HARTFORD—As heated hearings begin on his proposed teacher tenure reform, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was hit with a question: Has he been telling the truth about how the system works now? Or is he vilifying teachers?

The question came Tuesday afternoon as Gov. Malloy made a half-hour appearance before the joint Education Committee at the state Legislative Office Building.

Teachers, unions, charter schools, and education watchdog groups are converging on the Capitol Tuesday and Wednesday as the legislature holds public hearings on Malloy’s sweeping school reform proposals.

As he opened the floor for questions Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., Malloy heard from state Rep. Andy Fleischmann of West Hartford, who co-chairs the committee, about the governor’s plans to reform tenure by tying it to teacher effectiveness, as measured by an overhauled teacher evaluation system based on student performance.

Before he could discuss his plans, Malloy had to play defense against what many see as his mischaracterization of the way the system is today.

“I heard from teachers in my district that the way you portrayed tenure didn’t accurately portray their experience,” Fleischmann told Malloy.

He was referring to comments Malloy made in his State of the State address. In order to earn tenure, Malloy said, “basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years.  Do that, and tenure is yours.”

The remarks met widespread criticism from teacher unions, who say “tenure” hardly means a guaranteed lifetime job the way it does in college; they say it means that teachers get some rights to defend themselves against accusations in the face of moves to dismiss them. Click here to read New Haven Federation of Teachers President Dave Cicarella’s detailed rebuttal describing the process. For the first four years, teachers can basically be dismissed without cause or due process.

Malloy Tuesday stuck to his remarks.

First, he told Fleischmann, “I have no doubt [the teachers] had a different experience than just showing up for four years.” However, he said, all schools have poor-performing teachers who shouldn’t be there: “It’s amazing how many people will admit there are teachers in buildings which they believe don’t belong there, but because of this system remain there.”

He said the basis of tenure needs to be “effectiveness” instead of mere competence. He urged the legislators to start the discussion in their hometowns about whether all teachers in the district belong there.

As the question-and-answer session continued, Malloy heard the same concern from two other legislators, who said teachers in their district had taken offense at Malloy’s remarks.

“I appreciate your listening,” Malloy said. “But again—legally—the description was apt. With a probationary period as short as the one that we require,” he argued, it’s easy for teachers to get tenure, and hard to get rid of them.

“Having said that,” Malloy added, “to the extent that anyone was offended, I certainly did not intend to offend.”

Click here to continue reading Melissa’s report.