basics

The 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.

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

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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