A reader asked if I am following the battle over what is misleadingly called school reform in Connecticut. Indeed I am, largely tHrough the efforts of three smart Connecticut blogger-writers: Jonathan Pelto, Sarah Littman, and Wendy Lecker.
The Democratic governor of Connecticut, Dannell Malloy, was elected with the endorsement of the states’ two teachers unions, the NEA and the AFT. It was generally assumed, certainly by me, that he would not join the wolf-pack now blaming teachers for low scores and would not jump aboard the movement to privatize public education.
Unfortunately, that assumption was wrong. Malloy showed his hand when he appointed Stefan Pryor as state commissioner. Not only was Pryor on the board of the charter chain, Achievement First, but he previously worked for Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is one of the leading voices in favor of privatizing the public schools. When I spoke in Hartford last fall, I met Pryor, who was charming and decided to wait-and-see.
Then Governor Malloy proposed SB 24 as his major reform program. It included restrictions on teacher tenure, a new teacher evaluation system, and a pledge to turnaround low-performing schools by putting them in a special Commissioner’s district. The governor’s statements inflamed reactions to the bill. Governor Malloy blamed teachers for Connecticut’s racial achievement gap, and he said that teachers get paid just for showing up or breathing, or words to that effect. He said that he would be happy with teachers “teaching to the test,” although most educators know that any gains so obtained are likely to be temporary. He lauded charter schools. In his Commissioner’s district, made up of the state’s lowest performing schools, the State Commissioner would be empowered to fire all the teachers, ban collective bargaining, make contracts not subject to the usual laws and regulations, and turn the schools over to private entities to manage.
On his blog, former legislator Jonathan Pelto warned that Governor Malloy had formed an alliance with powerful financiers and that the low-performing schools would very likely be handed off to Achievement First. Although the so-called reform faction included the state’s superintendents and school boards, this was an odd alliance, which found them joined with such privatization-loving groups as StudentsFirst, ConnCAN, and Democrats for Education Reform. Malloy’s budget, Pelto wrote, had a disproportionate amount of money for Achievement First charter schools (http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/04/24/news-flash-malloy-hits-new-low-as-he-misleads-minority-community-on-education-reform/). Pelto regularly publishes powerful commentaries, such as today’s (http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/05/05/what-do-you-do-when-someone-wont-stop-lying/). Some of his other top entries: http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/03/24/just-when-you-think-youve-seen-it-all-big-city-mayors-speak-out/; also this one: http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/03/25/these-billionaires-and-millionaires-sure-are-interested-in-education-reform-3/.
Wendy Lecker was former president of the Stamford, CT, parent teacher council and staff attorney for the NYC Campaign for Fiscal Equity. Her articles are consistently thoughtful and enlightening, such as the last one: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Follow-colleges-advice-on-what-3535530.php#ixzz1twnbQkaX
I have also learned by reading Sarah Darer Littman, who writes often about education in Connecticut. Here is a sampling of some of her articles: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/op-ed_dont_blame_teachers/ and http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/op-ed_coalition_of_the_factual/.
So, yes, I am watching to see what happens in Connecticut. I have heard that a compromise was in the works, that Governor Malloy would back down on some of his most extreme proposals. Connecticut is a blue state, after all, and it should not be fertile ground for attacks on teachers’ rights to due process, their right to bargain collectively, or on the very idea of public schooling. I expect that Henry Barnard, the founding father of public education in Connecticut, must be watching these shenanagins with concern. After all, Connecticut was one of the first states to establish a public school system. On the NAEP, it is one of the highest performing states in the nation. An odd place to impose corporate-style reforms with private takeovers of public responsibility.
It’s important to keep an eye on what happens in this state.