Malloy’s 2012 Education Reform Initiative: It’s Not Whether You Win or Lose, But How You Spin the News…
In the days and hours before the Connecticut legislature voted on the big “Education Reform” bill, Governor Malloy and his “education reform” allies where blasting Connecticut’s Democratic legislators. The attacks included the observation that Democrats were “killing hope in Connecticut,” that Democrats were dedicating to preventing “any real accountability [in] teacher performance,” that Democrats were “committed to the status quo” and, one of my favorites, that Democratic “legislative leaders continue to turn a deaf ear to the pleas [of Connecticut’s children].”
Despite that onslaught, many Democratic legislators remained focused on putting together a bill that actually helped, rather than hurt, Connecticut’s children, parents, teachers and schools.
With the help of teachers, teacher unions and other community groups, legislators held tough and developed a bill that included a number of positive policy changes while dumping a significant majority of Malloy’s negative initiatives.
In the coming days, we’ll be looking at some of the various provisions of the final bill. However, an honest assessment of the package would lead one to conclude that Governor Malloy and the so-called reformers “won” about 20 percent of the controversial items he was pushing, while losing about 80 percent of those bad public policy concepts.
Normally, losing 80% of your proposals would be cause for concern, however, this is politics and in politics, if you proclaim – over and over again – that you are the victor, then there are some who will undoubtedly believe you.
As reported in the CT Mirror, “Dannel P. Malloy took to the radio airwaves in New York Tuesday to celebrate the changes to the education system and teacher tenure he has won in the education bill making its way through the Connecticut legislature.”
Malloy, who had proposed the most anti-teacher, anti-labor bill of any Democratic Governor in the nation, lost nearly all of those anti-teacher, anti-labor provisions as a result of the Democratically controlled General Assembly.
Of course, Malloy still managed to call it “his bill” as well as saying it was a “landmark” development. He told the radio listeners that “what is important is Connecticut is joining other states, finally, in reforming pre-K through 12 education.”
In addition to Malloy’s comments, some of the best political spin came from two of the major corporate groups that shifted their message 180 degrees in the last 24 hours.
Rae Ann Knopf, the executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a gaggle of Connecticut’s largest corporations and the group that has said “poverty was not an important factor when it came to influencing educational outcomes,” wrote that with this new bill, “Connecticut took a major step toward resuming its rightful place as a haven for enlightened education and a leader in championing the civil rights of all its citizens.
The very people, who were only hours before lamenting the utter disaster, now proclaimed that “Governor Malloy took a bold stance and proposed a massive comprehensive reform bill….the Governor never wavered on the importance of systemic change to ensure all children will end up with access to a high quality education in Connecticut.”
Meanwhile, Patrick Riccards ConnCAN’s CEO spent the last few months attacking Connecticut’s Democratic legislators on behalf of charter schools. But yesterday he wrote “Governor Malloy put the stake in the ground and called on the legislature to enact the types of reforms that will no doubt result in better outcomes for our students. Though the road was quite rocky, the governor, education commissioner, and legislative leaders demonstrated a steadfast commitment to reaching an agreement. In the end, and on behalf of Connecticut’s students, the General Assembly was able to enact meaningful reform.”
While the reformers are spending the days congratulating themselves on a bill that doesn’t include the worst of their ideas, there are still some very controversial and potentially damaging changes that were put into the bill, along with a variety of positive changes.
On the downside, the bill does virtually nothing to deal with the fact that Connecticut’s Educational Cost Sharing Formula remains at least $800 million underfunded, meaning local taxpayers continue to pick up a huge and unfair amount of the costs for running Connecticut’s schools.
Also, the same day Governor Malloy backed off his promise to make the initial payment to move Connecticut to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, he celebrated the education bill’s requirement that all towns adopt “a common chart of accounts so that we can understand how schools and districts spend education dollars.” A great idea, no doubt, but one that is yet another unfunded mandate since it will cost towns to implement, costs that the state is not picking up. Something about it being really important that towns be fiscally honest but the state – not so much.
Incredibly, the new education reform bill also adds MORE standardized tests. Not satisfied with the annual standardized tests in grades 3 – 10, Connecticut will now require a new set of standardized reading tests for kindergarteners, first graders, second graders and third graders.
Faced with large class sizes, this state government isn’t providing any more money for extra instructional aides to help these young children get more one on one reading help, but there will be hundreds of thousands for dollars for developing and implementing new tests.
The education reform bill also requires that all elementary teachers take a reading instruction exam. Despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence that teacher’s don’t know how to teach reading and lots of evidence that teachers don’t have the time or support staff to provide the help each child needs, the state’s solution is to test the teachers. As one veteran state senator said “Our kids are not reading… This will fix that.” Ah…okay.
And, of course, the charter schools are happy since although they don’t get all of the new money they want this year, the full amount will be phased in over the next three years. Even with the reduced amount, Achievement First, Inc., with its 3,000 students, will get more new state money this year than New Britain’s entire school system with its 10,854 students.
In fact, thanks to the charter school’s effective lobbying effort, each charter school student will see a boost in state taxpayer support this July of $1,100 per students while the 200,000 Connecticut students in the 30 poorest school districts will see a state funded increase of about $150 per student.
But if you overlook all those things, and a few more unfunded mandates and strange policy changes, there are some positive provisions in the education reform bill, as well.
Check back here at Wait, What? over the coming days for more details.
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