In the video, an elementary school admin says he tries to influence students’ thinking without parents finding out

By  Joshua Lee Sept 2, 2022, 4:27pm EDT

An assistant principal in Connecticut was placed on administrative leave after he said he looks to hire teachers who know how to subtly introduce progressive ideology to students.
An assistant principal at Cos Cob Elementary School in Greenwich, Conn., was placed on administrative leave after an undercover video showed him admitting to hiring practices that discriminate against politically conservative staff, Catholics and others. 

An assistant principal was placed on administrative leave after an undercover video showed him admitting to hiring practices that discriminate against politically conservative staff, Catholics and others. He also said he looks to hire teachers who know how to subtly introduce progressive ideology to students.

Jeremy Boland, assistant principal of Cos Cob Elementary School in Greenwich, Connecticut, tells an unidentified woman in the heavily edited, 12-minute video that he rejects teacher applicants who hold conservative political leanings, Catholic beliefs, are older or those who give deference to parents’ wishes.

“I can’t get past the parents anymore,” Boland says in the secretly recorded video. “The parents feel as though it’s their responsibility to shape the schools, which then shape the kids, right?” 

“So, because I can’t get past the parents, do I really have as much of an influence … on the kids as I want? I try in my own way. But right now, my job is to hire the right teachers.”

“Do we work for the parent or do we work for the kid?” Boland asks rhetorically in the video. “We work for the kid.”

The video was published by Project Veritas, a controversial conservative nonprofit organization known for undercover videos revealing apparent liberal bias.

Boland says in the video that Catholics are more politically conservative. When asked what he does if a teacher applicant is Catholic, he answers, “You don’t hire them.” 

“You can never change their mindset. So when you ask them to consider something new, like a new opportunity, or, ‘You have to think about this differently,’ they’re stuck — just rigid,” Boland says, reiterating that he thinks Catholics are brainwashed.

An email from Greenwich Superintendent of Schools Toni Jones to family and staff said Boland had been placed on leave, according to The Associated Press. Jones also pledged a full investigation into Boland’s comments.

“Believe it or not, the open-minded, more progressive teachers are actually more savvy about delivering a Democratic message without really ever having to mention politics,” Boland says in the viral video.

Multiple public officials have opened investigations into the matter. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced a civil rights investigation into potentially illegal discrimination or actionable misconduct. 

“This video is disturbing,” Tong said. “And if teachers, school staff, or applicants for education jobs have been illegally discriminated against for any reason, I will take action.”

Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the conservative Family Institute of Connecticut, believes the video could have major political implications for Connecticut’s gubernatorial election. Democratic incumbent Gov. Ned Lamont will face Republican nominee Bob Stefanowski this November.

“This is a gift-wrapped present dropped into the lap of (Stefanowski),” Wolfgang wrote Aug. 31 on his Facebook page. “If he does not make the most of this, it will be a huge fail. Ever since around the time of Gov. Youngkin’s victory in Virginia, there were signs that the GOP was starting to get it. That is, that culture matters. Even the Connecticut GOP!”

Stefanowski’s campaign released a statement saying he was deeply troubled by the video. He said he is most concerned the administrator would brag about indoctrinating students and blackballing teachers who “don’t subscribe to radical ‘woke’ ideology.”

Gov. Lamont said he supports the attorney general’s civil rights investigation and that any form of discrimination has no place in the state.

Republican state legislators told the Hartford Courant that they are calling for a wider investigation through the Legislature’s education committee to ensure the problem isn’t systemic. Lamont says he doesn’t oppose the Legislature looking into it but cautions the state about Project Veritas’ intentions.

“I hate these ‘gotcha’ guys and clipping of the video trying to make political fodder out of it.” Lamont said on WTNH, a local news channel. “That said, I thought the words spoke for themselves. We’re going to investigate the words and what’s behind them.”

