The information below has been excerpted from an August 18, 2014 article in newstimes.com
OneWorld encourages visitors to visit the newstimes.com link and read the complete article.
OneWorld selected specific segments to highlight here. We ask readers to take keen note of who expresses concerns about students. Isn’t education reform supposed to be about students? All of the bold, color changes, commentaries, questions and parentheses are done by OneWorld for emphasis and to draw readers attention to some of the important issues raised in the article.
Connecticut education chief looking for another job Linda Conner Lambeck and Ken Dixon – Updated 10:38 pm, Monday, August 18, 2014
The controversial state Department of Education commissioner who led Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s school reform effort is stepping down just as Malloy’s re-election campaign gears up for the November ballot.
The governor’s office said Monday that Stefan Pryor is looking for a new job and will not seek a second term, which would coincide with Malloy’s re-election in November.
Pryor’s three-year tenure was marked by major changes to student testing and teacher evaluations designed to narrow what is considered the nation’s largest student achievement gap. But the breakneck pace of the changes turned off many parents and educators and loomed as an election issue. (Isn’t education reform supposed to be about benefiting students? What are the considerations for the students in all of this?)
“Whether (Pryor’s impending departure) placates teachers remains to be seen,” said Boucher, ranking member of the Education Committee. “I think they will see through the smoke screen.”
Pascarella, co-chairman of the Connecticut Association of Urban Superintendents, said Pryor was accessible, helpful, honest and always willing to explore alternative solutions.
“Under his leadership, increased resources and greater opportunities were provided to the students in our urban settings,” Pascarella said. Isn’t this what urban parents and community leaders want? What about teachers and education administrators?
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, who lost the Republican primary to Foley, has been calling for Pryor’s resignation for months. On Monday, he called Pryor a political liability. (To whom exactly is the commissioner a liability? What are Mr. McKinley’s real concerns?)
“The governor is trying to save face with public school teachers, who he’s insulted and disrespected for almost 3 1/2 years,” McKinney said.
The impending departure was also celebrated by Jonathan Pelto, a petition candidate for governor, as great news and long overdue.
Pelto said Pryor and his team were “anti-teacher, pro-standardized testing, privatization zealots” who have “done immeasurable harm to Connecticut’s public education system.” (It would be more productive if Mr. Pelto could actually name the harm done to CT’s education system. Anyone can make claims providing such a one does not have to prove them.)
“When it comes to actually supporting Connecticut’s public schools, Malloy’s true intentions remain unknown, but Pryor’s departure is a small step in the right direction,” Pelto said. (Since when is an appeasement policy, or practice, a step in the right direction for students?)
Others predict Pryor’s departure won’t turn back the clock on school reform. (Do we really want the clock to be turned back on education reform in Connecticut?)
Jennifer Alexander, chief executive officer of the Connecticut Coalition of Achievement Now, called Pryor a tireless advocate for Connecticut students but said “improving education for our kids is about more than one person.”
***During Pryor’s tenure, graduation rates rose and Connecticut’s 12th grade reading and math scores were deemed tops in the nation. (Does this matter to anyone?)
Pryor, in a written statement, said he thoroughly enjoyed the job. “The work has not always been easy, but start to finish and top to bottom, it has been extraordinarily worthwhile,” he said.
Rep. Andrew M. Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, co-chairman of the legislative education committee, said Pryor’s job was to take the governor’s vision and implement it.
“That’s what he did his level best to do,” Fleischmann said. “Our curricular standards in Connecticut were outdated and it made sense to join the 48 states looking for new standards that are going to move Connecticut students farther ahead.” (Isn’t education reform about preparing Connecticut’s students by giving them the best foundational education possible for the 21st Century? Certainly there are issues to be addressed, but are we mixing apples and bananas in the same bucket?)
Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said although it seemed the commissioner was losing trust among teachers and the education community, he didn’t see Pryor as someone who had a hidden agenda to replace public education with private concerns. (How refreshing!)
“I believe that the end goal of improving public education — our goal and his — matched,” Waxenberg said. “It was how to get there where there were disagreements and issues.”
One of the benefits of diverse opinions and strategies is that we can often find hybrid formulas that seldom can be found when we all start off on the same page. Of course, there needs to be a willingness to work together and struggle together to attain the main objectives — improving Connecticut’s public education system, and making good schools accessible to all children.
OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc is a small group of committed volunteers who produces community television programs and critical-thinking forums, and sponsors oratory competitions and high school debates. Areas of focus are education, health literacy and civic engagement. Learn more about OneWorld at: www.oneworldpi.org
State Must Keep Health Care Assistance
By PATRICIA BAKER, FRANCES G. PADILLA AND NANCY L. HEATON | OP-ED, Sept 12, 2014
Connecticut, along with the nation, is heading into the Affordable Care Act‘s second open enrollment period starting Nov. 15. What’s troubling is that our state has no public plan for linking consumers with the in-person assistance that was available a year ago.
During round two, the 257,000 plus people statewide who enrolled in the first year will have the opportunity to renew or select a different plan from a dizzying array of expanded offerings. Concurrently, this will be a time to target the population that remains uninsured. We still have unfinished business in enrolling those under age 35, males, African-Americans and Latinos. These groups are more challenging to reach and harder to convince about the benefits and peace-of-mind health insurance offers.
As the leaders of three of Connecticut’s independent health foundations, we provided grant funding to Access Health CT last year. This helped to provide for navigators and in-person assisters to deliver face-to-face education and enrollment assistance in communities for those seeking to sign up for health insurance. We knew consumers, especially those new to the complex world of health insurance, would need knowledgeable and trustworthy local resources to help them understand the various options available to them and how to sign up for them.
These in-person assisters engaged Connecticut residents 605,495 times with information about the new insurance options and financial assistance, and enrolled 31,769 residents — about half of whom were uninsured — in coverage.
The findings of an independent enrollment evaluation, conducted by the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement of Yale School of Public Health, overwhelmingly support the value of in-person assistance, especially with harder to reach communities. For example, the study found that consumers were better able to obtain the information they needed with greater satisfaction from in-persons assisters than through Access Health CT’s website or helpline.
This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $60 million in grants to 90 navigator organizations. Unfortunately, organizations in places with state-facilitated marketplaces such as Connecticut were not eligible. Connecticut’s inability to renew more than $3 million of federal funding that supported last year’s in-person assistance efforts has left the fate of many uninsured residents uncertain.
Our foundations are not able to replace federal funding, but we have been ready to help in any way that we can, including with additional grant funding. Community organizations that were part of the in-person assistance network during round one, including many of our grantees, have been eager to re-engage in the enrollment process. But, so far, the state plans for implementing the second round of open enrollment have not been publicly released. It remains unclear where we fit in. For Connecticut to leave private funding and experience on the table would be a missed opportunity.
Connecticut cannot go back to a time when the state uninsured rate was 7.9 percent. In-person assistance is a key component in preserving the gains that made us a national leader. In-person assisters are part of a “no wrong door” approach to helping consumers through barriers and covering those who might have otherwise given up and remained uninsured. These consumers now have access to — and are using — important benefits such as doctor visits, prescriptions and preventive care.
We understand that as a practical reality, in-person assistance will need to be scaled back and look different this time, but the state is not at the point where we can let go of high-touch efforts as part of a comprehensive strategy.
We need to ensure that in-person assistance remains an essential part of the consumer support system this enrollment period and beyond, providing support yearlong for consumers who face challenges using their insurance. So the question to Connecticut’s health reform leaders remains: What’s the plan?
Patricia Baker is president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation. Frances G. Padilla is president of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. Nancy L. Heaton is CEO, of the Foundation for Community Health. (Copyright © 2014, The Hartford Courant)
OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc concurs 100 percent with the authors that the in-person assisters need to remain in place to help consumers to sign-up and navigate what is still a challenging health care pathway to getting affordable and suitable health coverage.
OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc is a 501©3 volunteer organization in CT. OneWorld produces community information television programs and community forums on health literacy, education and civic engagement since 1996. Visit our web site at: www.oneworldpi.org/ OneWorld has been providing key information about Health Care Reform since 2009, and has provided informative blogs and produced a comprehensive Sign-up Workshop and much more information about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for viewers of our programs, and visitors to our YouTube channel: http://youtu.be/M_eK_jGyHsE
Our television programs air on AT&T Uverse (Channel 99, drop-down menu) statewide, and on Charter Communications Chan. 21, on Comcast channels 10, 15, 18 and 26.
The next open enrollment period starts Nov. 15, 2014. Check with the Access Health CT site for the latest information.