John McKinney calling for resignation of Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney tells reporters he has no confidence in Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney tells reporters he has no confidence in Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / The CT Mirror

Following backlash from teachers across the state surrounding the rollout of two education reforms, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney is calling for the governor’s education commissioner to resign.

“They need a voice and a leader that they can trust, and it’s clear they have lost trust in him,” the Fairfield Republican who is seeking the nomination for governor said of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

The state is in the process of requiring that every teacher be evaluated in accordance with state guidelines and implementing the new Common Core State Standards that will change what students are tested on each year.

Last week, state Democratic leaders decided to slow down the rollout of evaluations and set up a task force to help with implementation of the new standards.

Calling the rollout of these reforms so far “a failure,” McKinney said he has no confidence that things will change under Pryor’s leadership.

While the nearly 500 upset teachers McKinney heard from persuaded him to call for Pryor to step down, the state’s two teachers’ unions have not called for his resignation.

Aside from the teachers expressing frustration with the state’s rollout of these initiatives at forums across the state hosted by the largest teachers’ union, a group of superintendents also recently outlined problems at the Connecticut State Department of Education.

The department “is still largely in disarray. The CSDE, consequently, does not have the capacity both in terms of numbers and talent to effectively lead the reform effort,” a memo recently provided to reporters reads, referring to the department run by the commissioner.

The memo also says that Pryor has “too great a willingness to accommodate the governor’s political agenda,” rather than listening to the concerns of local school leaders.

The state’s superintendent association later said the memo does not reflect the universal views of school leaders across the state.

The governor’s chief of staff released a statement Tuesday calling McKinney’s announcement a political maneuver.

“While the administration is working with teachers and parents to improve public education, John McKinney is working to further his political ambitions by scoring political points at the expense of Connecticut’s children. It’s beneath his office and, frankly shameless, even for him,” Mark Ojakian said.

A spokeswoman for the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, said, “No comment,” when asked if the organization still has confidence in the commissioner.

The other teachers’ union — the American Federation of Teachers — also said they would not be commenting.

Allan B. Taylor, the chairman of the State Board of Education, which is involved in appointing the state’s top education leader, backed Pryor on Tuesday.

“I am confident that the entire State Board of Education rejects the call for Commissioner Pryor’s resignation. Commissioner Pryor is helping to bring Connecticut education to where it needs and ought to be. He has tackled all challenges with great skill and extraordinary energy,” he said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the education commissioner deferred to the Malloy administration’s response for his comment.

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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