Malloy Puts Supers on Notice: Reform Has Just Started

Gov. Dannel Malloy this week gave a little-noticed but very important address to the state’s school superintendents as they ready for a new school year. It was not simply a pep talk to the schools’ chiefs but rather a reminder that the governor still has his eye on the ball as far as education reform is concerned.

Let’s not forget that this governor is one determined guy. When he sets out to accomplish something in the area of policy, he does so with great determination. Let’s not forget that in cleaning up the mess that was Connecticut’s budget and related finances, he consolidated agencies, cut back on some programs and most courageously, raised taxes by a record amount. There was great push back from almost all corners. Yet he convinced the General Assembly it was the right and necessary thing to do.

That was only part of the challenge. He also set out to get concessions from the state employee unions. That effort was even more difficult. Labor first balked at a give-back package, rejecting it in what many saw as an uninformed vote as misinformation was widespread. What to do? Get union leadership to change the rules making it easier to approve a concessions deal. (The jury is still out on how much the budget is still coming up short.) Then came the Jackson Labs deal. Again, the governor prevailed convincing legislators that it was a unique opportunity to get in on the cutting edge of techno-job growth.

The one wall Malloy ran into in his major policy efforts was in education reform. He proposed a wide-ranging, bold set of reforms. Standing in the way was the all-powerful teachers’ unions. Malloy stumbled badly in rolling out his plan perhaps due to overconfidence. He said that all teachers had to do was show up for work for four years and they’d get tenure. The fight was on.

Malloy simply couldn’t roll the unions on this one. They wield great influence with legislators and succeeded in getting the education committee to water-down any reforms. However, in the end, all sides came up with what described as a “consensus” and at least the ball was rolling.

When Malloy spoke to the superintendents, he made it clear he wasn’t finished as reported by, “We had a fight, we got a consensus, now we move forward. He said the package the General Assembly passed and he signed into law doesn’t reform education itself, “it only begins the process of doing that…Ultimately, we are trying to make sure that all of our children are better prepared for the future in a world economy…We’ve gotta catch up. That’s a strange position for America to be in…We are in this together…All of the state’s children are our children.”

So be on the lookout for more from the governor in the area of education reform. He is, after all, a very resolute chief executive.