When it comes to Connecticut government and politics, the term “Local Control” is the closest we come to the notion that some concepts are so sacred that it would be more accurate if we simply referred to them as “the word of God,” and called it a day.
While reasonable people might secretly discuss the negative impact Connecticut’s absurdly small geo-political units (read cities and towns) have on racial isolation, poverty, educational achievement, property tax rates and equity in education funding, the fact is, that the issues are so fraught with political ramifications, that one MUST insert the word “voluntary” before any concepts associated with regionalism, desegregation or other attempts to break down the walls that surround our 169 towns.
But last February, Governor Malloy, a Democrat, proposed legislation that would give his Commissioner of Education unprecedented powers to override local boards of education. As initially proposed, the Malloy administration would even had increased authority to remove democratically elected boards of education, as well as, take over individual schools, remove the staff, ban collective bargaining, give the schools over to 3rd parties to run, entities which would then be exempt from having to follow the Connecticut laws that require competitive bidding and limit the use of consultants.
While the legislative process softened some of the harshest proposals, the overall “education reform” package passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support and Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education is busy, as we speak, implementing the new law.
Of course, in reality, since the new Connecticut law really only applies to the poorer cities with higher minority populations, Connecticut’s public officials could try to claim that they’d never dream of overriding local control in suburban areas.
Meanwhile, as Diane Ravitch, the nation’s premiere public education advocate writes in her blog, Republicans are just as committed to destroying the concept of “local control,” as long as the policies being implemented can be called “education reform” and the beneficiaries are the “education reform industry.”
Ravitch posts about this very issue today, writing that, “In Georgia, the Republican party has lined up to support a constitutional amendment this fall that would give the governor power to override the decisions of local school boards and open charters whether the local boards like it or not.”
But unlike here in Connecticut where Republicans and Democrats were nearly unanimous in their willingness to override local control to further “education reform” goals, some Georgia Republicans appear to be standing up to the Education Reform Industry.
Ravitch writes that Georgia’s “state superintendent of education, a loyal Republican named John Barge, has come out in opposition to the measure, which will be on the ballot in November.
The state superintendent released a statement saying that he “cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education, and the state Board of Education,”
He added “What’s more, this constitutional amendment would direct taxpayer dollars into the pockets of out-of-state, for-profit charter school companies whose schools perform no better than traditional public schools and locally approved charter schools (and worse, in some cases).”
While Connecticut doesn’t allow for-profit charter schools (at this time), the Georgia situation is a stark reminder of the strange, upside down world of “Education Reform”. Here Democrats and Republicans joined together under a Democratic governor and Democratic education commissioner to take away local control and hand public resources to non-public entities that aren’t governed by Democratically-elected boards, but in Georgia, the state’s top education official, a conservative Republican, is standing up to the “education reformers” and opposing efforts to override local control in order to provide revenue for the “education reform” industry.
Diane Ravitch’s blog can be found here: http://dianeravitch.net/2012/08/15/amazing-news-from-georgia/