It’s Not Just Public Schools

Woke $57k-a-year NYC Private School Bans Students from Saying Mom and Dad, Asking Where Classmates Vacation, Etc…

  • Grace Church School in NoHo, which costs $57k a year, has offered a 12-page guide for staff, students and parents on ‘inclusive language’
  • ‘Mom’, ‘Dad’ or ‘parents’ are outlawed for ‘grown-ups, folks, family or guardian’
  • It urges them not to wish anyone a ‘Merry Christmas’ or even a ‘Happy Holidays’
  • And asks for an end to questions on where a person went on vacation  
  • It comes as conservatives in NYC complain that the Big Apple’s private schools have been infiltrated by a hard-left mentality 

A woke Manhattan school that charges parents $57,000 a year has issued a glossary of terms they claim will make the facility a more ‘inclusive’ place. Grace Church School in NoHo has offered a 12-page guide to staff, students and parents that encourages them to stop using ‘mom’ and ‘dad’, to stop asking classmates where they may have gone on vacation. and urges them not to wish anyone a ‘Merry Christmas‘  – or even a ‘Happy Holidays’.

The Episcopal school also offers courses and after-school programs for its students that include single-gender groups, a Roots of Empathy program, and a course called ‘Allying: Why? Who? and How?’ which is offered to seniors.

Grace Church school issued its ‘inclusion glossary’ for 2021 which it claims will ‘remove harmful assumptions from the way we interact with each other’.

‘While we recognize hateful language that promotes racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination are already addressed in our school handbooks, we also recognize that we can do more than ban hateful language; we can use language to create welcoming and inclusive spaces,’ it states. The guide also warns readers to ‘be aware that people may not always welcome questions, and they are not obligated to respond’.

Rev. Robert M. Pennoyer II, the assistant head of school, City Journal in a statement that the decision was made to introduce the glossary as Grace is an Episcopal school.

‘As part of our Episcopal identity, we recognize the dignity and worth common to humanity,’ he said. He added that the guide comes ‘from our desire to promote a sense of belonging for all of our students’.

Among the topics covered in the guide is the language surrounding gender, families, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, religion, disability, and socioeconomics.

Under gender, it urges for ‘boys and girls’, ‘guys’, ‘ladies and gentlemen’ to be abandoned in favor of the likes of ‘people’, ‘folks’, ‘friends’, ‘readers’, or even ‘mathematicians’.

It even encourages for those terms to be changed when reading books, using child, person, or character instead of ‘the boy/girl on this page’.

And pet names are out of the question, with ‘sweetheart’ and ‘honey’ to be replaced only with the child’s name or a description of what the child is wearing if that is not known. 

‘Mom’, ‘Dad’ or ‘parents’ are also outlawed for ‘grown-ups, folks, family or guardian’. Nanny and babysitter must also be change to caregiver or guardian. ‘Families are formed and structured in many ways,’ the school states. 

‘At Grace Church School, we use inclusive language that reflects this diversity. It’s important to refrain from making assumptions about who kids live with, who cares for them, whether they sleep in the same place every night, whether they see their parents, etc.’

The school also warns for staff and students to ‘be mindful of the language we use in order to avoid making assumptions about people as we engage in conversation that touches on religion’.

Asking someone ‘what religion are you?’ is outlawed in favor of ‘Are any religious/faith traditions important to you?’

And even the once neutral ‘Happy holidays’ much be replaced with ‘Have a great break’. But following the break, the guide also cautions against using any language that would assume a person was able to take a vacation.

The school attendees are asked to question what a person learned during their time off, instead of asking where they may have gone.

And they are also called on not to be presumptuous about the resources that people may have at home.

‘At Grace Church School, we work to be mindful of the language we use in order to avoid making assumptions about people and their available resources as we engage in conversations that touch on socioeconomics,’ the school states.

Under many of the topics within the guide, the school has also included a list of outdated terms which all should avoid. These include ‘real’ parents over ‘birth’ parents, sexual preference, homosexual, colorblind, Caucasian, colored people, diverse person, and slow learner. It concludes with a section that explains newer terms such as microaggression, and affinity groups, as well as definitions on how they view anti-racism and white supremacy.

