Has Connecticut witnessed “meaningful education reform,” as its governor claimed this week? Both reformers and teacher-union leaders have answered yes, which leaves Gadfly scratching his head. So what happened? Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy agreed to legislation that somewhat toughens teacher evaluations, enhances transparency in school spending, provides Connecticut’s (few) charter schools the most money they’ve ever seen, and empowers the state with more latitude to turn around poor performing schools. With progress, however, comes concession. Performance evaluations that determine whether teachers receive tenure will be piloted in just a handful of districts, and they lack the bite of the reforms proposed by Malloy three months ago. The legislation also confines the education commissioner to intervene in only twenty-five of the lowest-achieving schools over three years and limits his ability to turn them around. (The bill limits private management to just six of the twenty-five schools and prohibits for-profit providers from taking over any school.) And unions retain their ability to bargain over the impact of these changes. Still, the steps are substantial for a Democratic governor and a Democratic legislature. The Nutmeg State has made room for more accountability and greater school choice. That counts for something.
“In Connecticut, Compromise on Education Package,” by Peter Applebome, New York Times, May 8, 2012.