of $10.73 per dekatherm. Another contract for a dozen fuel-switching accounts provides gas at $6.35 per dekatherm vs. $8.38 per dekatherm. Wondering what exactly is a dekatherm? Continue Reading →

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Flag lowered for Moosup soldier killed in Afghanistan

A Capitol police officer appeared in the press room moments ago on his way to lower the flag atop the State Capitol. Access to the east wing roof of the Capitol is through our fourth-floor office space, and a midday appearance by a cop often signals the loss of another Connecticut soldier. An email from the governor’s press office confirmed the purpose of the officer’s visit to the roof: “Governor Dannel P. Malloy today ordered the Connecticut and U.S. flags to fly at half staff in honor of Connecticut resident Staff Sergeant Frank E. Adamski III, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on Tuesday.” Adamski, 26, was from Moosup. He was serving with the 101st Airborne when hit by small arms fire during combat in Konar, Afghanistan. Continue Reading →

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Malloy won’t mess with Calhoun, not this week

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy can be brash and brusque in his public comments at times, but he declined an invitation to take a shot at Jim Calhoun at a town-hall meeting on the budget last night in Windham, not far from the UConn campus where Calhoun is prepping for this weekend’s Final Four. Leroy Hollis, a state employee, pushed Malloy to explain how the upper reaches of state government might be affected by concession talks. “I want to know exactly how much is going to come out of the pockets of yourself, all legislators, the judges, all of the state university presidents and, especially, how much is going to come out of the highest-paid state employee, who makes over $2 million?” he asked. “I gotta tell you, I’m not sure I want to pick on Coach Calhoun this week,” Malloy deadpanned. Continue Reading →

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Americans want to know how teachers are performing

Americans want to know more about their local schools, a new Brookings report says, and the No. 1 item on their list is teacher performance. The report, based on a national telephone survey, says the most common source of information about schools is family and friends, followed by daily newspapers, school publications and local television. Just 37 percent said they get school information on the Internet. Asked what kind of news they want more of, 73 percent said they want to know more about teacher performance, and 71 percent cited student performance. Continue Reading →

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From Windham, Malloy takes on New York’s budget deal

WINDHAM–The residents of this struggling eastern Connecticut community were his audience, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy opened a debate Wednesday night with another Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo of New York. Doffing his suit coat and rolling up his sleeves in a middle school auditorium, Malloy defended his budget for maintaining state aid to municipalities, while Cuomo’s budget would rely on $4.65 billion in reduced aid to erase nearly half that state’s $10 billion shortfall. Malloy takes notes during one exchange in Windham. “Eventually somebody is going to say, why don’t you balance your budget like New York?” said Malloy, referring to the budget deal Cuomo cut over the weekend that relies on no tax increases. Continue Reading →

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Decades later, a belated welcome home for Vietnam veterans

An older veteran rose to speak the other night at a public meeting about Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget. First, he pointed to two young servicemen, both recently returned from Afghanistan. The audience rose as one and applauded. It’s kind of story Ted Graziani enjoys hearing, even if reminds him of how he and his fellow Vietnam veterans were ignored upon their homecoming. Ted Graziani
“We’ve learned to separate the warrior from the politics of the war,” Graziani, a former lawmaker from Ellington, told an audience Wednesday at Connecticut’s second annual “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” Continue Reading →

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New wind speed data suggest more viable turbine sites in state

New measurements of Connecticut wind speeds show that many more sites than previously believed could be economically viable for wind power, potentially expanding the range where turbines could produce electricity. The data suggest that with today’s taller turbines and improved blades, wind power could work even in lower-lying areas, not just the higher elevations in the northwest corner and a few other pockets. “There’s this notion in Connecticut that it’s not as windy of a state as other states in New England,” said Paul Corey, chairman of West Hartford-based BNE Energy Inc., which developed the new data. “And that may be true, generally, but there are sites in Connecticut that do have sufficient wind.” However, more potential wind farms sites could produce more local opposition. Continue Reading →

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Advocates worry adults in HUSKY could lose out under health reform

The federal health reform law is meant to expand health insurance coverage, but some advocates worry that it could inadvertently leave some low-income adults in Connecticut worse off. They want the state to take action now to ensure that doesn’t happen, but that idea has critics, including, for now, the Malloy administration. Sharon Langer
Beginning in 2014, states will be required to provide Medicaid coverage to adults earning up to 133 percent of the poverty level. Those just above the Medicaid income threshold will receive federal tax credits to buy insurance through the exchange, a marketplace that will be created for purchasing coverage. For some poor adults in Connecticut, the Medicaid expansion will provide access to free government-funded insurance for the first time. Continue Reading →

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Senate president strongly backs Malloy’s approach to the budget

Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, sat in tonight on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s 13th town-hall meeting on the budget, a cordial meeting in Windham, a stop on the senator’s drive home from Hartford. Williams didn’t hear anything that made him think Malloy needs to take another approach to the budget. “The framework he’s proposed is the framework the legislature should move forward. I would like to see that as soon as possible,” Williams said. “He is sticking to the framework he has proposed, and it’s a courageous framework. Continue Reading →

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Retired FBI agent to kick off congressional campaign

Mike Clark kicks off his campaign for the Republican congressional nomination in the 5th District next Tuesday, promising supporters he’ll get them home in time for the tipoff of the women’s basketball championship game. Clark is a retired FBI agent, whose expertise was pursuing white-collar fraud and corruption. He now serves on the Farmington Town Council. Among his fellow feds, he still is trying to live down a headline on Kevin Rennie’s blog that once described him as “FBI legend.” Coming from a culture where restraint is valued, it will be interesting to see how Clark fares at tooting his own horn. Continue Reading →

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