The 2012 General Assembly gavelled to a close last night, some three long months and change after Governor Dannel Malloy declared education reform the signature issue of the legislative session.
Those reforms drew support from a broad array of groups, including the state's business community, and while the bill's journey through the legislature wasn't always smooth, much of its initial promise survived.
“Governor Malloy not only tackled this issue, but successfully brought many different interests together and secured bipartisan support for meaningful education reform,” CBIA president and CEO John Rathgeber said today.
“State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle also should be congratulated for supporting real reform.
"We now must focus attention on implementing the bill and ensuring that sustained improvement and access to quality education for every child become integral components of our education system.”
Among other things, Senate Bill 458:
- Helps fix broken schools by launching a pilot Commissioner’s Network to target and turn around the state’s lowest-performing schools. It gives the education commissioner power to require added classroom hours, professional development, and summer school sessions at poorly performing schools.
- Offers more education choices through increased funding and support for charter and magnet schools, including technical and agricultural science schools.
- Promotes accountability by cutting red tape for high-performing schools and districts and creates a common chart of accounts.
- Helps at-risk children by creating 1,000 new pre-K school readiness seats and a pilot program to improve the literacy of students in grades K-3.
- Supports teachers and school leaders by requiring annual performance evaluations for teachers and principals, strengthening the link between teacher effectiveness and tenure. A new evaluation system developed by the Performance Evaluation and Advisory Council will be piloted in 10 schools.
- Adds funding for state’s 30 lowest-performing school districts, called “Alliance Districts,” and increases their accountability.
Education notwithstanding, the 2012 session featured a number of other measures with implications for the state’s business community. Among them:
Campaign Finance: CBIA opposed and continues to have serious concerns about the campaign finance bill passed by the Senate and House. It is an unprecedented intrusion into corporate governance that violates longstanding constitutional and legal principles and sets up a completely unworkable process for organizations making legal political expenditures.
Budget Adjustments: The legislature approved adjustments to the two-year budget to head off a potential $284.6 million deficit. The state must remain vigilant when it comes to controlling spending so we don’t have another round of tax increases during the next fiscal year or in the next biennial budget put together during the 2013 session.
State government must streamline operations, expand the use of lean and other efficiency strategies, continue to identify cost savings, and encourage municipalities to work together to deliver services more efficiently.
Several measures that would have slowed Connecticut’s economic recovery did not move forward, including increasing the state’s minimum wage, shifting the burden of local property taxes, and opening up the state health plan to small businesses‑-an initiative that would have disrupted the small business healthcare marketplace.
CBIA is grateful to Governor Malloy and legislators on both sides of the aisle who tried to keep the economy on a positive track coming out of last October’s jobs session.
Going forward, policymakers must stay focused on economic competitiveness if we are to begin to create more jobs and strengthen Connecticut as a place where business can grow.