Here's a link to the Parent Trigger story we alluded to Wednesday. And as is often the case in the streamlined Courant, we couldn't possibly have included all the thoughtful comments made by legislators on the education committee or gone into all the details of parent advocacy for the trigger or the union's sustained efforts against it. So we'll try to to give you a little more of the flavor of the hearing and the jockeying for position here.
Word started trickling out late Tuesday and early Wednesday that the parent trigger, which is a component in legislation aimed at closing the achievement, gap was losing favor with committee leadership and unlikely to make it out of committee for a full vote and that pressure from teachers unions was a big reason why. By Wednesday morning committee co-chairs state Sen. Tom Gaffey and state Rep. Andrew Fleischmann had crafted their own parent "adviser" plan to replace it.
But three members of the committee - state reps Doug McCrory, Jason Bartlett and Patricia Miller refused to go quietly and following a lengthy caucus Fleischmann could be overheard saying to them "work is always better than confrontation and war," before opening the hearing.
Once things got going the three made impassioned pleas for the parent trigger to remain and the bill to make it out of committee. They got mixed responses, but ultimately a majority of their colleagues agreed to keep talking about the merits of the measure even if they couldn't support it in a floor vote.
Here's a few of their responses:
from state Rep. Paul Davis. "As a teacher I always felt that things came from the top down and the community needed more of a voice. But I don't think the petition is the answer."
from state Rep. Deborah Heinrich, who in the past week of education committee discussions has impressed Cityline with her thoughtful and insightful comments. "If you speak and speak and speak and nothing changes, you stop speaking out. They didn't ask us for money, they asked us for a say - that's all they asked for. Is this a perfect bill? No. Do we need to work to improve it? Yes. Do I want to see it die in committee? No."
From Gaffey, who voiced concerns about the trigger and voted against it. "This is not the end of the road no matter how any member votes today."
Maybe not, but the road just got a lot steeper and a lot trickier because the union pressure, - which can be gleaned from the email forwarded to Cityline below - is bound to ratchet up now.
Subj: Phone call are Working - Parent Trigger
> Your phone calls and e-mails are working! The Education Committee held
> the Parent Trigger bill today Keep the calls coming until Noon
> tomorrow when they will go back in again.
> Thanks again! As soon as we know something we will let you know!!
> -Teri Merisotis
> AFT Connecticut
But supporters of the trigger aren't going away without a fight. Word has it that state Sen. John Fonfara's cell phone was ringing off the hook to the point of annoyance on his part Wednesday, and a consortium of city PTOs made sure committee members knew where they stood in this letter, copied below
March 24, 2010
To: Education Committee Members
From: Hartford Parent Organization Council (HPOC)
On behalf of the Hartford Parent Organization, I would like to say we are very disappointed with some members of the committee who are simply allowing the status quo when it comes to turning around failing schools. As parents we play a vital role in our children's education, but yet when it comes to supporting the "Parent Trigger" some of you feel as though we should have no say by voting no to this bill.
The bill is simple, if a school fails for 3 years or more parents would have the right to pull the trigger to allow positive school change with everyone on board. Let us not make this into anything else. You can't keep expecting us to send our children into these failing schools and continue to get the same results. This is simply just absurd. You would not allow it if it were your child, so please don't expect us to allow it.
We have spent years standing on the side lines while teachers, administrators and districts continue to fail our children. When would you say enough is enough? Who is going to stand up for all children and put aside special interest all of the bureaucracy?
As the Education Committee, we look to you to do what is right for all children not just some children. The Parent Trigger bill is important to us because it will bring us to the table to fight for what is right for our children to succeed.
We look forward to your support on this important bill.