Stefan Pryor, the controversial state education commissioner, will leave his post and is “actively seeking new professional opportunities,” according to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office.
Pryor informed the governor Monday that he will not serve a second term. “Having served for nearly three fulfilling years as commissioner, I have decided to conclude my tenure by the end of this administration’s current term and to pursue new professional opportunities,” Pryor said. “Because I believe it’s important to communicate my decision proactively to the governor and the public, I am doing so now.”
The announcement indicated that Pryor’s move was his own choice. But a prominent Malloy critic said the truth is that Malloy has decided to “send…Pryor packing” — in an election-year attempt to distance the governor from Pryor, and reconcile with public school teachers alienated by both Pryor and the Malloy administration’s education policies.
“It’s a late and overdue political maneuver to try desperately to convince teachers ,parents and public school advocates to vote for him,” said the critic, Jonathan Pelto, an independent candidate for governor who is trying to petition his way onto the November ballot.
Pelto said the move won’t win back any votes for Malloy from disaffected teachers and parents, “because Pryor is but one piece of a broader, anti-public-schools agenda.”
Pryor has become a political liability for Malloy, with the Republican leader in the state Senate — John McKinney — calling for his removal. A champion of charter schools, Pryor was also criticized by some education union officials. That criticism was turned up after a series of embarrassing revelations involving a charter school operator that he had once embraced.
On Monday, Malloy publicly praised Pryor. “Commissioner Pryor has worked hard and well on behalf of Connecticut students. In the three years he’s led the department, we’ve taken tremendous steps forward to improve education, with a particular focus on the districts that have long needed the most help. We needed someone who could act as a change agent, and Stefan fulfilled that role admirably. And we’re seeing strong results. Graduation rates have gone up each of the last four years, national high school tests show that Connecticut students are leading among participating states in reading and math, and that we are making real progress in closing the achievement gap.
“It has been a pleasure working with Stefan,” Malloy said. “His energy, intellect, and work ethic are exemplary. I wish him well in his next endeavor, and I want to thank him for his service.”
However, Pelto — whose petition forms are now being examined by election officials to determine if he has the 7,500 signatures from registered voters required to get on the ballot — issued a statement saying:
Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s decision to send Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor packing is long overdue, but it is still great news for Connecticut’s public school students, parents, teachers and taxpayers.
As a leading proponent of the corporate education reform industry, Stefan Pryor and his team of anti-teacher, pro-standardized testing, privatization zealots have done immeasurable harm to Connecticut’s public education system.
While Governor Malloy remains the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in so called ‘turnaround schools,” one would hope that he is finally recognizing that his anti-teacher, pro-charter school, pro-Common Core agenda is bad news for Connecticut public schools or, at the very least, a political disaster for him has he aspires to a second term in office.
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.