Wednesday, March 19, 2008

SB162 - CT Withdrawal Bill - Sen. Gaffey and Rep. Fleischmann Spit In The Faces Of CT Parents

Sen. Gaffey and Rep. Fleischmann

It was just utterly disgusting.

Despite the fact that parents protested ANY change to the language of the bill that was passed out of the Select Committee On Children;

Despite the hand written message Gaffey received from Senator Meyer, Chair of the Children's Committee, asking that the bill NOT be altered;

Despite the legislators that specifically testified at the public hearing on this bill that they wanted the O'Neill language and have it placed in CGS 10-220;

Despite the urgings of members of his own party during the caucuses;

Despite the numerous emails and phone calls from constituents and parents across the state asking them NOT to change the bill;

Despite the number of legislators who signed on as co-sponsors of the original language of this bill as passed out of the Children's Committee;

Despite the fact that NO ONE - NOT ONE PERSON testified in opposition to this bill in the public hearing of 02/19/08 (Read the Joint Favorable report);

Despite the fact that there would have been enough votes to pass it out of the Education Committee AS IS without changes and as passed by the Children's Committee;

These two "men", Gaffey and Fleischmann, Co-Chairs of the Education Committee threatened to kill this bill if it wasn't passed out of the committee in the way they wanted it - and no doubt with the language given to them by the Department of Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan.

The unwillingness of the State Department of Education to come out in public to voice any opinion on the bill, yet, their willingness to maneuver behind the scenes to convince individual legislators to make changes to the bill, is indicative of the manner in which the State Department of Education has been encouraging the abuses by school districts all along! Their actions indicate their continued unwillingness to inform school districts to respect the already existing rights of parents.

This language is damaging to the rights of all parents in this state, and it doesn't even solve the problem that we originally sought to stop. The revised substitute bill contains a provision for parents to notify the public school superintendent of their intent to withdraw the child from enrollment in the public school and requires the school superintendent to accept the notice, but does not require the school superintendent to consider the child withdrawn from enrollment.

In other words, under the revised substitute bill as proposed by Gaffey and Fleischmann, for the first time in our state’s history, public school districts would have the authority to determine whether a parent could withdraw a child from enrollment in a public school, based on their opinion of whether or not the parents are providing “equivalent instruction” to the child, presumably after reviewing the child’s curriculum. Essentially, the public school district would have the authority to “approve” the child’s curriculum before the child would be allowed to withdraw from public school. And what if they don't approve? Does your child remain a hostage in the public school? This really works well when the school is antagonistic to the parents to begin with.

Not only does this represent an extreme departure from centuries of existing law, but it also represents the first step toward more “regulation” of homeschooling in Connecticut in the future. This is precisely what the Department of Education wants. Control. Total Control.

Just prior to beginning the Education Committee’s March 18, 2008 meeting, Democrat members of the Committee, led by Senator Gaffey and Rep. Fleischmann, caucused behind closed doors considering what to do about the bill. Gaffey and Fleischmann apparently were insistent that the Committee vote on the revised bill changing Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-184. This language is remarkably similar to the proposed language Education Commissioner McQuillan handed to Rep. O’Neill two weeks ago who then forwarded it to us for comment. We, of course told O’Neill that we disapproved of that language. During the caucus, some of the supportive Democrat members of the Committee apparently argued against the change and, along with some of the Republican members, wanted to offer an amendment to change the language back to the original language as adopted by the Select Committee on Children, as originally proposed by Rep. O’Neill. Gaffey and Fleischmann told them, however, that if they offered the amendment, Gaffey and Fleischmann would not allow the bill to be voted on by the committee, effectively killing it.

I'd call that bullying - wouldn't you?

Gaffey even went as far as to say that Rep. O’Neill said, “That he was fine with the language”. Rep. O’Neill later informed us that he did not say he was fine with the language in Gaffey’s bill and that he still does support the original language as approved by the Select Committee On Children and as he originally proposed it. So it even looks like Gaffey wasn't telling the truth either!

Not being truthful and bullying - Nice behavior for a Committee Chair.

Rep. Debra Lee Hovey also said that O'Neill "was fine with the substitute language". He is not; and he has told us so. He also told us on Tuesday evening that he was also very disappointed with Rep. Hovey's statement. Furthermore, his comments at the public hearing also prove that he is not fine with the language. Interestingly enough, the substitute language is almost identical to the "mysterious language" that showed up after the bill was sent by the Children's Committee to LCO for drafting.

Read the testimony for yourself
He said this and he was talking about how the bill had changed when it had come back to the Children's Committee from LCO with some different language than what he and Senator Meyer sent them:
REP. ARTHUR J. O'NEILL: Good morning, Chairman Meyer, Chairman McMahon, other Members of the Committee. I want to thank you first off for sponsoring this hearing for raising Senate Bill 162, which while it does not contain the precise language, nor does it amend the precise sections that I think are the correct ones to amend and the correct language to use, it does put us in the right direction.

It does head us down the road, I think, towards the right language and I believe that the language from last year's bill as Chairman Meyer as indicated would be better than the language that's in the bill that's being heard today.

For the benefit of everyone because I think there are some concerns of some of the folks that have been working on behalf of this legislation for a number of years that somehow things have gone awry.
Well, they certainly have gone more awry.

So, in the end, the folks in the Education Committee did vote for this bill - but they did not agree with the language or the statute that it was in - but in order to keep the bill alive they passed it along. One should note that Senator Herlihy voted "NO". This way the vote was not unanimous, and we thank him for that. Afterwards, there were many legislators that met us outside the committee room and asked us what they could do to help fix this bill.

The bill should be changed back to the original language approved by the Children's Committee in the next step of it's journey.

Gaffey and Fleischmann should be ashamed of themselves for sabotaging this legislation and then standing before that committee and telling them how much they respect homeschoolers and want to protect them and help them, when in fact the bill they put through will absolutely NOT fix the problem and will indeed be detrimental to parental rights in the state of CT.

In my opinion, these two "men" have absolutely no integrity - especially as they truly spit in the faces of the parents that stood before them yesterday.