In the classroom, students are also introduced to the same kind of ‘inclusion’ language with a Roots of Empathy program for 4th graders that involves bringing a community infant and parent into the classroom to visit every three weeks through the school year. ‘A trained instructor coaches students to observe the baby’s development and to label the baby’s feelings,’ the school explains. ‘Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program that has shown significant effect in reducing levels of aggression among schoolchildren by raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy.’

There is also a Gender Group where grade 6-8 meet bi-weekly in single gender groups facilitated by Middle School faculty.

‘Groups discuss gender-related issues, stereotypes, what it means to be authentic and to make good decisions,’ the school claims.

‘At all gender group meetings, students are encouraged to explore the idea of a gender spectrum, looking beyond the restrictive notion of a binary gender system.’

Grace Church School has described itself as an institution that ‘aims to establish in its students firmly rooted confidence in themselves and their abilities’.

It comes as New York City conservatives complain about the hard left, ‘woke’ culture they believe has infiltrated the Big Apple’s private schools.

Last month, journalist Megyn Kelly revealed that she took her three children out of NYC private schools after the teaching took a ‘hard left’ turn. Her sons attended the $55,900-a-year Collegiate School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Her daughter is believed to have attended the $57,385-a-year Spence School on the Upper East Side. ‘They were definitely leftist – we are more center right – but that was fine; my whole family are Democrats,’ she told Bill Maher.

‘But then they went hard left, and then they started to take a really hard turn toward social justice stuff.’ She said her sons’ school in particular troubled her. When he was in third grade, she said, they ‘unleashed a three-week experimental trans-education program.’ Kelly said it was difficult for her son to understand, and not helpful. Her son was in a class where the children were eight and nine at the time. ‘It wasn’t about support — we felt that it was more like they were trying to convince them,’ she said. ‘Like, come on over.’ She also said her kindergartner, Thatcher, ‘was told to write a letter to the Cleveland Indians objecting to their mascot.’ Kelly said: ‘He’s six. Can he learn how to spell Cleveland before we activate him?’ She added: ‘If he’s going to be activated, Doug and I should do it.’

Kelly said it was a question of ‘reason and unreason’.

The Scarcity of Honesty

National Constitution Day

In 2005, the Department of Education implemented “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” to be recognized every September — on the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution (9.17.1787). As we celebrate this year’s anniversary, we would do well to look back, way back, then forward again.

Over the past months, we have seen vandalism of monuments dedicated to American presidents and builders of our Constitution, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. Spurred by supposed quests for justice, this vandalism has also touched historical figures who fought for racial equality such as abolitionists Mathias Baldwin and John Greenleaf Whittier. Is the conflict surprising? Not really, when one considers what many of our schools are teaching on American Founding Principles.

Mt. Rushmore is a famous national monument located in South Dakota

In early September, students whose parents pay large sums of tuition at Vanderbilt University took a quiz with this question: “Was the Constitution designed to perpetuate white supremacy and protect the institution of slavery?” According to reports, if a student checked false, the answer was marked wrong. Vanderbilt described this class as the “largest ever offered with over 800 students”.

The Vanderbilt professor’s premise for the question demanded a certain answer, but the premise is false. For instance, escaped slave and abolitionist scholar, Frederick Douglas, said this: “Abolish slavery tomorrow, and not a single sentence or syllable of the Constitution needs to be altered. It was purposely so framed as to give no claim, no sanction to the claim, of property in man. If in its origin slavery had any relation to the government, it was only as the scaffolding to the magnificent structure, to be removed as soon as the building was completed.

George Washington, who was elected as president of the convention that drafted our 1787 Constitution, stated this: “I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it [slavery].”    

These descriptions, from an escaped slave and our first President, certainly does not bolster Vanderbilt’s narrative of our Constitution.

In a broader sense, we must answer the question: What was distinctive to America’s founding: slavery or abolition? A sincere study of our history provides the clear answer. Abolition, of course. While slavery was being practiced around the world, the distinction of America’s founding was the effort to end it (recognition is in order to Pennsylvania’s Christian Quakers who first birthed the movement).  

