Governor reacts diplomatically to education vote

One day after legislators substantially watered-down his proposed education reforms, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy opted for a resolute, if diplomatic, approach to the revisions by the Education Committee.

“What I like is that everyone admits that this is not the final bill,” Malloy told reporters Tuesday. “I’ll certainly be speaking to legislative leadership about that… There is no expectation that I am going to sign the current bill.”

Malloy, who has not shied from conflict with teachers at public forums on his reforms, has not given up on winning over teachers’ unions, even as he begins negotiating with legislative leaders about restoring provisions that were deleted from his bill by the Education Committee, largely at the behest of teachers.

Malloy’s reform package included linking teacher tenure and pay to evaluations, directing state money to the lowest performing districts, allowing the education commissioner to bypass collective bargaining with teacher unions when intervening in the state’s lowest performing schools and increasing state funding for charter schools.

The Education Committee set aside those recommendations by approving a revised bill that shrinks Malloy’s proposed increase in support for charter schools and delays linking tenure to evaluation until a study is complete.

“There are task forces that are working… that have yet to complete their tasks,” said Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, co-chairwoman of the Education Committee, of the numerous education-related task forces that have not completed their reports. “This bill is working around what I think are almost impediments to coming to a very firm conclusions as to what to do.”

But Rep. Andy Fleischmann, D-West Hartford and co-chairman of the committee, still calls the modified bill “groundbreaking and bold.”

Malloy brushed off a question about whether he would veto a bill that does not include linking teacher evaluations to pay, tenure or certification, which has generated the most opposition from the teacher unions.

“We need an evaluation process that is tied to something, not five years from now, but we should’ve had it yesterday,” he said. “I think the [teacher] unions have created problems for themselves. They didn’t tell their members that they had fully developed a framework for evaluation. And when we came forward and we said let’s take that framework for evaluation and make it mean something they specifically made it seem like good teachers have something to worry about, and of course that’s not the case.”

But that doesn’t mean the administration has given up on getting the teachers on board.

“It’s essential,” Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said of getting teachers’ buy-in.

Malloy had proposed changes to how the state divvies up $1.9 billion in education aid.

He proposed sending more to the districts with the lowest-performing students and more non-English speaking students, but the Education Committee decided to wait until the task force charged with recommending changes completes its work. That task force released two pages of interim recommendations in January that many say lack substance.

The other panels working on various recommendations are not expected to finish up until later this year.

“There is no reason to spend any more money under the current formula. Period,” Malloy said. His budget proposes sending $50 million more to districts.

Prodded again by reporters to say if he will veto the bill, Malloy said he will not answer that question because everyone seems to agree that this will not be the final bill.

“This is a bill written in pencil. I am not going to sign a bill written in pencil,” he said. “This is not the final product.”