After all the talk and bluster about a year of education reform what’s emerged from the General Assembly’s education committee is a non-threatening and more-of-the-same education spending plan. That’s not likely to put Connecticut at the forefront of any reform movement.
It’s reform lite.
Is that what Connecticut wants? That’s unclear. Is it a compromise? That depends on your perspective. By any measure, it is a significant, if preliminary, win for the Connecticut Education Association. The CEA and the American Federation of Teachers certainly deserve credit here for getting a bill out of committee that meets their desires.
But it’s not what Gov. Dannel Malloy — the big loser thus far in this still-unfolding story — sought. The governor’s office didn’t say much Tuesday night, except that Malloy is committed to “fixing what’s broken in our public schools no matter how long it takes.” His office didn’t say whether that would include taking on the leaders of his own party, House Speaker Chris Donovan and Senate President Don Williams, who are most certainly the muscle behind the success of this compromise.
There’s more money for preschool, which everyone agrees is good. The teacher evaluation process was streamlined and improved. A big move to grant the state bold new power to take over chronically failing schools was scaled back. A plan to link evaluation to tenure and decisions about dismissal of chronically ineffective teachers — a high-profile though less significant part of the bill — was removed. Notably, a long-sought effort to boost funding for charter schools was dialed back, knocking the state’s charter school movement on its heels.
Compared to what some other states have done, Connecticut’s initiative — which could still be radically altered over the next six weeks – really doesn’t look that ambitious. Maybe that’s why we have the biggest achievement gap in the land.
For my weekend blog readers, a correction: my early blog posts of the CEA email leaked to me Sunday afternoon were jump-the-gun inaccurate. The email was not sent to teachers and I was wrong to have said that — as many commenters made clear. I updated the post later in the day. What was most significant about the email was that union leaders declared that no deal was better than one they didn’t like. They meant it.
In the version that won preliminary approval Monday, the union got just what it wanted. The legislation isn’t quite a shell of what Malloy proposed, but it is substantially diminished and the reform groups that backed the governor and his plan appeared stunned Monday. Now, the governor must decide — is this compromise or capitulation?