A bill that aims to close the achievement gap between white and minority students, which passed the House last week by a vote of 145-0 was combined Tuesday night with a bill aimed at improving Connecticut’s chances in securing federal “Race to the Top” funds.
The maneuver caused some consternation amongst Republican lawmakers and members of the black and Puerto Rican caucus and caused debate to go on for close to six hours.
“We in the black and Puerto Rican caucus just want reform,” Rep. Jason Bartlett, D-Bethel, said. He said the achievement gap bill will help the state qualify for federal “Race to the Top” dollars too. He said it gives parents of failing schools a voice in the process to reconstitute a school even though it gets rid of the parent trigger, which would allow a majority of petitioning parents challenge the structure of a failing school.
Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, said he didn’t think it was necessary to combine the two bills and he didn’t know how true it was that the “Race to the Top” bill would help improve the end result. He also questioned how helpful the $175 to $195 million in federal funds, distributed to all schools districts, would be for improving educational outcomes.
“In the end we’re going to have a great piece of legislation that addresses every element in the ‘Race to the Top’ legislation,” Andrew Fleischmann, co-chairman of the Education Committee, said Tuesday. The $195 million will help the state develop a high school curriculum for the 21st century and a data system to track students progress from K-12. He said it will also link student performance and teacher evaluations.
The bills were combined when it was learned Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D-Meriden, had no intention of running the achievement gap bill in the Senate, until the “Race to the Top” legislation cleared the House.
The move frustrated lawmakers in the House, but Gaffey co-chairman of the Education Committee said he thought the bills should have been combined from the beginning.
He said there’s a nexus between the two bills and he suggested three weeks ago that they should be combined.
The bill passed the House 106 to 38 at 2:54 a.m. Wednesday morning. The bill now goes back to the Senate for approval.
Shortly after the vote on the bill a bat was spotted flying around the chamber.