House Republicans swooped in Wednesday after a press conference where teacher union officials called the implementation of Common Core State Standards “botched,” to announce they’d managed to force a public hearing on legislation to delay the standards.
The announcement came directly after a Connecticut Education Association media event Wednesday morning in the Legislative Office Building. The state’s largest teachers union released the results of a member poll conducted this month, which suggest that Connecticut’s teachers are overwhelmingly critical of how Common Core State Standards have been implemented here.
Teachers, according to the poll, reported that schools are not adequately equipped to teach the standards and 96 percent believed its implementation had been rushed.
“Simply put, our teachers have not been afforded the time, they have not been afforded the resources and they have not been afforded the training and students are being tested on material that they have not been taught,” CEA President Sheila Cohen said.
Of the 1,452 teachers polled between Feb. 4 – 20, CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said 97 percent believed there should be some sort of moratorium on the implementation of the standards.
“Teachers are calling for a moratorium. Let’s basically say here that teachers are not saying we don’t want standards, what we’re saying is give us time to digest what we are being asked to do, to make sure we can get this done right before children are being judged improperly,” he said.
As reporters and union officials were packing up, House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero appeared behind the podium and made his own announcement. Cafero said House Republicans had used a legislative petition process to force the Education Committee to hold a public hearing on two bills, including one to impose a moratorium on the implementation of Common Core.
Cafero said the chairs of the Education Committee had indicated they did not plan to hold any public hearings this year on bills pertaining to the Common Core and instead had opted to have an informational hearing on the subject. He said Republicans collected enough signatures from lawmakers to force a public hearing on the bills under legislative rules.
“We have circulated a petition which has been signed by 51 House Republican members which was filed moments ago with the House Clerk office which will force a public hearing on the two bills in question,” he said.
Cafero said lawmakers “have heard horror story after horror story about the inability for boards of education, teachers to prepare themselves” for the Common Core implementation. The other bill would codify changes made by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration last month to delay the implementation of elements of the state’s teacher guidelines.
“Those two bills now, by Joint Rule 11, will be having a public hearing. The scheduling of that hearing will be up to the chairs, but the issue as to whether or not there will be a public hearing is no longer an issue,” he said.
Cafero said it was “unacceptable” to have no public hearing on an issue impacting parents, students, and teachers.
Although Cafero criticized the Education Committee’s leadership for refusing to raise the bill for a public hearing this year, the petition seemed to catch one of the panel’s two chairs off guard.
Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, said Wednesday that he met with the committee’s Republicans at the beginning of the session and this issue was not something they agreed should be brought up in a short session. He said it would be impossible to get all of this addressed before the legislative session ends May 7.
Fleischmann said the bill the Republicans want to raise was stamped by the Legislative Commissioner’s Office three days after the Education Committee’s deadline for raising bill, so even if it had wanted to raise it, it couldn’t have raised it.
In addition, he said the bill doesn’t address revenues or expenditures so it doesn’t necessarily fit the criteria for a short legislative session.
“I’m not sure how there’s a proposed bill that’s not about revenue and expenditures that even got stamped by LCO. The whole situation seems curious to me,” Fleischmann said Wednesday outside the House chamber.
He said on Friday the Education Committee is holding an informational hearing where it will hear from experts at the state Education Department about exactly what the Common Core State Standards are all about. That hearing has been scheduled for several weeks.
Rep. Tim Ackert, R-Coventry, the ranking Republican member on the Education Committee, said his caucus raised this issue long before the deadline.
“I don’t know if there’s a bigger issue out there right now,” Ackert said.
He said there were 10 to 12 bills proposed that would have addressed the Common Core Standards and none of them were raised for public hearings by the committee.
“It’s curious how people who never discussed the Common Core with me at all in the last four years are suddenly in an Election year, desperately anxious for there to be a public hearing and a bill right away,” Fleischmann said.
Ackert disagreed with Fleischmann’s characterization of what happened during the bill screening process. He said he raised the issue several times both in public and in meetings with Fleischmann.