Malloy vetoes student suspension, election bills

ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed two more bills Thursday, including a measure that would have created a new process for removing students from classrooms after a child or a teacher has been injured.

Malloy asserted in his veto message that the measure would affect minority students the most, an argument also made Thursday by the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.

“As written this bill creates too great a risk that students of color and those with disabilities will be disproportionately affected by its new removal powers,” the governor wrote. “In fact, it runs counter to the ongoing efforts of Connecticut’s dedicated educators and my administration to reduce exclusion from the classroom and to cut off the school-to-prison pipeline.”

In an unusual move, Malloy included graphics within his veto message, line charts showing that black and Hispanic students already are disproportionately subject to school suspensions compared with white students. Both minorities are suspended at more than twice the rate of their white peers.

“Research confirms that the best way to keep at-risk children from getting into legal trouble later in life is to maximize instruction time by reducing exclusionary discipline,” the governor wrote.

He added that “in a state where 92 percent of teachers are white and 42 percent of students are minorities, these disparities (in discipline) still exist and so we have much more to do.”

The bill’s fate is uncertain at this point. The House and Senate both passed the measure by wide margins — 124 to 25 and 36 to 0, respectively — both exceeding the two-third’s edge they would need to override a veto.

But the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus issued a statement Thursday strongly urging the governor to strike down the measure.

This is a picture of Rep. Christopher Rosario, D-Bridgeport (left) and Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, address reporters

Keith M. Phaneuf / CTMirror.org file photo

Rep. Christopher Rosario, D-Bridgeport, left, and Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, (file photo)

The bill would “worsen racial disparities in student discipline in our public schools,” Rep. Christopher Rosario, D-Bridgeport, who chairs the caucus, and Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, its vice-chair, wrote in a joint statement. “We appreciate and fully support the legislation’s intent to improve classroom safety, but believe the bill will do more harm than good as written.”

Rosario and McGee added that “there is substantial research demonstrating that disproportionate discipline for children of color is related to implicit racial bias, not innate discrepancies in students’ behavior. Mandating additional disciplinary action in schools will only worsen the existing disparities and fuel the school-to-prison pipeline.”

In a swiftly issued rebuttal, however, the Connecticut Education Association insisted the bill was “the best chance Connecticut has had to end the school-to-prison pipeline and reduce discriminatory discipline for students of color and special education students.”

The teachers union said the bill “would have required that students who cause physical injury to others receive appropriate counseling and services rather than being ignored or disciplined in a discriminatory way, which occurs too often at present.” The organization urged legislators to vote to override.

Malloy also vetoed a bill Thursday that would have allowed a town or city clerk to designate where voters could register on election day — a task normally assigned to the registrars of voters — in the event those officials could not agree on a location at least 31 days before the vote.

The governor wrote in his veto message that while he understands the logistical hurdles communities face in preparing for elections, “the bedrock of our electoral system is the election of two registrars of voters, one from each major party, to oversee each other. This balance provides the public with confidence that our elections are administered freely and fairly and without the undo influence of politics.”

But leaving the matter up to a town or city clerk, who in a many communities is a partisan elected official, “tilts the scales in favor of that official’s political party and potentially leads to the destruction of public faith in our electoral system,” Malloy added.

The election day registration bill was passed unanimously in early May in both the House and Senate.

The governor now has vetoed four bills. Other measures Malloy rejected would have: restricted the governor’s ability to reduce education grants once the fiscal year was underway to meet legislatively mandated savings targets; and extended a state manufacturing tax credit for apprentices to so-called “pass-through entities” such as S corporations, partnerships and limited liability corporations.

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