Teachers Union Tips Its Hand
On the eve of a key legislative committee’s vote on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform bill, the state’s largest teachers union inadvertently sent an email to lawmakers and others outside its organization tipping its hand regarding negotiation tactics.
The Connecticut Education Association email chiding one of its employees for publicly disagreeing with their position says “No deal is always better than a bad one.” The email goes onto say that the second largest teachers union AFT Connecticut “is playing you off against us, to get a deal,” and asks the employee to run all policy decisions past CEA leadership first.
“I inadvertently sent an internal email today to an external listserv,“ Mary Loftus Levine, CEA’s executive director, said in an emailed statement Sunday. “The March 25 email was an internal communication among the CEA President, the Executive Director, and an employee. It was not directed at CEA members. CEA members are tremendous advocates for public education and have communicated their concerns about SB 24 openly, freely, and consistently.”
The original email was posted on Rick Green’s blog Sunday afternoon.
Members of the Education Committee will vote on the bill today, after a weekend of closed-door discussions.
On Friday Republican legislative leaders came to the Capitol press room to complain about how its members were being excluded from those discussions focused on a “discreet set of issues,” according to Rep. Andrew Fleischman, the committee’s co-chairman.
“Negotiations are being called by the chairs of the Education Committee and they are with both teacher unions, the AFT and CEA and they’ve now invited in the administration,“ House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said Friday. “One of the most major pieces of education legislation in the last quarter century is being negotiated behind closed doors without any Republican input.”
Republican leaders blame the co-chairs of the Education Committee, Fleischmann and Sen. Andrea Stillman, for not allowing their members to participate, but Fleischman said it wasn’t his call to make.
“I’m not the person who was issuing invitations to start with. It wasn’t my call, but I certainly respect that decision on the part of those who gathered the room together,” Fleischmann said Friday at the Jefferson Jackson Bailey Democratic fundraiser.
“I’m not sure why they’re upset,” Fleischmann said. “There are some delicate discussions going on and it is true Rep. Cafero, Sen. McKinney were not invited.”
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, explained that this education bill is “critically important” to all lawmakers regardless of what party they belong to.
“I’ve never seen education be a partisan issue,” he added.
Cafero called it “shameful” to excluded members of the Republican party.
Republicans, including the ranking members on the Education Committee, have been excluded from the discussions, but they’re not the only ones. Rank-and-file Democrats on the Education Committee have also been excluded.
It’s likely all the members of the Education Committee will get to see the final version of the bill maybe hours or minutes before they vote on it.
The biggest concern amongst Republican leaders is the lack of buy in from the teachers.
“My general concern is that up until now there’s been no buy-in from teachers and that if you’re going to make significant reforms to a system and the key component of that reform being the teacher—they need to have a buy in and they have to understand what’s being asked of them,” McKinney said.
“At the end of the day an evaluation system that has teacher buy in is actually better for teachers and better for the system,” he added.
Loftus Levine’s email points out that there is disagreement between the two teacher unions too.
The CEA will look to defeat the bill in totality, if it doesn’t get what it wants, while AFT Connecticut seems to be willing to work on getting more favorable legislation by working with lawmakers and the administration.
Earlier this week Malloy signaled for the first time that while he would like to sign a bill before the May 8th end of the legislative session, he’s happy to continue working with lawmakers until they’re able to get a comprehensive package passed.
Republican lawmakers opined that Malloy’s state-of-the-state address where he said “the only thing you have to do is show up for four years” and “tenure is yours,” caused teachers to recoil from the reforms.
Cafero said Malloy’s first attempt to sell the reforms was “combative.”
“When you alienated them from jump street, use the kind of rhetoric the way it was used, it’s like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube,” Cafero said.
But Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, said the governor has been clear that the vast majority of teachers do a good, if not great job. He said the governor is just of the opinion tenure should be hard to attain.
Put into the fuller context of the speech the comments were not offensive, he said.
Hugh McQuaid contributed to this report.