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OP-ED | Malloy And Teachers: Time To Kiss And Make Up?

by Terry D. Cowgill | Jan 17, 2014 6:30am
(22) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Education, Election 2014, Opinion

CTNewsJunkie File photo

Gov. Malloy discusses education at West Hartford Town Hall in March 2012.


Kissing and making up is often the hardest part of any relationship. One or both parties must admit mistakes, apologize and move on, while still managing to save face.

It’s especially tricky in the political arena, where egos, image and public policy all come together. That complicated mix magnifies the public mistakes of public figures in such a way that reconciliation can be problematic.

Such is the case with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Connecticut’s 44,000 public school teachers. Malloy, you may recall, disparaged their profession two years ago when, in a budget address to the General Assembly, he foolishly asserted that, “Basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours.”

Melissa Bailey / New Haven Independent CTNewsJunkie File photo I support some of Malloy’s reform efforts, but I must confess I was shocked to hear him say such a thing — not only for the serious implications it could have on his bid for re-election this year, but because I knew the statement to be untrue.

Indeed, the first few years of a teacher’s career are typically the most rigorous. School boards and administrators know they have relatively wide latitude as to which teachers are granted tenure after the probationary period. From then on, however, ridding a school of a chronically underperforming teacher is an arduous and expensive process. So school officials have a powerful incentive to put their new teachers through the wringer and get it right the first time.

Malloy’s harsh judgment on securing tenure poisoned the well and prompted howls of outrage from teachers across the state. I’ve worked in schools for much of my career and I know several teachers who have told me they will never vote for Malloy again.

And Malloy’s embrace of the modern reform movement has spawned further resentment. Former state Rep. Jonathan Pelto, whose blog is adored by thousands in the public education community, has been a constant and bitter critic of Malloy’s education policy and Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s appointed Education Commissioner.

Malloy also alienated state employees when he negotiated give-backs to help plug the $3.5 billion deficit he inherited shortly after taking office in 2011. But it does appear that state employees are beginning to forgive the governor, especially since few of them lost their jobs as a result of the cutbacks and, unlike Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Malloy never moved to take away their collective bargaining rights.

Now Malloy appears to be taking some baby steps in reaching out to teachers, recently telling reporters, for example, that “some of the rhetoric could have been better and should have been better. On the other hand, there are thousands of teachers currently employed in the state of Connecticut because I went in a different direction than other states.”

And there are other examples of trying to make amends with organized labor. Malloy issued an executive order in 2011 allowing state daycare and home healthcare workers to unionize. A couple of years ago, he traveled to a hospital in Norwich, where he climbed atop a flat-bed truck and shouted his support for nurses who were locking horns with management over a new labor agreement. And he has provided public support for union efforts at hospitals in Plainfield and New London. Malloy also makes much of the fact that his mother was a nurse who helped healthcare workers organize in Stamford.

And in an example of bending over backward to reverse the damage, Malloy appointed as his labor commissioner Sharon Palmer, a former teachers union official and member of the AFL-CIO’s executive board.

But it’s doubtful those efforts will be enough to win teachers back. Union officials are a notoriously thin-skinned lot and they take a very dim view of any attempt to malign the profession of their members, or of any suggestion that they somehow don’t measure up.

The question is whether Malloy can win re-election without the help of teachers and their unions. But where will they go? I can’t see them voting for Republican financier Tom Foley, although they could conceivably go for Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, a former social studies teacher at Danbury High School who also sat on the Education Committee when he served in the General Assembly. Or they might consider Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, who has a well deserved reputation as a sensible moderate.

But it’s unlikely any of those Republicans will be better on education and labor issues than Malloy. Teachers will either have to swallow their pride and vote for the governor they despise — or stay home. Malloy had better hope for the former or he could be in big trouble come November.

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and was an editor and senior writer for The Lakeville Journal Company. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

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(22) Comments

posted by: amarko55 | January 17, 2014  3:39pm

Too little too late.  He and his Commissioner of Education continue to make life hell for teachers.

posted by: Linda12 | January 17, 2014  5:40pm

Wrong on many counts because there is little difference nationally between the two parities on education reform. Actually one word difference: vouchers. I am a registered democrat about to change to independent and I will never ever vote for Malloy. Actually, the only way to get the democrats to fight for their constituents is for them to lose. Either way, in terms of who is governor, schools, children and teachers are screwed. Let it implode faster under Foley. I know many who feel the same way. In terms of thin-skinned, look in the mirror Terry.

posted by: state_employee | January 17, 2014  8:15pm

State Employees and teachers will not vote for Malloy again.  No matter how much he begs.

