The legislature's Education Committee this week passed a rewrite of SB 24, Governor Malloy's sweeping education bill, stripping out key reforms designed to give Connecticut’s young people the skills they need to succeed in life.

But Connecticut can't wait for education reforms.

The committee-revised SB 24 calls for more studies of important reforms—such as linking teacher performance to tenure, and creates delays in processes for turning around chronically underperforming schools.

However, lawmakers are calling the revised SB 24 a work in progress that will very likely be changed again before it comes to the legislature for final votes.

Governor Malloy said his administration would continue to work with legislators toward enacting meaningful reform. CBIA also is urging lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to work with urgency to repair the bill in a way that restores real reforms.

[Read the governor’s letter to state legislators regarding SB 24 and education reform.]

Time for action

Employers believe it is long past the time for more studies. After decades of falling scores and failing schools, Connecticut cannot afford to delay real reform any longer.

Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New York--states facing the same economic and political challenges as Connecticut--have all adopted reforms such as those contained in the original SB 24.    

While Connecticut has delayed, these competitor states have advanced in educational progress, narrowing their achievement gaps and improving outcomes for all students.

Unfortunately, the new version of SB 24 will keep Connecticut’s young people on the sidelines as these and other states keep moving ahead.

There are more than 120 schools in the state that have failed to show progress in improving student performance for more than five years.

The Massachusetts reform model, which was in the original SB 24, would demand that the Commissioner of Education take action and start to reconstitute those schools so that they actually do something for the student.

Lagging

While our neighbors are turning out graduates ready to succeed in today’s workforce, Connecticut continues to lag far behind. Low-income students in this state are now competing on a level with peers in rural Mississippi and Alabama.

In spite of this reality, the Land of Steady Habits would stay in mediocrity if key measures are delayed in deference to the make-believe need for further "study" details in the governor’s proposal.

What's more, some legislators continue to blame poverty for low achievement. Poverty results from a lack of education, not the other way around. Public schools should provide a means to escape cycles of poverty. Excusing a failing school system because of students' meager circumstances is unconscionable.   

Connecticut still has a chance to make real reform a reality, but it will be difficult. The governor's original proposal offers bold ideas that are neither radical nor new. We can continue to ignore the reality of our neighbors' successes and fail our neediest children, or we can come together across party lines, roll up our sleeves, and get this done.

Recent polling indicates that Connecticut residents support the governor's proposals, with 54% in favor of improving the teacher tenure system and 67% in favor of merit pay for exceptional teachers.

It is time for urgent action to improve public education for all students in the state.