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Teachers Fear Malloy's Education Reform Puts Jobs at Risk

Of the many drastic changes planned, the governor's alterations to the current teacher tenure plan provoked local teachers to speak their mind at a public discussion held at Westport Town Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 29.

While local teachers and residents scrutinized , State Senator  explained last week that Connecticut is in a ‘crisis’ situation and pointed to the state's abysmal federal education grants as a primary reason for the change.

“Our achievement gap is the highest in the country — higher than Mississippi, higher than Alabama by a large margin,” said Boucher, a Republican who represents Bethel, New Canaan, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton in the 26th Senate District. 

Boucher also highlighted the fact that education spending increased in Connecticut by 20 percent from 2003-09 while student achievement remained flat.

also comes from the White House as Connecticut receives a fraction of the federal stimulus grants of which surrounding states currently take advantage. The chart below shows how far behind we currently are from our neighboring states, according to statistics from Education Week. 

Competitive Federal Stimulus Grants Per Pupil

Connecticut

New York

Massachusetts

Rhode Island

$7.89

$308.54

$376.04

$860.04

“You can see why there is so much movement — why it is imperative to get something done,” Boucher stated.

State Senator John McKinney, a Republican who represents Easton, Fairfield, Newtown and Weston in the 28th Senate District, explained to the crowd that the federal government has already stated it's “not going to pay you unless you have reform.”

“In order to get that raise we must break a little china,” McKinney said, adding the road to reform will be much longer without help from the federal government.

English teacher Julia McNamee was extremely concerned with Malloy’s proposal and said she feels the reform will change education in Westport.

“Why are we in such a hurry," McNamee said. "There are groups pushing for so much to happen before we can really talk about what is best for all schools."

McKinney agreed.

“When we do things fast, that’s when we make mistakes," he said. "We need to get it done right.”

State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, a Democrat who represents Westport in the 136th House District, and State Rep. John Shaban, a Republican representing Easton, Redding and Weston in the 135th House District, agreed that Malloy’s incredibly comprehensive reform is too much to accomplish in a single legislative session. They both feel we should focus on a few important aspects and ‘pilot’ some of the other items for another year.

The proposed , which will require teachers to periodically renew their status, will streamline the process to dismiss a tenured teacher, something that worried several teachers.

Shaban noted Connecticut hasn’t addressed education reform in this scope for decades and feels that may be why there is a great deal of frustration among teachers in the state.

“I think it’s a decent place to start," Shaban said. "I give the governor some credit."

Kristen Warner, a Westport teacher who's taught for 26 years, said she's one of those frustrated teachers who feels her job may be in jeopardy.

“This is the first year I feel completely vulnerable,” Warner said. “Administrators can hire two teachers for the price of one. I fear what would happen to me if I got a bad review from an administrator.”

The idea that an administrator’s review could determine tenure status and salary worried Warner and her colleagues. She feels it puts quite a bit of emphasis on a teacher’s relationship with their principal rather than achieving higher degrees.

“We’ve put in the time, we’ve put in the education," Warner said. "What are you going to do to make sure it’s not one person's opinion?"

Malloy’s plan essentially starts all teachers at the same level, according to McKinney, something he believes is unfair. Tenure could then be achieved between 30 and 50 months based on a teacher's evaluation.

Shaban, whose wife is a school librarian, thinks we need to equally hold administrators responsible. He said the state will interfere less with high performing schools like we have in this neck of the woods, while lower performing districts will receive more help.

“It is not one size fits all," he said. "It has to happen at a local level."

Boucher assured the teachers it is too early for them to get discouraged.

“It would be a tragedy for our students to have their teachers feel it’s all over.”

Susanne Krivit March 08, 2012 at 07:06 PM
I am confused by this article. What education problem are we trying to solve in CT? Is it that we have the highest achievement gap in the country or that we are not receiving money from the federal government? I can tell you one thing though - this should not be about teachers. If we want to have a discussion about teacher tenure fine, but not in this context because it incorrectly points the finger at teachers. Teachers are not the reason for the achievement gap nor are they the reason CT is not qualifying for federal funds. We need to show teachers they are valued and appreciated and this type of discussion does the opposite.
Allen Gregory March 08, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Suggesting the achievement gap on any one thing or group is off target. Teachers unions have proven their concerns are feathering the nests of their constituents and protecting jobs at all cost. (even when a teacher is clearly incompetent ) That should not come as a surprise. it is their primary purpose. But, to suggest it is the only issue is absurd. I would suggest parental and societal indifference and laziness rank far higher on our "needs to improve list".
27Reasons March 09, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Toni Boucher is a political hack in so many ways! She calls herself a conservative and is willing to sell our educational soul, just for the chance to compete for 'big government' money. Toni, you make me sick.

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