Yesterday, Governor Dannel Malloy had a letter about “Education Reform” hand-delivered to all of Connecticut’s state legislators.
In the letter Governor Malloy begins by telling legislators that “We all seem to agree on a few core principles and then outlined those fundamental concepts;
(1) “We agree that too many of our schools are failing too many of our children, (2) We agree on the expansion of early childhood education must be a central element of reform, (3) We agree that failing schools require special intervention if we want our students to succeed in life and (4) And we agree we want the best teachers in all classrooms.”
The principles are clear and the bill that passed the Education Committee fulfills all of those core principles.
So why is Governor Malloy saying that he will veto the bill unless he gets a lot more of “his” language put back in the bill?
Although the Governor goes on to write “Let me be clear,” he actually never identifies the particular elements of the bill that have upset him so much that he is demanding that it be “his way” or “no way”.
The Governor would do everyone a favor by simply speaking the truth and telling legislators and the public what this battle is really about…then people could have the necessary discussions and a bill could be passed and signed into law.
The problem is he can’t actually say what the real truth is because the voters of Connecticut would never support his concept if they actually knew what he was pushing for.
At this point, the primary issue underlying the “Education Reform” debate is the piece that creates what is called “The Commissioner’s Network” and it directly relates to his principle #3 – “failing schools require special intervention if we want our students to succeed in life.” In his original bill it was Section 18.
Under present Connecticut law, the state of Connecticut can intervene and take over local schools. Malloy’s Department of Education used that process to take over the Windham School System where they have now installed a $225,000 “Special Master” (Steven Adamowski) to run the school system. The Malloy Administration wanted to take over the Bridgeport schools as well, but because they actually failed to follow a provision of the existing law, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned their attempt and they will now have to go back and actually do it in a legal way.
The problem is that Governor Malloy and Stefan Pryor, his Education Commissioner, don’t like the present system because it prevents them from quickly taking over a larger number of schools and turning those schools over to third parties to run.
To resolve that problem Malloy’s original bill set up the “Commissioner’s Network”.
This education bill takes effect on July 1, 2012. If Malloy’s “Commissioner’s Network” was adopted Stefan Pryor would have until July 15, 2012 to identify up to 25 schools to take over.
The local cities or towns would then have 120 days to agree to the Commissioner’s “turnaround” plan and if they didn’t he would then have the authority to take over the schools and hand them over to another entity such as a charter school management company.
Under Malloy’s proposal, once the third party took over the school, all existing teachers and administrators would be fired and the new entity would begin to hire their own staff.
Commissioner’s Network Schools would be treated differently than any other schools in Connecticut. Collective bargaining would be outlawed at Commissioner’s Network” Schools and the organizations or companies running the schools would not have to abide by the state laws limiting the use of consultants or requiring things like competitive bidding for purchases.
The Education Commissioner would also have the power to overturn any previous decision of the local Board of Education that he did not like.
The Malloy Administration has been arguing that these changes would allow the Commissioner’s Network Schools to quickly turnaround the quality of education at these schools.
Opponents point out that there is no evidence that taking this drastic action would improve the quality of these schools and, in the meantime, they would become “cash cows” for the people and companies running those schools.
This entire concept was contained in Section 18 of Malloy’s bill and the Legislature’s Education Committee correctly changed the language to make the Governor and his commissioner come back next year with a more detailed plan about how these Commissioner Network schools would work.
Governor Malloy doesn’t want to wait a year. He wants to be able to start taking over schools this July.
At the beginning, the Governor said this debate was about having a better system for getting rid of bad teachers and the bill now does that and yet he won’t support it.
Why? Because the Governor still wants to end tenure for teachers and still wants teacher salaries attached to the results of the absurd Connecticut Mastery Tests and still wants more money for charter schools…
But those are all secondary to what is most important to him and his administration. They want the “Commissioner’s Network” so that they can take over more than two dozen schools and hand them over to non-elected entities to run.
There is a reason for the phrase – “follow the money.”