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Malloy Vs. Teachers: He's Right On Education Reform

A lot of teacher anger, but the governor is doing what he must to fix failing urban schools, keep state competitive

Hartford Courant Editorial

March 22, 2012

Connecticut has a governor with an ambitious education agenda that includes improving the teacher corps, sharing dollops of new money with poor-performing districts and closing the achievement gap. But what's different and even better, the state finally has a leader who has the stomach to take the political heat to achieve his agenda.

And, boy, is Gov.Dannel P. Malloytaking heat for a righteous cause.

Connecticut parents should hope he prevails.

He's been shouted down by inflamed teachers at town hall meetings on school reform, called a "liar" and heard his ideas described as "utterly fraudulent." The angry mobs should know better.

Mr. Malloy even appeared to be in physical danger at one public event recently. And all this abuse comes from his supposed friends.

This week, the state's largest teachers union, the Connecticut Education Association, unveiled a negative television ad aimed squarely at its erstwhile ally, claiming the governor just "doesn't get it right."

Sorry, CEA, he does "get it right." Mr. Malloy's reform plan would be a long-needed boost for Connecticut.

There's much that's good about public education in Connecticut. But there's enough that's bad to worry whether our schools can turn out sufficient numbers of well-trained, well-educated graduates to join tomorrow's workforce and keep the state competitive let alone prepare good citizens to live in and contribute to a participatory democracy. Connecticut's quality of life is at stake.

Mr. Malloy's bill is now pending before the General Assembly's education committee. Can lawmakers keep from getting all wobbly from pressure by status-quo forces? Can they summon the courage to enact the governor's reforms? Unfortunately, we haven't seen the same pluck in members of the legislature that Mr. Malloy consistently demonstrates.

One item on the governor's agenda is reform of the teacher tenure system. Mr. Malloy would freshen the educator pool by requiring teachers to re-earn tenure every three to five years.

"Today, tenure is too easy to get and too hard to take away," Mr. Malloy truthfully said in his February State of the State address to the legislature. He also tossed off the regrettable line that teachers can get tenure in Connecticut "just by showing up for work."

That was this war's first notable misrepresentation, but certainly not the last.

Teacher Unions Get It Wrong

According to the CEA ad, the Malloy reforms strip local control from school districts and bleed money from neighborhood schools.

Half-truths, or less. Yes, the State Department of Education would intervene and take over local schools the lowest-performing 25 schools in the state, which would need a good shaking up. As for money, the governor proposes to add, not subtract, $128 million to education funding.

Teachers also complain about a new evaluation system, one that their unions the CEA and the American Federation of Teachers helped to design and have approved.

And accusations by some that teachers in poor urban districts would be evaluated by comparing the performance of their students with that of students in high-performing suburban districts is simply false.

Make no mistake. Mr. Malloy's governorship is on the line in this battle for better schools. He's pushing reasonable, practical changes that have been adopted in many other states.

They aren't radical ideas. Still, they threaten.

Instead of spreading misinformation, why don't the unions or a nonprofit or a university invite teachers from states that have already adopted reforms to come to Connecticut and tell their stories? That beats a half-baked ad.

All this misrepresentation by people who are perhaps justifiably nervous about change just shifts the focus away from the central truth: You can't expect to get better results from the same system that has been in place in public education for decades.

The system is broken and has to be changed.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
     
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