The evolving position of unions on teacher tenure

Did the state’s largest teachers’ union backtrack on what changes it says must be made to how a teacher earns tenure?

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday the Connecticut Education Association has.

“I will remind you that it was the CEA that in its presentation on reform actually called for ending tenure. I never did that. I am a supporter of tenure. Look in their brochure and ask them about it,” he told reporters at the Capitol Wednesday.

Malloy is referring to the pamphlet the 43,000-member union has been circulating to its teachers and legislators that says, “It is time to end teacher tenure as we know it, while ensuring jobs are not threatened for petty personal or political reasons that have nothing to do with classroom effectiveness.”

Mary Loftus Levine, the leader of the CEA, was not happy with Malloy’s comments.

“He keeps misrepresenting our position,” she said. “He is not a supporter of tenure. He is a supporter of renewable tenure, which is not really tenure.”

The CEA and the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers have proposed several changes to tenure, but not to throw it out. The changes include cutting the time it takes to dismiss a teacher and reduce the costs it takes to get rid of subpar teachers by requiring that only one arbitrator oversee the case.

Asked if the union would support changing the system that would require teachers to re-earn tenure, as Malloy has proposed, Loftus Levine was not interested.

“No, no, no,” she said, noting the teacher evaluation system that Malloy depends on for determining who earns tenure is not complete. “I am not going to support something that isn’t complete and haven’t seen.”

The unions, school officials and the administration did reach an agreement on what factors should go into a teacher’s grade in January, with student performance counting for 45 percent of the grade. However, the guidelines and rubric for implementing these evaluations are not due until June 30. The committee has not met since the agreement was reached, and no public meetings are scheduled.

Malloy and legislators have three weeks until the close of the legislative session to reach an agreement on which education reforms will move forward. The major holdup between the bills approved by the appropriations and education committees and what Malloy has proposed is whether teacher performance evaluations should help determine tenure and salary decisions. General Assembly leadership also will need to determine what authority the state’s education commissioner will have to intervene in the state’s lowest-performing schools.

Democratic legislators met with Malloy’s chief of staff and education commissioner Tuesday, but no agreement was reached.