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Petty Politics Sinks Teacher Certification Reform

Hartford Courant

June 18, 2009

Connecticut's legislature covered itself in shame by not getting a lot of necessary work done adopting a budget, for example before its regular session adjourned on June 4. One of its worst and most avoidable lapses was letting the clock run out on a needed bill to modernize teacher certification requirements.

Lawmakers from both parties are to blame for this egregious bungle the majority Democrats for bringing the bill up for a final vote with only minutes to go in the session, and Republicans for filibustering it to death to punish the majority party for failing to discipline two Democratic senators who are guilty of election-law violations. Killing a bill that would improve schools was the wrong way to show displeasure.

And to think these folks are paid to represent us.

The sad thing is that legislators on both sides of the aisle acknowledge the problem a pending shortage of qualified teachers and agree that this legislation would have helped to solve it. The measure passed both chambers overwhelmingly.

Yet legislators were so unfocused at the end that they couldn't pull the trigger on a final Senate vote to reconcile its version with the House's.

With coming retirements set to thin the ranks of teachers, something needs to be done. This bill would have made it easier for qualified professionals to meet certification requirements so they can make mid-career shifts to the teaching ranks.

Further, it makes changes in certification so that more top college graduates can take part in the acclaimed Teach for America program. These talented instructors innovative, energetic and dedicated have had measurable success in helping close the achievement gap between city and suburban students.

The death of the bill puts the Teach for America program in Connecticut in jeopardy. It would be a monumental tragedy if this outstanding program were withdrawn from Connecticut because of time mismanagement and stupid politicking on the part of lawmakers.

The bill's sponsors say they may try to tack the teacher certification provisions onto budget legislation in an upcoming special session. If they ever pass a budget, that is.

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.
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