Malloy’s education plans take hit in revised budget

The legislature’s budget-writing committee poked another hole in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform agendaThursday, recommending a significantly smaller budget for his initiatives. The Education Committee earlier this week approved a bill that turned many of his recommendations into studies.

“What we’re hoping is that we can get started with educational improvement, and have a clearer plan as we move forward… We’ve put money there, just not as much as the governor has,” Sen. Toni N. Harp, D-New Haven, Appropriations Committee co-chairwoman.

Malloy had asked for $22.9 million to turn around as many as 12 of the state’s lowest-performing schools starting in the coming school year. More than half of that would have gone to increasing teacher and principal pay to attract the best staff and to potentially get teachers to work a longer school day or year. The committee recommended $10.8 million.

“There obviously is a difference in commitment to the priorities,” Malloy told reporters an hour before the Democratic-controlled committee approved the bill in a 34-15 vote along party lines. “I think that perhaps is representative of the different priority assigned to education, particularly in urban environments.”

The governor had also proposed increasing charter school reimbursements by $2,600 for each student they enroll and opening three new charter schools. The committee instead increased charter school funding by $1,100 per student and decided against opening three new charter schools. Districts will not be required to contribute to charter schools for the students they enroll.

The committee leadership also opted to spend significantly less money than Malloy had wanted for a statewide rollout of teacher evaluations. The evaluations are the centerpiece of the administration’s plan, which is to link them to teacher tenure, pay and dismissal decisions. Under the approved budget, $4 million will be spent to implement the evaluations and teacher development and improvement programs. The governor had proposed $12 million.

Rep. Toni E. Walker, D-New Haven, co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, said because the evaluations are new, a gradual implementation makes more sense. “We put all that money in there and it’s going to take some time to roll that out.”

But Malloy has said his administration would have no problem implementing the evaluations over the next year, and he has criticized legislators arguing that they should be studied first.

“To those who say we can wait, I respectfully say you’re wrong. We can’t wait,” Malloy wrote legislators yesterday regarding the Education Committee’s plans to first study many of his proposals, including the most controversial one, to link evaluation to tenure.

Asked what needs to be included in the education bill in order for him to sign it, Malloy’s response was, “More. More. More. There has to be more in there.”

The committee offers some of its own initiatives on education reform in its budget, including creating 500 new early education seats on top of the 500 Malloy proposed.

Committee members also recommend spending nearly $1 million to overhaul science education in 10 of the state’s low-performing district. In its application for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law, the state is proposing to begin using standardized science tests. They also propose opening 20 new health centers 10 family resource centers in schools.

“We looked at what a good school has and try to replicate that,” said Walker, explaining tht the new health centers would ensure students are healthy and ready to learn. The resource centers aim at getting parents more involved in their child’s education.