Moving forward, we would serve our children—and society—well to teach the full story surrounding our Constitution: a document that granted no power to the institution of slavery, provided more freedom for self-determination than any other, and laid the foundation of upward mobility that attracted millions of people from around the world—from all races, creeds, and socio-economic statuses—to call this land home.   

Christopher P. DeSanctis is Head of School at Gateway Academy in Staten Island, NY. Christopher can be reached at

Distance learning makes clear what really matters in education

Connecticut Post:
Staten Island Advance:

April 11, 2020

What really makes for an impactful education? Is it the expensive science equipment? The size of a school’s library? The quality of sports fields and gymnasiums?

As the headmaster of a private school, I would argue that, while these things are IMG_0135_1L_pp-00172important, they are not most important. And, as a dad of three students who attend my school, I would offer that what is most important is who teaches my children and what they are being taught.

Everything else has its place and value, but when students graduate, more important than anything is what resides in their minds and hearts. And that comes, in large measure, from teachers and curriculum.

During this Covid-19 pandemic, students across America and around the world are turning to distance learning options, developed and implemented by their teachers with parents facilitating at home in many cases.

The quality of science equipment no longer matters. Nor do a school’s computer lab, beautiful facilities or sports programs. What matters now is what students learn and who is facilitating that learning. This season of global distance learning will reveal the quality of our teachers and content in a greater way than ever before.

Following the death of author C.S. Lewis, a quote of his from previously unpublished writings was found. To paraphrase: “Each generation can pass on to its successors only what it has. If skeptical, we shall teach only skepticism; if fools, only folly; if vulgar, only vulgarity, if saints, sanctity; if heroes, heroism. Education is the best of channels where each generation influences the next. What a teacher has will be passed on. What a teacher does not have cannot be passed on.”

In other words, Lewis agrees that, along with being content specialists, teachers must also know the value of universal truths, such as loving our neighbor, caring for the poor, honoring our parents, and acting courageous during times of hardship or injustice. These Student Working at Desktypes of teachers will not only instill knowledge in students, but also help them be more human.

In this time of national anxiety, the challenges are great. Adjusting to such a different way of living is difficult at best. Yet, let’s also consider the great possibilities of the lifelong impact teachers can have on their students during this time, even if at a distance.

To all the teachers persevering and innovating to shape the hearts and minds of our nation’s youth to become people not only of knowledge, but also of character and compassion, I salute you. To all the parents partnering with educators to a degree greater than ever before, I applaud you.

Let’s determine that this spirit of partnership and commitment to what truly matters continues long after we once again experience the welcome normalcy of the past

Christopher P. DeSanctis is the head of school at Gateway Academy in Staten Island, NY, and a part-time adjunct professor at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

July 4th and Immortality Tonics?

Staten Island Advance, July 1, 2019

In this season of fireworks, you can impress your friends by dropping this tidbit: Gunpowder, which causes fireworks to explode, was invented in ancient China by Taoist experimenters trying to create an immortality tonic.

Their attempts at man-made eternity failed. But their invention helps us celebrate a principle that has outlived generations, but whose continued strength requires our eternal vigilance. Freedom.

The purpose of July 4 commemorations—fireworks and all—is wrapped up in our founders’ passion for the right to self-determination (i.e. freedom or liberty). This right was won through the profound sacrifice of early Americans and entrusted to us with the7-ways-to-celebrate-july-4th-image charge that we not only guard it but also bequeath it to our children.

Often taken for granted is a phrase from the Declaration of Independence that states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

As an educator, I often challenge students to memorize these words, as they represent our nation’s mission statement; they summarize the propositions to which Abraham Lincoln said our nation is dedicated; and they signify the revered ideals that our nation’s founders battled and died for right here in the countryside of the Northeast.

Our national heritage of self-determination has propelled some of America’s greatest achievements and compelled us to right some of our most grievous wrongs. Indeed, this principle played a critical role in motivating the abolition movement, empowering the suffrage movement, and inspiring the civil rights movement.

