He’s often painted as someone who’s inflexible, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy may be proving some of his toughest critics wrong as he moves toward delaying one of the more controversial pieces of his education reform proposal.
Liz Donohue, Malloy’s director of public policy, said Friday that the administration plans to delay the tethering evaluations to teacher tenure for one year. The delay will follow a 10-district pilot program and will come a year after local school boards have had a chance to review the guidelines expected to be issued by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council at the end of June.
The timeline outlined by the administration Friday is more in line with what the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council and the legislature’s Education Committee recommended.
In an interview Friday, Donohue said the administration has always been “flexible” on the start date. But they remain insistent that evaluations have consequences.
“Evaluations have to have consequences and what those consequences are is subject to discussions,” Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, said Friday. “The governor has always said having evaluations that aren’t tied to anything is unacceptable.”
Occhiogrosso described the administration, which is in closed door negotiations with both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, as flexible when it comes to evaluations, certification, funding of charter schools, and the commissioner’s network for low performing schools.
“Each one of those items is open to discussions,” Occhiogrosso said.
The 10-district pilot program will begin this July and will cost about $2.5 million. It was part of Malloy’s budget released on Feb. 8.
The Connecticut Education Association has expressed concern that the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, which is involved in creating the pilot, hasn’t met since Feb. 6.
“With no meeting schedule set, it may be almost impossible for PEAC to complete the work that needs to be done before a meaningful pilot program can even be conducted,” CEA’s President Phil Apruzzese and Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine wrote in an April 5 letter to Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.
In an email late Friday afternoon Malloy’s Chief of Staff Mark Ojakian reiterated the administration’s position on the issue of tying evaluations to teacher tenure.
“We indicated previously during our meetings with labor leaders and other stakeholders — meetings that occurred prior to the Education Committee’s vote on a substitute bill — that there was flexibility in the effective date of our proposal to tie consequences to the evaluation system,” he said.
The negotiations continue and Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, co-chairman of the legislature’s Education Committee, said he has stopped talking about the meetings as of April 18. He declined comment on this latest development Friday evening outside the House chamber.
“We continue to negotiate in good faith with legislative leaders,” Ojakian said. “We believe that we can reach a deal. We look forward to continuing those conversations in the days ahead.”
On Friday, many legislators also were learning for the first time that Malloy was holding separate meetings with the Republican minority.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, applauded Malloy for his “shuttle” diplomacy.
“Republicans have made the case for a series of principles that must be included in the final legislation in order to land our support for significant education reform, from teacher tenure reform to enhanced charter school programs,” Cafero said. “Based on the negotiations to date, we believe we are close to a deal very soon.”
But rank-and-file Republican and Democratic lawmakers privately made statements that they’re not going to throw their teachers under the bus just to get a deal.
The Appropriations Committee is expected to take up the education reform legislation Monday morning. With a more than $141-million budget deficit estimated, it’s unclear whether Malloy’s $128-million education reform proposal will be pared back.