posted by: Art Vandelay | January 17, 2014  8:18pm

Sorry Terry,
I disagree.  As much as I hate Malloy, he was right on with his statement about teachers & tenure.  Malloy has NOTHING to kiss and make up for with that statement.

posted by: Parent and educator | January 17, 2014  8:22pm

It is very difficult to see this as anything other than cynical politicking.  Malloy’s reforms have been an unmitigated disaster for poorer schools.  In the youtube of the Windham visit embedded in the sidebar to this article, a Windham teacher brings up numerous salient points, only to be rebuffed and dismissed by Malloy.  Malloy claims that his ed reforms were slated to bring in over $700K to Windham alone, yet he never mentions the draconian measures required of poor “Commissioner’s Network” districts in order to access the funding.  And he never says that most of the funding—paltry in terms of the mortal cuts made to budgets over the years—would be designated for more test pilots, consultants, Steven Adamowski’s perks, etc.  I, too, confronted the Governor at that visit, but, rather than address the issues, he preferred to praise Adamowski—who, even then, was putting Windham on the fast-track to utter disaster.
I cannot take the governor seriously (and is this journalist so limited that he cannot do some basic research so that his reporting is more than vanilla-flavored pablum?).  Check out Pryor’s reign over the last two years, and then look at the increased privatization of public schools and the stripping of basic rights in poor school districts.

posted by: Bluecoat | January 17, 2014  9:40pm

Malloy & Mr Conflict of interest, Mr. Pryor allowed the Common Core, Race to the Top program and Smarter Balanced Assessments into CT without an honest and open debate
The teacher evaluation assessment program that it tied to the student performance of the SBA testing(which also is the vehicle by which personal and private data is mined from our kids without parental notification, or written permission),  was suspended by both these two men due to the fact that the RTTT program will redistribute teachers based on these assessments. If you like your teacher, you get to keep you teacher, period!
Wrong!  Teachers will be moved from districts in order to receive raises and/or promotions.
Don’t believe me, read the RTTT agreement and you decide what “equitable distribution of teachers and administrators means.
Maybe the teaching profession should have paid more attention to the “spread the wealth around” comments made to Joe the Plumber back in 2008 by Obama back in 2008?

posted by: Bluecoat | January 17, 2014  9:51pm

I am wondering if any of the press even read the RTTT program and all the evil parts. Especially the Agreement between Smarter Balanced Assessments and the Federal Dept. of Ed.
Can any teacher here in CT tell me with a straight face, that you need to know my kids sexual preference or orientation in order to teach them the new CC math or ELA of CC?
Why won’t any reporter ask anyone at the State DOE why we are allowing Smarter Balanced Assessments to extract private information from our kids during the electronic testing? Why is there no talk of how the Obama progressives Gutted the FERPA law to such the extend as to render it useless? Purging young innocent kids, who are never taught about their privacy rights in school anymore, of their private information in school without written permission from the kids parents or legal guardian is dumbfounding, and in my view Unconstitutional. Period!
Are any legislators paying attention?
If any public official believes this assessment program is ok, maybe it’s time to have all public employees, elected , hired, union and non-union, submit all personal and private info on a public data base accessible for all taxpayers to see.

posted by: Bluecoat | January 17, 2014  9:54pm

If your not reading Mercedes Schneiders blog or Truthinamericaneducation.com, your not getting any real information.

posted by: Castles Burning | January 17, 2014  10:14pm

I would not recommend using such a demeaning phrase as “kiss and make up,” nor would I agree that Malloy and CT teachers even have a relationship. 

He has sold out education in our state with every action that he has taken, including those whom he has put in charge of educational decisions (all of whom have no background in or understanding of THE PROFESSION). 

Teachers are not a unionized group seeking “the best deal,” but a dedicated and committed profession.

Yes, Connecticut is following in line with many other states in “buying into” the Obama/Duncan agenda so there is little hope for dramatic improvement unless the citizens, especially parents, become aware of what is happening to today’s schools.

Speaking of Jon Pelto, here is his breakdown of what each town is doing in response to standardized testing this year.  Do not scan.  Read carefully, and notice the dates MARCH through JUNE:

http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/01/17/arent-guinea-pigs-children/.

posted by: Bluecoat | January 17, 2014  10:24pm

We keeping hearing about the NSA scandal, the IRS scandal, but hardly a word about the snooping being allowed in our schools.
The SBA agreement with the Fed. Dept. Of Ed, authorizes SBA to collect student level data which includes personal and private info. This agreement also allows Biometric data collection to take place. See Polk County Florida, when just before the Memorial Day long weekend in 2013, students in one school district were given Retina scan without parental notification or written permission.  Also familiarize yourself with the the DOE’s “Draft: Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance…..” Where biometric devices such as facial recognition cameras, pressure sensitive seats and computer mouses, etc can and will be used in our schools to collect even more data without you knowledge or permission. Anyone else care about this? State Dept. Of Ed should be ashamed of themselves if they allow this to happen in our schools. Parents no longer have a voice and the spineless teaching profession is not speaking out either.

