This week, two of the three gubernatorial candidates, have decided to focus on education policy in their TV ads and, like the candidates, the ads are vastly different.
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who angered teachers in 2012 when he said that in order to earn tenure “the only thing you have to do is show up for four years,” released a 60-second spot Tuesday about how he overcame his learning disabilities as a child.
“As a child Dan Malloy overcame severe learning disabilities, got through school listening to books on tape for the blind,” a male narrator says. “With the help of great teachers Malloy graduated from college with honors then got his law degree.”
The ad goes onto explain how Malloy decided to increase funding to education even while facing a large budget deficit and a reduction in federal stimulus funds being used to prop up Connecticut’s education funding during former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration.
“He got his chance and he won’t rest until every Connecticut child gets theirs,” the narrator says as Malloy finishes reading a book with a child.
Over the past two years, Malloy has tried to repair his relationship with the state’s two teacher unions. That relationship was tested in 2012 when the legislature asked a committee to come up with a teacher evaluation process that would help determine tenure. Earlier this year, Malloy postponed tying the new evaluation system to a new standardized testing system related to the Common Core State Standards.
Malloy’s ad takes a more personal tone than Republican Tom Foley’s 30-second ad, which focuses more broadly on education.
Foley’s ad opens with his twins and his wife coloring and then pans to him sitting with a tablet and a group of children outside.
“Is there anything more important than a child’s education?” Foley asks. “Over 100,000 Connecticut children are in underperforming schools.”
The Foley campaign says the number comes from a 2012 statement by Ramani Ayer, the retired chairman and CEO of The Hartford. Ayer was the vice chair of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform.
“I have a plan for making every school in Connecticut great,” Foley continues in the ad. “Let’s make things fair for everyone, so everyone can be the absolute best they can be.”
The ad doesn’t say exactly what he plans to when it comes to education policy.
Those details are laid out in his 9-page plan titled “A Plan for Restoring Pride and Prosperity in Connecticut.”
The document, which was released the night of the first gubernatorial debate, offers Foley’s take on how he would “fix our underperforming schools with ‘real’ education reform.”
It includes implementing a controversial funding mechanism called “money follows the child.” It works like this: when a child leaves a public school district to attend a charter school, the district would pay the charter school to educate the child. The state would deduct the money from the town’s Education Cost Sharing grant and send it directly to the charter school.
Public school advocates and teacher unions say the move would take money away from underperforming public schools and create winners and losers among school districts.
In 2011, the legislature’s Education Committee refused to even give a bill that included the “money follows the child” concept a public hearing.
Foley has said he plans on making education a priority and even though he intends to hold spending flat he’s said he would find ways to improve education.
“Not all of the things that affect educational outcomes for example cost money,” Foley said during their first debate in Norwich last month. “A lot of the proven, high-impact factors on education reform don’t actually cost money.”
But Malloy’s campaign doesn’t believe Foley will keep the promise of improving education.
“For Tom Foley to keep the promises he has been making, he would take a different route slashing funding to public education and laying off teachers, firefighters and police,” Mark Bergman, a spokesman for Malloy’s campaign said. “He has already pledged to cut funding for the neediest schools. On public education, it’s a clear choice for Connecticut voters.”
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 46 percent of voters believe Malloy would do a better job than Foley on education policy.