Teachers who showed up at Gov. Dannel Malloy’s first “town meeting” on education in Hartford last night must have felt like they walked into an episode of Law and Order. Unyielding and driving, Malloy pushed his education agenda like an aggressive district attorney. As teachers stood up and tried to gently suggest that school reform might be more complicated than his “9 month” education reform strategy, Bulldog Dan briskly knocked them back, reminding them how his 17-town tour sealed his budget deal last year.
Mostly, Malloy gave no ground, though he did acknowledge “I know I have disappointed some of you. I know some of you are mad” near the end of the hour-long question-and-answer session in Hartford’s South End.
“I put everybody on notice,” the governor led off, wisely focusing on the moral and ethical reasoning behind his reform plan and asking whether folks were comfortable with schools that merely prepare children for incarceration.
Score this one Malloy 1, Angry Teachers 0.
Asked whether removing an elected school board was anti-democracy, he replied that the schools were “letting people down by the thousands.” When he was told the problem isn’t teacher tenure but poor children showing up for school years behind, Malloy gestured and pointed his finger and said he is not really making much of a change in tenure at all (that’s debatable, though I agree with him).
And when one West Hartford teacher tried to question tying teacher evaluations to test scores with a rambling critique, Malloy told him that “you made a point and I want to counter you on it … Let’s not pretend that we don’t spend a lot of money on education in Connecticut … Isn’t it time to change?”
It’s not that Malloy isn’t facing critics. Prominent defense lawyer and blogger Norm Pattis has labeled Malloy a “goose-stepping governor” while Jonathan Pelto stirs a tepid cauldron of corporate conspiracy. It’s just that for Malloy, this is another challenge in a campaign to bring Connecticut back. He won’t lose, even if schools remain the same.