In a time when July 4 is often celebrated without much fanfare for our Declaration’s impact on these historic movements, we should encourage students to understand its significance to American freedom.

Only by doing so can we ensure today’s youth know the nature and origin of their rights and teach citizens to respect the equality and dignity of others.

For us today—the heirs and stewards of freedom—July 4 should inspire a re-commitment to the principles of our Declaration. And particularly for those of us engaged in the educational arena, it should mean championing the right of parents to educate their children with the values and worldview they believe is best for them. If this basic right is denied by a government charged with securing our rights, then liberty perishes, and the promise of July 4 becomes a distant memory.

So, as we enjoy fireworks this week—thanks in part to a failed attempt at immortality—we can use the bursts of color to initiate conversations with our children about the great meaning behind these wonderful displays of light in the night sky.

Christopher P. DeSanctis is Head of School at Gateway Academy in Staten Island, NY and a part-time Adjunct Professor at Sacred Heart University’s Department of Government, Politics and Global Affairs. His email address is

Justice Bolick

At Sacred Heart University with Clint Bolick, center, now an Associate Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, and Dr. Gary Rose, pictured left, Chairman of the Department of Government, Politics, and Global Affairs. Before joining the AZ Supreme Court in 2016 Bolick was Vice President for Litigation with the Goldwater Institute


The Forgotten Holiday

Excerpted in today’s edition of the New York Daily News 

Each year during one of America’s favorite holiday seasons, Thanksgiving, we anticipate the chance to gather with family and friends to reflect on the blessings we enjoy in this country. But frankly, another holiday should rank equally as high for its significance to our great land of opportunity and freedom: Constitution Day, on September 17.IMG_2602

On this day, we commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 in Philadelphia. After months of deliberation and debates, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed this landmark document that remains the oldest written national constitution still in use today.

Yet, ask many Americans what happened on September 17, and they return blank stares. Even fewer will know that since 2004, Constitution Day has been an official national observance.

Yet to us — and to each succeeding generation — belongs the duty to preserve our system of free and limited government. How can we fulfill this charge if we fail to recognize, understand, and appreciate the foundational legal document of this system? Indeed, we cannot.

Therefore, teaching the principles of our democratic republic—both its structure and the reasons behind it—should be an important goal for all levels of American education. But American education has failed in this respect. Too many people who proudly call America home do not understand the reasons for that pride. What are the benefits of the rule of law, enumerated powers, federalism, checks and balances, and due process? What truly is a “right”?

Consider these findings of a 2017 survey of adults by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania:

  • More than one in three people (37%) could not name a single right protected by the First Amendment.
  • Only one in four (26%) can name all three branches of the government. (In 2011, 38% could name all three branches.)
  • One in three (33%) can’t name any branch of government.

Coming to the same conclusion was the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which surveyed adults to determine their understanding of basic American principles: 71 percent of Americans failed the survey, with an overall average score of 49 percent. Lack of understanding reached across the ideological spectrum, with liberals scoring 49 percent and conservatives 48 percent.

In our Constitution’s preamble, our founders declared liberty for future generations when they wrote their intent to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” But a nation will never secure what it does not teach—and therefore, does not understand. It is up to us to fulfill this charge.

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a moderate on the bench, described the crisis in pointed terms: “Knowledge about the ideas embodied in the Constitution and the ways in which it shapes our lives is not passed down from generation to generation through the gene pool….”

Justice O’Connor is right. We must deliberately pass on these ideas — through education, both at home and in school — or else we lose the very things we hold dear: freedom and opportunity.

Currently, fifteen states require high school students to pass a citizenship test to graduate. This means graduating seniors must have the same basic civics knowledge as those applying to become naturalized U.S. citizens. It’s encouraging that more than a dozen states have implemented this threshold. But why not all 50?

Young people must be taught the principles of liberty, the importance of understanding it, the reasons for loving it, and the necessity—and means—of preserving it. Schoolhouses across the country should embrace Constitution Day as an opportunity to deliberate on the original meaning behind the preamble’s words of “union,” “justice,” “tranquility,” “common defense,” “general welfare,” and “liberty”.

