Gov. Dannel P. Malloy outlined some of his education priorities Tuesday in a letter to legislative leaders, offering a “road map” for his agenda during the education-focused legislative session in two months.
Malloy said he is seeking to propose legislation “potent enough to make Connecticut a national leader in narrowing the achievement gap, and comprehensive enough to set the stage for a restoration of Connecticut as a model for creating academic excellence for all.”
In a statement, the governor said Connecticut’s education position has weakened over the years, leaving the state uncompetitive in grant competitions like the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. It was the third time the state missed out on funding from that federal program.
“Worse, the recent release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress results demonstrated 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,” he said.
Malloy said he had tasked Education Department Commissioner Stefan Pryor with crafting a package of proposals that are “ambitious and carefully tailored.”
The proposals will be aimed at increasing access to early childhood education, authorizing “intensive interventions” and supports to help turn around troubled schools, he said. Others will expand the availability of school models that work, including magnet charter and traditional schools.
Malloy said he will propose initiatives to remove the red tape around high performing schools to encourage innovation and direct more resources to school districts in the greatest need.
Another proposal will establish a fair system for teachers that values skill over seniority, he said. That means he won’t shy away from a debate over tenure.
In August after addressing the state’s school superintendents, Malloy told the media he didn’t believe any teacher should have to go to a workplace where they’re not proud of another teacher.
“We should work with all teachers to make sure that they live up to our standards, if after a period of time they’re incapable of living up to our standards then those teachers deserve a new colleague in their building.“
Regardless of tenure? “Yeah, of course regardless of their tenure. This is about the quality of the teaching not the length of ones experience,” Malloy said.
In Monday’s letter, Malloy said he was deliberately trying to set high expectations for the session.
“We should not and will not accept half-measures and repackaged versions of the status quo,” he wrote.
Education advocates seemed encouraged by the statement. In a phone interview, ConnCan CEO Patrick Riccards said Malloy’s principles contained many issues his organization has been focusing on for years.
“This is the sort of leadership we’ve been talking about for a long time,” he said. “It sets a bold marker for making 2012 the year of education reform.”
Riccards said he was pleased to see Malloy’s proposals will include fair funding to districts in need and a focus on transforming high-priority districts.
Mary Loftus Levine, executive director of CEA, the states largest teachers union, commended Malloy for his leadership on the issue. She said Malloy and Pryor had both reached out to teachers in recent months and “recognize that high-quality teachers are the greatest asset in public education.”
She said teachers want to use their classroom experience to help improve the state’s education system.
“We could not agree more with the governor that our state’s economic future is dependent on our student’s educational outcomes,” she said in a statement. “As CEA has repeatedly indicated: We live in a knowledge-based global economy, and generations of citizens—young and old—depend on our students being able to compete in a global economy.”
Sharon Palmer, president of AFT Connecticut, agreed.
“We’re happy that Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor have reached out to us and the other stakeholders on this issue,” Palmer said. “The governor’s outline is a good starting point and we look forward to continuing the discussion.”
“As the union representing many of the urban school districts in Connecticut, our union understands the importance of working together to achieve success,” Palmer said. “We have worked closely with the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut to make the CommPACT schools a success. We sincerely hope CommPACT schools will be among the models examined by the Department of Education and the State Legislature.”