posted by: Bluecoat | January 17, 2014  10:25pm

Has your kid taken a mental health evaluation or psychology test in school yet?
Megan Kelly is doing a segment on this subject tonight on Fox News.

posted by: ASTANVET | January 18, 2014  8:46am

Reform = Common Core in this case which is the worst debacle in educational history.  It is about corporatism not about education.  There is NO time to make up so long as Common Core is the goal - the fight is on.  For a few pieces of silver the State has sold out our kids education.  It is shameful!

posted by: Terry D. Cowgill | January 18, 2014  9:46am

Terry D. Cowgill

Linda, nice to hear from you again. I figured this column would draw you out of the woodwork.

You can switch your enrollment to independent, but whom will you vote for? That is the question that matters here. Will you stay home? Vote for a minority-party candidate?

The difference between the two parties on ed policy might be “little,” but isn’t that difference enough to prompt you to vote for the party that leans more in your direction?

I still say voters are better off voting for the party that is closest to them ideologically than staying home.

posted by: lkulmann | January 18, 2014  9:57am

Is this education reform about education? Sounds like a political power struggle to me and the kids are being used as pawns. Kiss and make up? This Department of Education is just as dysfunctional as the Department of Social Services and The Department of Public Health and The Department of Government Accountability and The Department of Developmental Disabilities and The Department of Environmental Protection and and and… What ever happened to the Executive order 37 or 38? Did anyone update the outdated policies? I saw that The DSS and The DOE took theirs off the Regulations website. Is that transparency? Taking the Regs off the website so you can’t see them anymore? Where is the Union and the Department of Labor? There are so many Labor Workplace violations and Contract violations that it doesn’t make sense to have either! This State is in deep doodoo. Un-fixable… Like irreconcilable differences in a divorce…

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | January 18, 2014  4:21pm

Terry, Malloy is counting that Dems and Independents will think as you do, and that they will forgive and forget enough to vote for the “lesser to two evils"again. The problem with that is that we’ve realized that that lesser of two evils in education still is resulting in evil for children, particularly the most vulnerable. As someone who held my nose to vote for Malloy last time, if the Republicans can’t come up with a candidate I can vote for (which is looking more and more likely) than sadly, I will leave the Governor line empty when I go to the polls. I’m not going to aid someone get elected who is going to do more damage, just because they are the last worst option. I’m sick of it.

posted by: ASTANVET | January 18, 2014  9:10pm

One last comment - the towns are just as guilty - they have been bribed from before no child left behind, and now Common Core… why do we have Board’s of Education if they refuse the will of the people?  what kind of representative government is this?
Terry: what good does voting for the GOP candidate do when there are no real substantive differences aside from who is plundering?  Corporatism is corporatism Mckinny and company just want to reward THEIR buddies - they are no different than Malloy and his crew.  Do you mean to tell me that the GOP will abandon Common Core??? they will reverse nonsensical gun laws, reduce taxes?  Make a more competitive state?  probably not…

posted by: Linda12 | January 18, 2014  11:38pm

I was never in the woodwork. Rattled by the thin skinned reference, eh?  I won’t vote for Malloy EVER. Re-read parent and educator…you could learn a lot from her. Revise and re submit.

posted by: artythesmarty | January 19, 2014  7:25am

there are lots of comments here but teachers vote 90% democrat consistently so even it it goes to 85% the 5% will vote independent part..None will go to Foley

posted by: OutBackJack312 | January 19, 2014  10:19am

As a teacher, every parent should be outraged and demanding repeal of these laws from their local legislatures.  This is soley about money and that’s it.  The Hartford lawmakers see your children as dollar signs and stopped caring about them long ago.

posted by: MissAnthrope | January 19, 2014  10:54am

Not only will I never vote for Malloy again, I will actively work AGAINST HIM with all of my teacher friends. I’d rather have a Republican running the office for another 4 years. Then I’d know where s/he stood.

Dan(nel) Malloy is done in Connecticut.

posted by: lkulmann | January 19, 2014  12:07pm

Kiss and make up or kiss your career goodbye? That’s what happened here in NJ: watch here?

posted by: 27Reasons | January 21, 2014  4:56pm

Many of the most hardcore liberal teachers I know have confided that there is NO WAY that they would EVER vote for Malloy again. He must be primaried for the dems to have any chance.