Governor Outlines Goals To Be Tackled In Legislative Session, Draws Bipartisan Support
By Kathleen Megan
December 21, 2011
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy got good grades from both sides of the political aisle for the principles of education reform he outlined Tuesday as a road map for the upcoming legislative session.
"Over time, we have lost our edge as a state," Malloy said Tuesday in a letter to the leaders of the General Assembly. "Our performance on standardized assessments has stagnated, and students in other states have begun to catch and surpass ours."
The governor's principles include expanding the availability of high-quality schools, including traditional schools, magnets and charters, and valuing teachers and principals more for their skill and effectiveness than for seniority and tenure.
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said the principles Malloy championed are "very consistent with education reform packages that I've supported in the past," but in the past, he added, some Democrats have blocked reforms.
"Assuming the legislative package is consistent with this proposal, hopefully, there will be a lot of bipartisan support," McKinney said.
Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford and co-chairman of the education committee, said Malloy's principles reflect "bold changes ... It really marks the first step in a journey that's going to move us from what was really stasis under the Rowland and Rell administrations to some very important reforms."
"From the perspective of someone like myself -- deeply concerned about the achievement gap between the haves and have-nots, between top-performing students in our state and top-performing students in countries like Finland and Singapore -- this is an important day," Fleischmann said.
He said McKinney's comment that Democrats hindered education reform in the past was "demonstrably untrue."
In Malloy's letter to legislative leaders, the governor said the state's position has weakened to the point "that we are not competitive in national grant competitions like the recent Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge." Connecticut learned last week that it lost its latest bid for federal grant money.
Worse, he said, a nationwide test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that in most cases, "Connecticut's poor and minority students are less prepared for success than their peers in the vast majority of other states -- and that our state has the largest achievement gap in the nation."
Malloy called on Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor to develop legislative proposals that are "potent enough to make Connecticut a national leader in narrowing the achievement gap" and will restore the state as a model of "academic excellence for all."
Malloy's education reform principles also include: enhanced access to high-quality early childhood education; authorizing intensive interventions and supports in the state's lowest-performing schools and districts; and removing red tape for high-performing schools and districts.
The governor said he would convene a set of workshops on Jan. 5 to delve more deeply into the most pressing education reform issues.
The legislative session begins Feb. 8.
Pryor said the upcoming session is "a moment in time" when advocates for change are beginning to see the possibility of meaningful reform emerging. He said "it may just be a once-in-a-generation opportunity for real progress."
Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, the ranking member on the education and higher education committees, said she was optimistic about achieving reform along the lines of the governor's principles. "It's refreshing to have something we can really be in agreement on, I hope we can be in agreement on."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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