Senators talk education reform with Malloy

State Sen. Joan Hartley (D-15)

HARTFORD — State senators Joan Hartley (D-15) and Joseph Crisco, Jr. (D-17) met with Gov. Dannel Malloy this week to discuss education reform.

During his budget address in February, Malloy proposed sweeping education reforms. A proposal to change how teachers earn tenure as garnered much of the attention.

Currently, teachers earn tenure after four years in the classroom and teacher pay is based on number of years of service and level of education.

Malloy had proposed to link tenure and pay to a new system of teacher evaluation and require teachers to re-earn tenure.

Malloy’s original proposal has been changed by state committees.

Some of the biggest changes made by the Education Committee concern teacher tenure, charter schools, regionalization and state takeovers of struggling school districts and schools.

The Appropriations Committee also recommended a smaller budget for a number of the governor’s initiatives.

The Education Committee’s bill directs the education commissioner to study a possible link between tenure and evaluations, and to report back to the committee on Jan. 1.

The committee rejected another Malloy proposal to reduce state aid to small school districts to encourage more regionalization. Its bill instead requires the state Department of Education to study the issue.

The governor’s plan would have allowed the education commissioner and the State Board of Education to assume responsibility for as many as 25 of the state’s lowest-performing schools. He recommended budgeting $22.9 million to turn around 10 to 12 of these struggling schools in the coming fiscal year.

The Education Committee’s bill directs the education commissioner to develop turnaround plans for a minimum of 10 schools for the panel’s consideration next January.

The Appropriations Committee provided only $10.8 million in its mid-term budget plan for this so-called commissioner’s network of schools.

The governor’s plan recommended $14.1 million more for charter schools; the Appropriations Committee allocated just $8.1 million more.

The Education Committee also limited the approval of new charter schools to low-achieving school districts or districts with low-achieving schools.

State Sen. Joseph Crisco, Jr. (D-17)

According to a release issued by Hartley and Crisco, negotiations among legislative leaders and administration officials are ongoing after the Education Committee approved the significantly different version of the governor’s bill.

“With less than three weeks remaining in this year’s legislative session the time for hard-line, ideological stands has expired and I join the governor with a call for all parties to focus on the common ground that exists and the common goal of better schooling for Connecticut students,” Hartley said in the release. “Public education is meant to serve students and their families and that means the objectives of everyone else, administrators, teachers, and policy makers, must take a back seat.”

The lawmakers said it was helpful to hear directly from the governor about his proposal.

Hartley and Crisco said there is a tacit agreement between the administration and legislative leaders on issues like early childhood education, the need for direct intervention in some of the state’s most troubled districts, and teacher certification standards. Other issues, like teacher evaluation and the threshold for teacher tenure are the subject of ongoing talks.

“I would remind those involved in these negotiations that every day spent behind closed doors is another day Connecticut’s underserved students limp along without the reforms everyone agrees are necessary and overdue,” Crisco said in the release. “I would echo what the governor said in terms of our timetable: this debate must not be extended any longer because we’re stumbling along with a status quo that became outdated years ago.”

The Republican American contributed to this article.