Last year, when state legislators voted overwhelmingly in favor of landmark education reform legislation, they made a promise of great teachers, principals and public schools for every child.
In doing so, lawmakers did what’s right by kids and families. A recent Global Strategy Group survey of more than 600 Connecticut voters found that 73 percent –- 79 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans –- support continuing the education reforms included in last year’s landmark law.
Less than one year later, members of the Appropriations Committee recklessly decided to break their promise to children and families across our state by gutting $47.1 million from key education reform measures.
It’s wrong to break promises to kids and families across Connecticut who are counting on us to continue with three key pillars of last year’s reform: the Commissioner’s Network school turnaround program, growing high-performing public charter schools and a statewide teacher and principal evaluation program.
Turning around failing schools
The Commissioner’s Network is designed to turn around our state’s chronically failing schools. Since more than 65,000 kids in Connecticut are stuck in failing schools, according to the State Department of Education, this program is critical for helping us close our state’s worst-in-the-nation achievement gap.
Last year’s law would have allowed for 25 schools to be part of the Network, and the Governor’s proposal would have maintained this progress. But Appropriations Committee members decided that thousands of kids across our state stuck in failing schools don’t deserve better. In the committee’s proposed budget, it cut more than $10,000,000 from the program over the next two years.
Supporting teachers and principals
Teachers and principals are critical to our children’s success in the classrooms, and a great educator can make a big difference in a child’s life. The statewide educator evaluation program ensures teachers and principals are accountable for their performance while providing the support necessary to develop those who can deliver results for our children.
Currently, the program is being piloted in 10 sites throughout Connecticut, with full implementation required by the 2014-2015 school year. The governor’s budget proposal included the resources necessary to effectively implement the educator evaluator system, statewide.
Unfortunately, the Appropriations Committee slashed investments necessary for effective implementation of this program statewide. The committee’s budget cut more than $26 million from talent development over the next two years, which equates to 73 percent of its total funds.
Growing high-performing public charter schools
Public charter schools in Connecticut are in high demand because they are high-performing. There are thousands of students on waiting lists for public charters –- according to the State Department of Education –- in part because more than 80 percent of public charters outperform other public schools in their host districts.
To meet this demand, seven applications were submitted to the State Department of Education for launching new charters over the next two years. The governor’s budget included funds that would create four new state charter schools, helping to further meet the demand of thousands of kids and parents.
Sadly, the Appropriations Committee budget does not allow for the creation of any new state charters, and slashes investments in these high-performing public school options by more than $10 million over the next two years. In doing so, the Appropriations Committee failed to meet the needs of kids and parents across Connecticut.
In sum, the Appropriations Committee budget cuts decimate education reforms that are essential to improving our public schools. These cuts are absolutely the wrong direction for our communities and our state.
Instead of gutting reforms, we need to continue progress for kids, starting with turning around chronically failing schools, providing the support and feedback educators need to more effectively teach our kids and developing high-performing public schools.
State legislators must realize that a stronger commitment to educating our kids for tomorrow’s jobs will make Connecticut a better place to live and work -– where companies want to invest and hire people.
We urge the General Assembly to follow the governor’s lead by restoring promised investments in education reforms. We can’t back down from doing what’s right for our kids and families. All of our kids deserve access to better public schools.
Jennifer Alexander is acting chief executive officer of Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN).