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Is The Legislature Really “Killing Hope in Connecticut?”

That’s what ConnCAN’s executive director Patrick Riccards said in the New York Post.

by Jon Pelto from Wait, What

Like a true “road-warrior”, Riccards swept into town last year to take the helm of Connecticut’s ”Education Reform” advocacy movement and is now apparently playing to his next audience – New Yorkers.

Working for the advocacy organization set up by Achievement First Inc., the charter school management company that will benefit the most from Governor Malloy’s “education reform” plan, Riccards has spent the last few months shilling for Malloy and insulting just about everyone he comes in contact with.

And like many “education reformers” he doesn’t always discern the truth from the rhetoric.

In his New York Post op-ed Riccards laments that “although [Malloy’s Education Reform bill is] the most sweeping reform package Connecticut has seen, it was modest compared to reforms in other states.”

But of course, that is simply NOT TRUE. Dan Malloy proposed the most anti-teacher and anti-union bill of any Democratic governor in the nation. More to the point, Malloy has been pushing the most anti-labor bill that any Connecticut governor has proposed since our public employees’ won the right to collectively bargain nearly 40 years ago.

No Connecticut governor – Democrat, Republican or Independent – has ever proposed taking away the fundamental collective bargaining rights of a group of public employees, until this one.

Riccards charges that the Democrats in the Legislature “gutted” Malloy’s proposals making it “difficult to attach any real accountability to teacher performance.”

Again, that is simply NOT TRUE. With a probationary work period of four years, Connecticut has one of the longest teacher probationary periods of any state in the country. Last check something like 40 states had shorter periods. During that time frame teachers can and are let go on a regular basis either due to budget constraints or performance.

Second, everyone agrees that teachers who can’t do their jobs should be removed. There is broad-based agreement among all the parties that needs to be easier to remove a bad teacher. The debate is not about removing bad teachers, but about whether the evaluation process should or should not be attached to a standardized testing system that is driven by factors far beyond the teacher’s control.

Riccards also continues his complaint that Democrats made it “even harder to turn around struggling schools.” Of course he fails to tell his New York City readers that Malloy’s “Commissioner’s Network” plan was a blatant abuse of power in which Malloy’s Education Commissioner could pick 25 schools and if the local board of education didn’t submit to HIS plan within 120 days, he would take over the school, fire the teachers, ban collective bargaining AND turn the school over to some unnamed third party who would then be exempt from Connecticut’s laws limiting the use of consultants and Connecticut’s laws mandating competitive bidding.

Finally, Riccards returns to the reformer’s favorite refrain about Connecticut’s “achievement gap — the country’s largest” without ever putting into context the fundamental factors that create that achievement gap.

Connecticut has the highest “achievement gap” in the nation because in our suburban communities, the very teachers and laws that he and the reformers condemn, are helping to produce the highest standardized test scores (for what that’s worth) in the nation. The truth is that many of Connecticut’s suburban schools rank among the finest in the country and year after year students are scoring at unprecedented levels on the standardized tests.

However, since poverty and language barriers are the two most prominent factors related to educational outcomes (and standardized test scores) – Connecticut’s extraordinary wealth and extraordinary poverty has created a society, an economy and an education system in which there are those who have and those who have not.

The “achievement gap” is large because, when it comes to standardized test scores, the top is very high and the bottom is very low – thus the size of the gap.

But does that make the urban teachers bad teachers? Of course not.

The State of Connecticut’s Educational Cost Sharing Formula is $800 million to $1.5 billion underfunded. While money alone can’t solve everything, Connecticut’s teachers are working hard to create successful educational environments in our urban areas, despite the fact that our state government is failing to provide those communities with the necessary resources.

If Connecticut’s Governor and the state’s corporate elite were really committed to “education reform” they would be focusing on the issues that really matter – poverty and language barriers.

Riccards concludes that because of the unions, “No child in Connecticut will be guaranteed an effective teacher.”

I don’t know where this guy comes from or where he is going, but he clearly has no understanding, what-so-ever, when it comes to the intelligence of Connecticut’s people. We are not stupid and his arguments are bullsh*t.

While the outcome of Connecticut’s 2012 “education reform” debate still hangs in the balance, it is the Democrats in the Legislature who are giving our children the chance for REAL education reform, not the faux agenda ConnCAN and the others are trying to foist on our state.