Declining results in public education have given Connecticut the largest achievement gap in the United States and put our young people and economy at risk. Despite the urgent need to turn things around, and many good proposals to do that, familiar habits are taking hold at the State Capitol.

Inconsistency, misconception, and a lack of new voices could topple education reform this year.

Inconsistency

Heroic efforts to streamline and improve early childhood services are being sidetracked by unnecessary provisions in SB 1106 to increase the number of state employees--just when cost-cutting concessions from an already unsustainable state workforce must be made to make the state budget work.

At the same time, lawmakers are using cost as the reason they want to delay implementation of the critically important school reforms they enacted last year.

Taxpayers want a smaller, more effective state government, and consolidating similar education units only makes sense to trim redundancies and maximize efficiency.

The private, nonprofit sector should continue to play a role in providing certain services because innovation, responsiveness, and efficiency shouldn’t fall victim to the familiar politics of expanding interest groups. Industry regulation doesn’t require everyone to be a state employee. Because state government is already too big to manage, growing it in the name of oversight isn’t the most effective solution.

If lawmakers really agree with taxpayers on the need to streamline state government, then they will jettison the provisions in SB 1106 that will scuttle its vital reforms.

Misconception

Governor Malloy has said he is both pro-reform and pro-teacher, and that we can no longer afford to maintain the status-quo. Connecticut needs a basic statewide standard against which all teachers, no matter their unique circumstances, or tenure, can be measured.  

Efforts to reform tenure law are being stymied, however, by the misconception that defining teachers’ effectiveness is somehow a backdoor to eliminating many senior teachers.

The true goal of SB 1160 is to make sure the most effective teachers are retained, promoted, and awarded—for the sake of our students.

Many factors make a teacher effective, and every classroom is different. Student outcomes shouldn't be the only measure of effectiveness, but they will help shed light on the work of good teachers.

Above all, public education must advance students’ academic growth. When teachers repeatedly fail to advance educational outcomes, then their protected status should be reconsidered.  

Lack of diversity

The Governor has also called for a task force to study how public education is funded in the state, because the current Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula is disjointed, inefficient and lacking in uniformity.

The problem, however, is that the Legislature has proposed a task force comprised almost entirely of familiar stakeholders, groups that have maintained year after year that increased funding alone will fix the broken ECS system.   

In a state that spends more money than almost any other for an education system that has been in decline for years, better solutions are needed.

Including diverse experts on the task force who lack a direct financial stake in the outcome would lend sincerity to the effort. Their input would serve to broaden the field of ideas and the likelihood of finding effective solutions.