I first saw Malloy at the Young Dems' RFK dinner in Rocky Hill in October and the circumstances couldn't have been worse. It was a Friday night, it was pouring, Billy Joel (or was it the Boss?) was playing in Hartford, the UCONN Football team had a home game on national TV, and the candidate was driving up from Stamford. What does that equal (I'm looking at you TurfGrrl, Bluecoat, and CGG)? Two hours late. Which was fine, everyone understood, and it could have been a good time to make a few cracks about CT's overburdened transportation system and then work the room. Instead, Malloy launched into his standard stump speech and the remaining 20 or so people came away with the impression that this was an inexperienced gubenatorial candidate.
I had a similar impression a few months later when Malloy came to speak to the UCONN Law School Democrats. Slightly bigger crowd, so it was slightly less odd to launch into the stump speech, but it made for a marked contrast to DeStefano who sat on the edge of a table and had a conversation with us (in fairness, Malloy's event was much better attended because food was served - next year, free food for all events - but we are checking law school IDs, freeloader).
A few weeks ago, my very kind Legislative Councilperson invited me to a Malloy fundraiser in Hamden and I was very impressed. Not an event for the wonkish, Malloy spoke passionately about his background and his vision for CT. Most importantly, coupled with my experience at our meeting on Saturday, it was clear that he had learned something as a candidate: How to connect with his audience.
I am not going to ignite a flame war by declaring Malloy a better candidate to beat Rell (the very definition of an uphill battle right now), especially in advance of a similar meeting with DeStefano, but I will say that my meta-impression of him as a candidate has turned 180 degrees since the first time I saw him last October.
Branford Boy over at My Left Nutmeg has done as all the very great service of transcribing the event; rather than recreate the wheel, I have linked to his transcript of the education portion of the event. Click the link, show BB some love, and hurry back.
Since the fourth wall simply doesn't exist on a blog, you need to know a little about me in regards to education to understand where I m coming from. If you threw a tennis ball into a room filled with my family, you would hit a teacher. And two more on the ricochet. I myself am the product of the NYC public school system, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (a land-grant public university), Southern Connecticut State University, and now the University of Connecticut School of Law. The last private "school" I went to was in a neighbor's house on Paulding Avenue in the Bronx when I was 5. I believe deeply in the commitment of government to provide quality public education, to all, for free. Public schools are, quite literally, mining our most precious natural resource.
That said, it was very exciting for me to have the opportunity to ask a potential next Governor of Connecticut how he would help the struggling towns and cities to pay for public schooling. His full answer is linked, but I would like to pull out what, for me, is the money quote:
The big step is to create a new system for paying for public education, one that is far less dependent, if at all, on property taxes. Property taxes make sense in a farming community, because the property produces income. And that's what Connecticut was when this system was devised.
So we've got to change that system. And that means a more progressive way of paying for education. Certainly a shift to probably the fairest system, which is an income tax based system, but also identifying other sources to help out both education and general government.
Suffice it to say, we've got to change the system, it's gotta be more income based, it's gotta be more progressive in its nature and I think increasingly property taxes have to be looked at as how you pay for your local services, NOT education -- or substantially less to education.
It's a mindset. Other states have done it. I can give you the statistics. We're more dependent than any other state. It's not as if we get it right and 49 states get it wrong. Forty-nine states get it right and we get it wrong. It's time to change.
Here are the specifics (as I understand them, I feel confident that Malloy staffers (actual ones, not the everyone-who-doesn't-agree-with-you-kind) will correct any errors I make - I also have put in a request for the wonkiest details I can get - I will write another post when and if I receive them):
-Collect the state's portion of the casino money as agreed and commit it to the development of state's educational system - He pointed out that, unlike property taxes, this revenue source is almost sure to grow (and grow quickly) going forward
-Leave a portion of sales taxes and utility taxes in the community where they are generated and send a portion to a pool for towns that do not generate a large amount of funds via these taxes
-Direct allocation of a portion of the income tax to support localities
-Scrap the ECS funding system and replace it with one that allocates money based on need rather than to make per student funds equal across the state (i.e. acknowledge that it costs more to educate students for whom English is a second language, students with special educational needs, students on free or reduced lunch, and, and this is my own editorializing, transient students who switch school systems mid-year).
Obviously there are some details that need to be fleshed out here (most importantly, I don't see a new revenue source but I see increased funding for schools - how is the difference made up?), but untying educational spending from property taxes (a system of funding that does not adequately fund schools in poorer districts) and reforming the ECS system are ideas that progressives should be able to discuss, refine, and ultimately support.
And that does not even take Malloy's proposal for universal pre-k into account. Ask any teacher (especially in elementary school) what their biggest frustrations are and I guarantee that, somewhere on that list, they will say "kids that aren't prepared for what I am tasked with teaching them". Fixing that begins with universal pre-k.
Luckily for Democrats, there is alot to like about both of our candidates when it comes to educational issues. I am looking forward to asking the same question to DeStefano, but, based on his website, there is more the two of them agree on than not. Which is one reason that I hope this thread wonks-out on educational policy rather than on attacks on the candidates and each other.
Edited for a typo.