The basics: Future CT education chiefs must be teachers

basicsThe Connecticut House on Thursday approved a bill to ensure that future state education commissioners have a strong background in the classroom — something the last controversial education commissioner lacked.

Here are some things to know.

What does the bill do?

Under the bill, the governor and the State Board of Education must choose an education chief with a minimum of five years of classroom experience and three years of school administration.

There is currently no requirement that a commissioner have classroom experience.

Why did it come up?

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s first education commissioner, Stefan Pryor, riled the state’s teachers and their unions during Malloy’s first term by proposing several reforms to teacher tenure and collective bargaining rights in the state’s lowest-performing schools.

During last year’s gubernatorial election campaign, the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers endorsed the Democratic governor after their members passed a resolution demanding future education commissioners actually have a long background in education and teaching.

Pryor’s background was in economic development. His education credential was that he helped open one of the state’s first charter schools.

Malloy listened to the teachers’ complaints, and last month named an education commissioner who has decades of experience in schools as a teacher and administrator.

“I made it clear that we were looking from day one for someone who has been a teacher,” Malloy said when announcing his choice of Dianna Wentzell last month.

What happens next?

Following Thursday’s vote of 138-5 in the House, the bill now heads to the Senate.