Education Ad Wars
The teacher unions and StudentsFirst, the organization headed by former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, aren’t the only groups pouring money into the public debate over education reform in the state.
The Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the state’s largest business lobby which made education a priority this year, is taking to the airwaves Monday with two television and radio advertisements in support of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education proposal. The statewide campaign will run in broadcast and cable television markets, including Fairfield County, and the two radio spots, including a Spanish-speaking version, will run during morning and evening drive time.
The first ad called “Put Children First” says parent groups, school administrators, and business and community leaders support Malloy’s plan.
“Shouldn’t Connecticut move ahead with real reform?” the narrator asks as the ominous music gets more upbeat. “Put children first. Keep the promise of a great education. The opportunity for success. Support the Governor’s reform proposals.”
The second ad, called “Poverty Is Not An Excuse,” challenges what Malloy has been hearing as he travels the state to talk to the public about his reforms: “Poverty plays a big role in Connecticut’s education crisis.”
Advocates touting Malloy’s bill say teachers are using poverty as an excuse. But others say it’s impossible to ignore the impact that poverty has on academic achievement. They say Malloy’s bill does little to address the issue of poverty, placing most of the responsibility on teachers who will receive tenure based in part on a new evaluation system that considers student performance.
“In states like Massachusetts, low income students dramatically outperform their peers in Connecticut. Why?” the ad’s narrator asks and then answers: “Because those states attract and keep great teachers and principals, and intervene quickly to fix failing schools.”
Both ads end with a call to action asking the public to call their legislators.
The ads run counter to the message the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, is pushing with its new ad released last week that calls Malloy’s education proposal a “bad science experiment.” The ad asks the public to support the reform package proposed by the legislature’s Education Committee.
Meanwhile, there’s little being done at the state Capitol to forge consensus over the issue. Lawmakers are talking to lawmakers and the teachers’ unions while the governor is talking to the public about his proposal. The two sides have no formal talks scheduled and there’s only three weeks left in the legislative session.