President Ronald Reagan summed up the matter accurately when he said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in the United States when men were free.”

Reagan was right. For only by understanding our freedoms—and the constitutional, limited government that protects them—can we defend them. And only by defending them can we preserve them and pass them on to future generations. Let’s not forget September 17.

Majoritarian Extremes

Appeared in the CT Mirror: 3/24/2014

Majoritarian extremism is, once again, aiming its proverbial guns at the Electoral College in Hartford, this time through House Bill 5126, which seeks to incorporate a national popular vote to elect the president.

Under the bill, Connecticut would award its seven electoral votes to the candidate who secures the most popular votes nationally. This would be a radical change from our current system, in which Connecticut’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who wins the confidence of Connecticut voters.

One could begin to think America’s Founders had it wrong. Were they too concerned with accountability and balancing power when creating the system we use to elect the president?

The Electoral College, more than a national popular vote, produces an accountable president. The Electoral College makes it necessary for presidential candidates to learn the diverse needs, interests, and cultures of different regions and states in America. With a national popular vote, this necessity disappears, and all focus turns toward major population centers in urban areas in big states.

Under a national popular vote, presidential elections would become urban, big-state-centric with no accountability among the candidates to learn the issues that concern suburban, rural, and other lightly populated areas. A definite blow to federalism.

For example, if presidential contenders were to pursue only a national popular vote, Barack Obama in 2012 would have spent most of his time and resources campaigning in California and New York, with Mitt Romney doing the same in Texas and Florida.

If we want to hold presidential candidates accountable, they should continue to court many state majorities rather than one, single, national majority. A single, national majority simply doesn’t reflect the vast and very special diversity found in states like Connecticut. Connecticut is not Tennessee, and Texas certainly is not California. New England is not the Southwest, and so on.

The Constitutional Convention of 1787 voted twice on a national popular vote to elect the president. Both times the idea was decisively rejected. Professor and Author Gary L. Gregg II, in Securing Democracy: Why We Have an Electoral College, states:

The Electoral College also reminds us of an alternative to today’s dominant political ethic, which equates the immediate election of the people – pure and simple majoritarianism – with good government. The Founders held to no such simple and dogmatic formula. They insisted the new government they created be free and rest on the firm foundations of republicanism.

The Founders feared a single majority electing the president. They feared someone like Mussolini, a charismatic demagogue, who could mesmerize the populace while cloaking a dangerous agenda. This is easy to do with a national popular vote. It’s not so easy with the Electoral College vote, which is based on the individual, popular votes of the 50 states. Gregg continues:

The Founders realized that there was a tendency in democratic politics, a phenomenon recognized by Plato, for ambitious democratic politicians to resort to inflammatory, dangerous, and divisive rhetoric in order to win votes. And they realized that this was a particularly dangerous possibility with regard to the selection of a single national president.

Adolf Hitler not only murdered millions of innocent people and nearly exterminated the Jewish race but he also was able to convince most of Germany that his actions were necessary and even just. His ability to captivate German citizens through speeches and propaganda was astounding.

One critique of the Electoral College is that states like Connecticut receive little attention from presidential candidates and, as a result, are disenfranchised. Yes, Connecticut is not a battleground state, but that’s because Connecticut voters as a whole have demonstrated they are comfortable with the policy positions and party affiliation of one of the two candidates running for the presidency. When a majority of Connecticut voters are no longer comfortable with one of the two candidates, it will become a battleground state. Conversely, under a national popular vote system, lightly populated states like Connecticut will never be the focus of attention.

Would you like to discuss “real” disenfranchisement? While presidential candidate George Bush in 2004 won the national popular, his opponent, John Kerry, won Connecticut’s popular vote by almost 11 percentage points. Under the National Popular Vote law currently being proposed in Hartford, Connecticut’s seven Electoral College votes would have gone to Bush. Nothing against our former president, but that’s real disenfranchisement.

