Appropriations Committee Passes Education Bill Untouched
When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s massive education reform bill was heavily amended in the education committee, lawmakers said it was still a work in progress and that there would be discussions over the next several weeks.
Today, nearly a month later, the bill was voted out of the Appropriations Committee 48-12 and still remains, lawmakers are saying, a work in progress.
Lawmakers debated the bill for about 15 minutes before they voted, and they introduced no amendments. Earlier in the day, Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, told reporters outside the Democratic Caucus that he would be “asking people to recognize that there are discussions ongoing; that the bill that hits the floor of the Senate and the House will be different than today’s bill, but that we should not amend this bill in committee if we care about achieving meaningful education reform this year.”
Fleischmann said he was still committed to passing a reform package before the session ends on May 9 and that any Appropriations Committee amendments would set the clock back roughly two weeks.
Fleischmann said a “master amendment,” either from Democrats or a bipartisan effort, will be introduced once the bill gets to the floor.
Malloy, speaking to reporters outside his office earlier in the afternoon, said that discussions were still ongoing.
“May 9th is not so far away, but it’s not here yet. And what the package looks like, we don’t know yet,” he said.
The bill that passed the Education and Appropriation committees would delay some of the the bill’s most controversial elements, turning new teacher evaluation methods into year-long studies, rather than tethering evaluations to teacher tenure this year.
The Appropriation Committee’s rubber stamp of the bill coincides with the Malloy administration’s decision Friday to delay tying of evaluations to tenure until a year-long pilot program is completed.
Several lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee expressed dismay that charter school funding had been cut from $11,000 per charter student to $10,500. Also gone from Malloy’s original proposal is a mandate that would require local school districts to give $1,000 per pupil to any charter school in the district. Municipalities currently participate voluntarily. In return, the school districts are able to count the charter school’s test scores. Currently, Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury participate in such voluntary contributions.
Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, said that while he would support the bill going to the floor, he was disappointed that the mandate had been removed, and that overall funding for charters had been cut.
Fleischmann said that there had been significant disapproval from “a very large number” of municipalities in the state regarding the $1,000 per student mandate.
Fleichmann hinted that the mandate may be reintroduced, saying that the particular proposal was “still under discussion.”
Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, said she would vote against the bill leaving committee, as she had in the Education Committee. She said was upset about the reduction of the commissioner’s network program, that would see the Department of Education make direct interventions in the state’s 10 lowest performing schools. The revised version of the bill cuts the number from the 25 schools the governor had proposed.
Mary Loftus Levine, president of the Connecticut Education Association teachers union, said she was pleased about the increase in early childhood education funding and slots. The original bill proposed $5 million for 500 slots and has since been increased to $8 million for 1,000 slots. The money was taken from the charter school funding.
“We’re supportive of, I would say, most of the bill. But we think there’s a lot more work to do,” Loftus Levine said. “We’re encouraged that some major changes were made that we think will go a long way to helping all children in the state.”
CEA has scheduled rallies for Tuesday and Wednesday at the state Capitol. Teachers “are very concerned about how they’ve been demonized and blamed for many problems for which they are not responsible,” Loftus Levine said.
Several parents from Hartford’s Jumoke Academy charter school were on hand to follow the bill, accompanied by lobbyists from the state’s charter advocates.
Candice Lewis, a lobbyist from the charter group Achievement First, said that everybody, not just legislators, have to juggle competing interests in education decisions.
“It’s important that everyone has a voice, and that’s what we’re here to do: to bring parents in so that the voice of the public and the voice of parents who represent their children are heard in this conversation,” she said.