Connecticut’s largest teacher’s union endorsed Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election bid after closed-door interviews with Malloy, his Republican challenger Tom Foley and Joe Visconti.
The Connecticut Education Association announced the endorsement Monday, joining the American Federation of Teachers, the state’s second largest teachers union, in backing Malloy despite clashing with Democrat during his first term.
In making the endorsement, the 40-member board of directors for the teachers union differed with its political committee, which voted 8-7 approximately two weeks ago not to endorse any of the gubernatorial candidates.
Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the CEA, said it’s not that unusual for the board to disagree with its political committee. He said the board has not followed the recommendation of the political committee in the past.
The last time there was a unanimous decision about a gubernatorial candidate was in 1990 when Lowell P. Weicker was running for governor.
The political committee also didn’t have the polling data available to them before they made their decision, Waxenberg said Monday. A poll of 3,000 of its 43,000 members found that pension funding stability, collective bargaining, and funding of public education were the most important issues.
“It’s obvious of the two candidates, which of the two is stronger to address the issues that our members find of the most interest to them in the next governor,” Waxenberg said.
But Malloy didn’t make the job of the teacher’s union easy when two years ago he said that in order for teachers to earn tenure “the only thing you have to do is show up for four years.”
“The teacher’s by-in-large years ago were insulted by the governor’s statement and felt disappointed,” Waxenberg said
“The extra effort on our part this year was not to ignore the emotionalism,” Waxenberg said. “We tried to look at the two individuals running for governor and see where they stand on the facts.”
Waxenberg added that he didn’t believe there was any member of the board of directors who was voting for Foley. He said there were just a few of the members who felt the board shouldn’t endorse either of the candidates.
“Some people even said I’m voting for Malloy, I just don’t want to endorse,” Waxenberg said. “That became the emotional argument.”
Foley’s statements last week about education policy made Malloy’s endorsement easier to deliver to the board, Waxenberg said.
Last week, as part of his urban strategy, Foley said he would fix underperforming schools by mandating in-district school choice and implementing “money follows the child.”
Waxenberg said Foley’s “money follows the child” proposal would be “totally destabilizing to public education in the urban centers.”
CEA said it’s researched Foley’s proposal and concluded that if a Hartford student went to a Hartford charter school then it would cost the district an additional $8 million to send those upwards of 1,299 students to a charter school. Waxenberg said it would cost New Haven $13 million.
“Where are they going to get the money for that?” Waxenberg said. “It really is a recipe for disaster regarding how we fund public education in our state and the impact it would have on local communities.”
Earlier this month, Foley told about 230 CEA delegates, that he would develop a funding system to treat each student differently based on their skills and background.
“High performing kids are not expensive to educate,” Foley said, so they would receive lower amounts of state education funding than students who don’t perform well.
CEA said it didn’t have any specific numbers about how that part of Foley’s plan would impact local school districts, but it did an analysis of what it would happen to funding for public schools, if a child in that city of town attended a charter school. The total loss of money to local school districts would be about $39 million, according to CEA which focused solely on charter schools.
Foley maintained during his interview earlier this month with CEA that the state needs to spend more money on education and the distribution of that funding needs to be equitable.
“I have a plan for saving money in other areas of government and getting control over government spending so we can invest in things like education,” Foley said.
The videos of all three gubernatorial candidates speaking to CEA delegates were recently made public by the CEA on its website. This was the first year CEA held a forum to hear directly from the candidates.