Before rushing to change our thoughtfully constructed Electoral College system, legislators in Hartford should take time to understand the purposes behind it and the significant and harmful ramifications of recklessly dismantling it. Candidates for the presidency should remain focused on states, which are closer and more accountable to the people. Only then will the interests and intents of Connecticut voters – and voters across the country – truly be protected.

Christopher P. DeSanctis is head of school at Gateway Academy in Staten Island, NY, and an adjunct professor at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Merit Pay Verse Tenure

Bridgeport School Reform Should End Tenure

Appeared in the Hartford Courant on July 23, 2011:

The potential state takeover of Bridgeport’s public schools demonstrates how badly Connecticut needs serious education reform.

Eighteen-year-old Bassick High School senior Kiara Rivera, who is pessimistic about her chances of attending college, blames poorly performing teachers who “routinely place calls or send text messages from their cell phones during class,” according to a report in the Connecticut Post. Part of the system’s failure, to which Kiara indirectly refers, is teacher tenure, which has become a guarantee of a job regardless of achievement.

Children depend on a good education to find success later in life. A good education requires excellent teachers, and this requires giving administrators the ability to let go of poor performers. Sadly, this is almost impossible. Tenure assures even the worst-performing teachers a job for life at the expense of their students’ futures.

The Bridgeport public schools spend around $14,265 per student. Nationally, things look the same: “… education spending in America has increased to $9,000 per student today, vs. $4,300 in 1971 (adjusted for inflation), yet math and reading scores in the country have both flat-lined. America ranks a pitiful 25th in math and 21st in science among 30 developed countries …” according to a 2010 article in The Economist magazine. Increasing spending per student will not solve all the problems in Bridgeport’s public education system or nationally. Retaining and recruiting talented teachers and letting go of poorly performing ones will help tremendously. As The Economist noted, “good teachers can cover 150 percent of a required curriculum, while bad teachers may cover as little as 50 percent.”

Connecticut and schools nationally need to drop teacher tenure in favor of a merit pay system, and here are a few reasons why:

Merit pay will help attract the nation’s brightest thinkers, talented individuals from America’s workforce and soon-to-be college graduates. It will retain high-performing teachers by rewarding them for success. People in this talent pool will choose to teach if they know they’ll be justly compensated for working hard.

Teachers will be motivated to produce even better results. People accomplish more when their successes are rewarded. Basing salary increases only on the number of years worked is not an incentive to achieve.

Pay linked to success will help alleviate the current teacher shortage in states across America. Some such as Maryland have offered signing bonuses and tuition reimbursements. Texas recruits teachers from Mexico and Bridgeport has hired from India to fill its gaps. Merit pay should help attract more teaching candidates.

Certainly, merit pay will not solve all the challenges in public education, such as the lack of family support and structure for many children. However, it is one important and necessary change.

Moving quickly on changes such as merit pay will eventually help improve our economy and reduce unemployment. Approximately 7,000 students in America drop out of high school every school day. Dropouts are more likely to go to prison, need government welfare assistance, and cost the nation hundreds of billions of dollars in lost wages. Yet, a significant decrease in dropouts offers tremendous benefits: “If U.S. high schools and colleges raise the graduation rates of Hispanic, African American, and Native American students to the levels of white students by 2020, the potential increase in personal income would add more than $310 billion to the U.S. economy,” according to the Alliance for Education in 2009. We cannot afford to ignore effective public school reform any longer. The status quo is not working.

Reward the hardworking and successful teachers. Even better, pay the top ones six figures. In the years to come, our children and economy will benefit. And in the end, Bridgeport students such as Kiara Rivera might not be so pessimistic about their chances of attending college.


Can Executing Murderers Save Lives?

