Malloy makes no promises to increase school funding further

One of the key components of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reforms has been for the state to provide millions of dollars more in funding in an effort to turn around the lowest performing districts and schools.

The state’s education grant to cities and towns has increased by $101 million during the governor’s three years in office, but he was noncommittal Monday when asked during a forum in Washington, D.C., if he would further increase education funding again next year. The approved state budget for next fiscal year does provide towns with $41 million more to help cover education. During Malloy’s time in office the Education Cost Sharing grant has increased by 2 percent a year.

The Democratic governor spoke during a forum hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

“I think that it’s a little early to tell,” said Malloy, whose budget office is struggling to stay out of deficit. “This has been the slowest [economic] recovery from a recession in the post-World War II era.”

Malloy’s comments come as the state likely heads for trial July 1 in a lawsuit that alleges the state is failing in its constitutional responsibilities by chronically underfunding education.

The administration has argued that the funding isn’t the only thing necessary to turn around the state’s schools. Other necessities, he said, include intervening in the state’s lowest-performing schools and launching a new teacher evaluation linked to student performance.

Rick Hess, director of education policy at the institute, noted the bold reforms during the hour-long conversation with the governor.

“He tackled a reform agenda in a state that has long been known for one of the nation’s widest racial achievement gaps. And the governor took the lead in passing one of the nation’s more dramatic education bills,” Hess said.

It wasn’t an easy path for Malloy. The governor angered teachers and their two unions last year to the point that they organized rallies outside the state Capitol to protest his reforms.

“I went on the road and got beat up,” the governor said about the open forums he hosted around the state to discuss his proposed budget and education reforms. “There were a lot of people mad at me … I think some things are harder to do as a Democrat and some things are harder to do as a Republican. And I think education reform generally has been a harder thing to do as a Democrat with a Democratic legislature. That was the real test in Connecticut… I had to fly in the face of what many would consider traditional constituencies for a Democratic officeholder.”

The title of Monday’s forum in D.C. was “School Reform dos and don’ts: lessons from Connecticut’s Gov. Dannel Malloy.”

It was clear from Malloy’s remarks that the lesson he took from 2012 was to get teachers on board.

During the governor’s high-profile State of the State speech to the legislature, Malloy immediately sparked teachers’ opposition when he said: “In today’s (public education) system, basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours.”

On Monday, the governor acknowledged that he could have been more delicate when introducing his proposals.

“I’ve probably used the wrong language more than once. I know I have,” he said, routinely pointing out how important teacher buy-in is to the success of the initiatives.

Watch the governor’s full remarks here.

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