Governor's Education Reform Bill

Bridgeport Education Association

Dear BEA Members
Please read the following message from CEA regarding the govenor's plan for education. Please contact your local legislator and let them know that Malloy's plan is detrimental to the teaching profession, and public education. If we do not speak up now, we may never be able to do so again.
Gary
 
 
We know that many of you are meeting with your local legislators—in the town or city where you vote—to make sure these lawmakers are aware of CEA’s positive school reform plan (go to cea.org to read details) as well as the dramatic and disrespectful changes being called for by Governor Dannel P. Malloy in his proposed education overhaul (http://www.cea.org/GovernorBill24.pdf).
To assist you with your all-important advocacy efforts today—whether they be in your hometown with legislators or meetings in Hartford in the weeks ahead, we have specified below critical elements in the governor’s proposed education bill raised as Senate Bill #24.
1.   Disrespects the high standards that teachers meet to maintain their professional status
The governor’s bill lowers standards in a long list of ways—many are detailed in this memorandum. Generally, he proposes allowing greater numbers of inexperienced individuals to teach our children, and he makes it easier for out-of-state teachers to migrate to Connecticut. He goes as far as to say that meeting National Board Certification, a universally acknowledged high standard, is no longer a reasonable hurdle to grant Connecticut certification to out-of-state educators.
2.   Introduces a new system of state teacher certification and local principal evaluation
The governor’s proposals about certification and tenure involve creating a complex system that replaces high objective state standards for teacher certification with a system that ties subjective local evaluations by principals to both teachers’ certification and renewable tenure.
Districts would have to base salary schedules on the governor’s new certification levels, not education and experience as is done now. There would be an apparent incentive for Boards of Education to set lower salaries for teachers. Moving from one level of certification to the next would be based solely on a principal’s evaluation, not taking into account experience or advanced degrees. Teachers’ ability to hold a license to work in any district would be determined by one person’s judgment.
Administrators could demote a teacher to a lower level of certification if she or he doesn’t meet specific evaluation ratings. The teacher’s salary would change with demotion.
3.   Crushes the current teacher certification system and eliminates the master’s degree requirement
The governor would set three levels of certificate – initial, professional, and (optional) master educator certificate (eliminates provisional). In doing this, the proposed bill devalues advanced degrees that teachers earn to improve skills.
 
Perhaps most dramatically, the bill eliminates the requirement for a master’s degree, except for the master teacher certificate level. The lack of requirement for a master’s degree for a professional certificate would suggest lower salaries for teachers.
 
4.   Establishes new evaluation ratings and ties evaluations to salaries
The bill establishes four ratings to be used for teachers: below standard, developing, proficient, and exemplary. Evaluations would become the basis for salary, the level of certification a teacher could hold and retain, and tenure— all would be based on the judgment of one person in a district. Under the proposal, teachers would move up on the salary scale only if (1) teachers with an initial certificates have a rating of “developing,” “proficient” or “exemplary”; (2) teachers with the professional educator certificate or master educator certificate have a rating as “proficient” or exemplary.”
 
5.   Changes tenure by weakening due process
Under the proposal, tenure would be obtained (1) during 30 months if (a) teacher has received two exemplary ratings on his/her evaluation and the superintendent offers a contract for the following school year or (2) during 50 months if teacher has received a combination of three “proficient” or “exemplary” ratings on his/her evaluation.
With this approach the 40 school months to obtain tenure is eliminated. If a teacher does not receive a combination of three “proficient” or “exemplary” ratings, then the teacher is out after 50 school months, or sooner.
Two of the six reasons for termination have been changed. Reason one is changed from “inefficiency or “incompetence” to “ineffective.” The sixth reason is changed to “other due and sufficient cause such as unprofessionalism which may include violations of the code of professional responsibility for educators.”
“Ineffectiveness” is defined as (A) being tenured or non-tenured and rated as “below standard” based on evaluations; or (B) tenured and rated as “developing” for two or more consecutive years based on evaluations.
6.   Creates experimental programs that will necessitate new employment rules, while squashing proven programs like CALI
One of these new programs is Network Schools which would aim to turn around the state’s lowest performing schools and districts, according to the governor. Network Schools would require new turnaround agreements with the State Department of Education (SDE) regarding all aspects of school operation with management “without limitation.” A second new school approach in the governor’s bill is called a Focus School created in the name of accountability and based on the federal need to classify schools.
 
Senate Bill #24 also says it is necessary to be consistent with federal regulations for the state to begin classifying schools into five categories based on measures of student achievement and growth in individual schools. The schools that the SDE designates as low achieving would be “subject to intensified supervision and direction by the State Board of Education.” 
 
The new school programs give rise to new funding mechanisms and terms such as conditional funding and competitive funding. For example, nearly $40 million will go to new programs in the state’s 30 lowest-performing school districts – conditioned upon the districts’ implementation of education reform strategies required by the SDE and state commissioner. An additional $4.5 million in competitive funding will be offered to all districts—with a preference to the 30 low-performing districts—to enable even more innovations and so-called deeper reforms.
 
Finally, at least one successful program is deleted in the bill, the Connecticut Accountability for Learning Initiative (CALI). CEA considers the elimination of CALI a giant step backwards. CALI elimination lays to waste years of teachers’ hard work, professional development, and commitment to use student data to close the achievement gap.
7.   Minimizes the scope of collective bargaining
The bill requires movement through the salary schedule to be based on a teacher’s evaluation. It constricts the dismissal hearing to the “process, not the content” involved in a teacher’s evaluation, and restricts the tenure teacher dismissal hearing to only eight hours.
The proposal also essentially nullifies the collective bargaining agreements in schools and districts that become Network Schools and disregards the seniority or tenure status of a teacher.
Additionally, the SDE, not local unions and boards of education, would determine incentives for teachers in new Network Schools.  Furthermore, the SDE would have power to identify everything from salary bonuses to signing bonuses to housing subsidies for teachers in new Network Schools.
8.   Concentrates enormous authority in the hands of the state commissioner of education and the local superintendent of schools
This theme is found throughout the proposed legislation. The state commissioner of education would have the authority to terminate an existing local or regional board of education and appoint new board members.  The state commissioner of education would have the power to waive “any rule” that inhibits or hinders the ability of the department to implement new school initiatives. 
Local superintendents would no longer be required to be certified. The commissioner would have the sole authority to appoint whomever he deems to be “exceptionally qualified” with no established criteria and regardless of his or her background or qualifications.
9.   Relegates teachers’ voices to an advisory role in critical decision making
The bill eliminates the requirement that districts have Professional Development (PD) committees with teachers. Districts may use the advice and assistance of teachers in planning PD. The proposal takes away the statutory right of teachers to be on PD committees and gives complete control of PD to the district.
The bill sets specific requirements that PD must meet—a good thing. However, teachers wouldn’t have a voice in planning and implementing PD, as the law now requires.
When it comes to new state Network Schools, teachers would only advise the SDE on the development and implementation of new incentives for teachers.
10. Changes the basic rights of beginning teachers
Appeals of non-renewal for non-tenured teachers would be eliminated under the governor’s bill.
The bill also changes the definition of teacher so that individuals would have to work for an entire year as an at-will employee, rather than the current 90 days, to gain status as a certified professional employee.
11. Expands the role of private and non-profit corporations in public education
The state traditionally has depended on state funds to provide for state and local school programs.  The governor’s bill carves a new private pathway to funding, thus increasing the influence of private organizations. In the bill, private donations are invited to fund state competitive grants, and the capacity of nonprofit and private organizations are expanded to stimulate teacher advancement and career advancement opportunities in schools. The new private pathway also extends rewards for exemplary schools coming from private donations.
12. Falls short relative to funding and charter school changes
Unlike traditional public schools, which have to take all students, charter schools can continue to exclude some groups of students. The governor’s bill only requires new charters to serve ONE or more of the following groups: (i) students with a history of low academic performance, (ii) students who receive free or reduced price lunches pursuant to federal law and regulations, (iii) students with a history of behavioral and social difficulties, (iv) students identified as requiring special education, or (v) students who are English language learners. 
Already approved charter schools will not have to be accountable for the success of their documented recruitment and retention practices for priority student populations UNTIL their charter school status is up for renewal before the SDE.
The governor’s bill calls for increasing the state contribution for charter schools from $9,400 to $11,000 per pupil, with an additional $1,000 per pupil from the local districts, while transferring charter funding to the Education Cost Sharing section of education statutes. In addition, the governor wants to create new incentives for the creation of local charter schools and wants these schools to be eligible for state funding of $3,000 per pupil and a $500,000 start-up grant.
The bill raises a concern that the governor may be retreating on the state’s commitment to send the greatest resources to the local districts with the greatest need. CEA has undertaken a comprehensive analysis of the potential consequences of proposed funding changes. We have called for and will continue to advocate that legislators increase state funding of local education expenses equitably and target a portion of additional resources toward meeting and sustaining smaller class size goals.
Closing note: It is important that you become very familiar with the positive reform laid out in the CEA reform plan because it is a valid and fair alternative to what is found in Senate Bill #24.
We urge you all to stay informed and take very seriously the calls from CEA to mobilize—your future and that of public education for all students depends on each and every one of us. If you have already started contacting your legislators, then please continue. If you are new to advocacy, then please start reaching out to legislators today. 
Sincerely,
Phil Apruzzese, CEA President
Mary Loftus Levine, CEA Executive Director
 

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