Appeared in American Thinker, 2011:

Connecticut’s new governor and democratic legislative majority have promised to abolish capital punishment despite public opinion.  They’re not alone.  Most European governments abolished death sentences regardless of public opinion.  “There is barely a country in Europe where the death penalty was abolished in response to public opinion rather than in spite of it,” stated Joshua Marshall in The New Republic.  “In other words, if these countries’ political cultures are morally superior to America’s, it is because they are less Democratic.” (Death penalty news)

It’s unfortunate that majority opinion in Connecticut will likely be ignored.  True, majorities are not always right, but when an issue has that much support among citizens regionally and nationally – like in Europe and America respectively – Connecticut’s state government should pay more attention.  Gallup’s latest poll has 64% of Americans supporting capital punishment while 29% oppose (for overly atrocious crimes, support rises to 80%).  Even more important to Connecticut, the latest Quinnipiac Poll shows 65% of people statewide favor the death penalty for murder.

In 1999, Russell Peeler ordered the murders of eight-year old Leroy “B.J.” Brown Jr. and his mother, Karen (B.J. witnessed her execution before being shot in the head).  In 2005, Kim and Tim Donnelly of Fairfield were coldly shot to death in their family run jewelry store.  And in 2007, Cheshire residents Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters were sexually abused and murdered in a case still receiving national attention for its viciousness.  Some of the perpetrators of these crimes will spend the rest of their lives on death row, but most likely, none will be executed.  As State Rep. Mike Lawlor pointed out, “The way the current law is written, nobody is ever going to be executed again in Connecticut, unless they force the issue.” (Seven news)

Half of Americans believe capital punishment is not imposed enough while just 18 percent think it is imposed too much (2010 Gallup poll).  Indeed, this mirrors Connecticut, where capital punishment is almost completely unused: nine convicted murderers are still awaiting execution (one death row inmate has been there for 22 years); 19 have long-standing death penalty cases, and only one person has been executed since 1960 (Michael Ross begged to have his execution carried out). Could this lack of swift justice be the cause of future murders?  Can execution save lives?

The academic world has been weighing in on a deterrence effect. As reported in a testimony given by Dr. David Muhlhausen before a U.S. Senate Subcommittee (read testimony here), over the last ten years, several studies have confidently asserted to confirm capital punishment deters murders, saving 3 to 18 lives for every one person executed.  Dr. Naci Mocan, a death penalty opponent and economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, co-authored a 2003 study and a 2006 study re-examining evidence.  The studies evaluate state-level data on the influence of individuals removed from death row, those executed, and those who received commuted sentences between 1977 and 1999. Dr. Mocan concluded the effect of one execution is five fewer murders.

Other studies assert similar results (Heritage Foundation):

     Using a panel data set of over 3,000 counties from 1977 to 1996, Professors Hashem

Dezhbakhsh, Paul R. Rubin, and Joanna M. Shepherd of Emory University found that each execution, on average, results in 18 fewer murders.

     Two studies by Paul R. Zimmerman, a Federal Communications Commission economist, also

support the deterrent effect of capital punishment. Using state-level data from 1978 to 1997, Zimmerman found that each additional execution, on average, results in 14 fewer murders.

     Using a small state-level data set from 1995 to 1999, Professor Robert B. Ekelund of Auburn

University and his colleagues analyzed the effect that executions have on single incidents of murder and multiple incidents of murder. They found that executions reduced single murder rates, while there was no effect on multiple murder rates.

In response to such reports, well-known liberal law professor and death penalty opponent Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago commented, “If it’s the case that executing murderers prevents the execution of innocents by murderers, then the moral evaluation is not simple.” And, “Abolitionists or others, like me, who are skeptical about the death penalty haven’t given adequate consideration to the possibility that innocent life is saved by the death penalty.”

Certainly, more studies are needed and old studies should be re-examined.  However, if it is likely that innocent lives are saved by executing (not just convicting) cold-blooded murderers, then Connecticut leaders need to consider the ramifications of abolishing the death penalty.

I believe Professor John McAdams from Marquette University makes a strong case on this point: “If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of … innocent victims.  I would much rather risk the former.” (American Bar Association)

We owe it to the surviving families of the above-mentioned victims to review the facts and save other families from unnecessary suffering.  Most people weigh the costs and benefits of their actions, and for murder, the cost should be as great as possible.  The academic world is onto something.