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Deciphering the Education Reform Debate: Part Two

By Kerri Provost

February 24, 2012

Earlier in the week, Real Hartford posted key pieces of testimony from teachers, parents, policy wonks, and concerned residents who had spoken out on Governor’s Bill No. 24 (SB24).

Yesterday, Governor Malloy spoke on Where We Live, primarily about this controversial “Act Concerning Educational Competitiveness.” When pressed for examples of successful models or for how he would define a good teacher, he flailed, unable to provide much response to either. He did, however, repeatedly tell people to read the 163-page document.

Here are some highlights from the bill.

This section deals with which “local charter school” would be permitted:

While there is a call to increase public spending on charter schools, this does not mean that the community (taxpayers) will have the same opportunity to make decisions for these entities. The school governance board for public school includes community members, while that of a charter school does not:

The quasi-public nature of the charter school model is not the only source of controversy. Schools that convert from public schools to charter schools require that faculty reapply for their jobs:

Kindergarten teachers at one of Hartford’s “low-achieving schools” — which will likely be selected for the Commissioner’s Network of Schools — are hearing that they may need to reapply for their jobs for the 2012-2013 school year. Teachers at this school have been in the dark about what exactly will be happening to this school other than that the kindergarten may be changing to an eleven-month year.

Another controversial item in this bill has been the reduction of spending on students in smaller districts:

In the Where We Live episode, Malloy states concerns over property tax as reason for trimming budget, but does not note the property tax concerns when advocating for the increase in spending for charter schools. In that sense, it is referred to as “equalizing” of spending on students. The Office of Legislative Research Bill Analysis provides summary and criticism of this bill in language that the average non-lawyer resident has a chance of understanding, beginning with the small district penalty:

The OLR indicates that there are some areas of the bill lacking clarity:

The turnaround school intervention, receiving some criticism nationwide, reduces the authority of the local board of education:

The OLR states that there may be legal challenges to some of these limits:

As noted previously, schools taken into the Commissioner’s Network require teachers to reapply for their jobs when these schools are reconfigured:

While Malloy, during his Where We Live interview, assured the public that teachers would still have bargaining rights, the bill states otherwise. The OLR provides this interpretation:

This language clearly shows that collective bargaining rights are limited for those who may be employed in Commissioner’s Network schools.

Teachers potentially in the network are not the only to have restrictions placed upon them. All public teachers would have to face a different method of evaluation, which includes some fuzziness:

At the same time, school boards will no longer be required to receive advice from teachers regarding professional development, which affects them directly:

The changes to tenure have been controversial as well, partly because of the misunderstandings about what is being changed. The proposed changes remove some of the legal protections to which tenured teachers have been entitled:

Grounds for termination will include “ineffectiveness.” If a tenured teacher is fired for “ineffectiveness,” she will have restrictions on how she might appeal this decision:

In other words, if a teacher wanted to challenge the evaluation that resulted in her dismissal, she could not discuss the accuracy of the observation; she would only be permitted to contest this if something about the evaluation procedure did not follow state law. The OLR comments:

While this bill is adding hurdles for teachers, it appears to be removing them for superintendents:

To read all 163-pages of the Governor’s Bill, download the PDF or view it online. To see all of the OLR Bill Analysis, download the PDF.

Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford. To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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