Cowardice led a handful of legislators to be manipulated like puppets by the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.
Democratic co-chairmen of the General Assembly's Education Committee, Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, and Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, handed over one of the nation's most promising education reform efforts to the teachers' unions like bullied third graders. Armed with outdated and disconnected lore of what teachers really believe, the frightened few carelessly heaped more hurt on the most needy children in Connecticut by making significant revisions in the education reform bill proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
The DHM Research survey conducted in January found that Connecticut's educators support meaningful education reform, including:
• 81 percent of educators believe schools and districts ought to be able to dismiss teachers and administrators with a documented history of poor performance, regardless of their seniority (as proposed in the governor's legislation)
• 76 percent want to earn and retain tenure based on proven effectiveness with students (also in the proposed legislation)
• 59 percent want to be promoted and receive tenure based on their success with increasing student achievement growth (also in the proposed legislation)
These results clearly demonstrate support by Connecticut's educators for the kinds of changes being proposed by the governor and other reform advocates. There is a deep disconnect between what the state and local teachers unions have said and what actual teachers say they believe when asked directly.
As the U.S. sends our noble warriors to distant lands to fight for democracy, Connecticut's own Rep. Fleischmann and Sen. Stillman conducted a clandestine closed weekend meeting with state union leaders March 24. Even as the committee received more than 5,000 calls and 2,000 emails in support of the proposed legislation, the door remained closed and the will of the people thwarted.
Were Rep. Fleischmann's and Sen. Stillman's meetings to have occurred between the GOP and banks, (excluding parents, minorities and Democratic opposition), foul would have been called. Michael Moore would have documented and the 99 percenters would have assembled. But alas, these were "honorable men" and women, Connecticut Democrats. Therefore, it is liberal for them to meet with big money private unions to dole out control over hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for our children's futures.
The feuding AFT and CEA came together over the weekend for the one thing upon which they will always agree — protecting the jobs of their members no matter the cost to the education of our children. Their dogma has proven to be an airborne poison — you don't know its effect until you know and when you find out it's too late. Sadly, we will soon know the effect of forcing children back into the 15 worst schools in the state to ensure that the educators will keep their jobs.
Rep. Fleischmann and Sen. Stillman have proven themselves to be as ineffective in their role as educational leaders as the few failed educators who they protected through their capitulation. As Rep. Fleischmann celebrates his new job as CEO of the Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters, he will share the same dubious distinction as the union he has protected. He will be responsible for worsening the prospects of the children he has been entrusted to serve.
As I was bombarded by those goofy CEA television commercials recently, I thought, "no one is actually buying this … right?" It's the same way I felt when I was a teenager watching late-night infomercials, "nobody really believes that Suzanne Somers stays thin with that thing … right?' Apparently some people do. So, congrats Rep. Fleischmann and Sen. Stillman on compromising Connecticut's most needy children's future and with it your purchase of education's ThighMaster.
Steve Perry is the founder and principal of the Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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