Last year, legislators made a promise of great teachers, principals, and public schools for every child when they voted overwhelmingly in favor of landmark education reform legislation.
In doing so, lawmakers did what’s right by kids and families. A recent Global Strategy Group survey of more than 600 Connecticut voters found that an average of 73 percent – 79 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans – support continuing the education reforms included in last year’s landmark law.
ConnCAN’s 2012 Annual Report chronicles how that law came to be, and tells the story of passionate citizens working together to provide every Connecticut child with the great teachers, principals, and public schools they deserve. The bill’s passage gave hope to the thousands of children stuck in chronically failing schools, but their opportunity for a bright future is at risk.
Less than one year later, members of the Appropriations Committee recklessly decided to break their promise to kids and families across Connecticut by gutting $47.1 million from key education reform measures. You can’t dare a child to dream and then deny them the quality education it takes for that dream to be realized.
It’s wrong to break promises to kids and families across Connecticut — they are counting on us to implement the key pillars of last year’s reform: turning around low performing schools through the Commissioner’s Network, growing high-performing public charter schools, and a implementing a statewide teacher and principal evaluation program.
Turning around failing schools
The Commissioner’s Network is designed to allow immediate turnaround of our state’s chronically failing schools. Since more than 65,000 kids in Connecticut are stuck in failing schools, according to the State Department of Education, this program is critical for helping us close our state’s worst-in-the-nation achievement gap.
Last year’s law would have allowed for 25 schools to be part of the network, and the governor’s proposal would have maintained this progress, But the Appropriations Committee decided thousands of kids across our state stuck in failing schools don’t deserve better. In the committee’s proposed budget, they cut more than $10,000,000 from the program over the next two years.
Supporting teachers and principals
A statewide educator evaluation program ensures teachers and principals are accountable for their performance while providing support and development for those who are delivering results for our children.
The current program is being piloted in 10 sites throughout Connecticut. The governor’s budget proposal included the resources necessary to effectively implement the educator evaluation system statewide, required by the 2014-2015 school year.
Teachers and principals are critical to our children’s success in the classroom and a great educator can make a big difference in a child’s life, but unfortunately, the Appropriations Committee slashed investments necessary for effective implementation of this program statewide. The committee’s budget cut more than $26 million from talent development over the next two years, which equates to 73 percent of its total funds.
Growing high-performing public charter schools
Public charter schools in Connecticut are in high demand because they are high performing. There are thousands of children on waiting lists for public charters, according to the State Department of Education. More than 80 percent of public charters out-perform other public schools in their host districts, but there aren’t enough seats in enough schools.
To meet that demand, seven applications were submitted to the State Department of Education for proposed new charters over the next two years. The governor’s budget included funds that would create four new state charter schools.
But the Appropriations Committee’s budget does not allow for the creation of any new state public charters, and slashes investments in these high-performing public school options by more than $10 million over the next two years. In doing so, the Appropriations Committee failed to meet the needs of kids and parents across Connecticut.
In sum, the Appropriations Committee budget cuts decimate education reforms that are essential to improving our public schools. These cuts are absolutely the wrong direction for our communities and our state.
Instead of gutting reforms, we need to continue progress for kids, starting with turning around chronically failing schools, providing the support and feedback educators need to more effectively teach our kids, and growing high-performing public schools.
State legislators must realize that a stronger commitment to educating our kids for tomorrow’s jobs will make Connecticut a better place to live and work – where companies want to invest and hire people.
We urge the General Assembly to follow the governor’s lead: Restore promised investments in education reforms. We can’t back down from doing what’s right for Connecticut’s kids and families.
Jennifer Alexander is the acting chief executive officer at the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN).