(Updated 7:54 p.m.) Less than 24 hours after legislature’s Education Committee “weakened” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform package, the governor tried not to sound angry about the revisions.
“What I like is that everyone admits this is not the final bill,” Malloy said Tuesday following a meeting with his commissioners. “And I can assure you it’s not.”
The revised bill approved 28 to 5 by the Education Committee on Monday asks the state Board of Education to consult with the Performance Evaluation Advisory Committee to adopt guidelines for a model teacher evaluation system, but it does not tie the evaluation process to tenure this year, as Malloy’s bill did. It also eliminates some funding for charter school students and uses it to fund more preschool slots.
Teachers across the state have been attending Malloy’s education town halls to voice their concerns about the legislation, which some say was modified by lawmakers to please the state’s two teacher unions.
Although Malloy stopped short of saying unions directly misled the teachers, he said they did not tell their members that they had already developed a framework for teacher evaluation.
“And when we came forward and said it was time to take that framework for evaluation and have it mean something, they specifically tried to make it sound like good teachers had something to worry about, and of course that’s not the case,” he said.
The governor said he thinks the unions’ communications strategy backfired on them. He said teachers are beginning to realize that there is a lot in his proposal that benefits them.
“I didn’t say they misled them, nor did I tell them that they didn’t fully inform them,” Malloy said. “What I believe happened is that a lot of teachers were led to believe they had something to worry about, and that is absolutely not the case.”
Sharon Palmer, president of AFT Connecticut, said she does not think her union misled teachers.
“I think we were very straightforward with them,” Palmer said. “So much was left undefined in the bill and the work was not complete, so teachers were left to draw their own conclusions in many cases.”
She said that’s what led to some emotional moments at Malloy’s public forums on the bill.
“We all know we want to close the achievement gap, but when it comes down to a piece of legislation you have to be very specific,” she said.
She said it didn’t help that PEAC hadn’t finished its work on the evaluation system, which isn’t part of the bill but is tied to it. She said the framework PEAC had agreed to was like a table of contents to a book that has not been written.
Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said he thinks everyone involved in writing the legislation is working collaboratively and under “tough circumstances” to arrive at a conclusion.
“We’ve had very good relationships with all the stakeholders,” Pryor said Tuesday. “The process is complex and it’s a challenge for all of us to communicate adequately and accurately, so we will continue to work together to ensure that happens.”
He said the bill is not guided by tying teacher evaluations to tenure, it is guided by the fact that “performance ought to be one of the governing concepts.”
It is fair for teachers and other education professionals to have questions about any new evaluation system, but Pryor said he thinks it has been “well explained.”
Asked if he would veto the bill that the Education Committee passed Monday, Malloy declined to give a definitive answer. He said everyone agreed that this is not the final product.
“This is a bill written in pencil,” Malloy said. “I’m not going to sign a bill written in pencil.”
Malloy seemed to make it clear Tuesday that whatever happens, it will look more like his proposal than what came out of the Education Committee on Monday.
“The fact is, we’re going to have a major piece of legislation some time this year on education reform,” Malloy said. “It’s going to be substantially more like what we proposed than what they voted on.”
Hugh McQuaid contributed to this report.