Connecticut Legislative Session Opens; Schools Top Issue

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called on state lawmakers Wednesday to help him create an economic revival in Connecticut, creating more jobs and overhauling the state's public school system, including teacher tenure.
by | February 8, 2012

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called on state lawmakers Wednesday to help him create an economic revival in Connecticut, creating more jobs and overhauling the state's public school system, including teacher tenure.

A little more than a year after taking office amid a massive $3.5 billion budget deficit, Malloy touted the accomplishments of his freshman administration, proclaiming the state has "passed through the crucible of that crisis" because he and state lawmakers have "brought positive, far-reaching, meaningful, and systematic change to Hartford" over the past year.

"Yes, it has been a long 13 months. But a state that was on its knees has stood up and said, 'Enough is enough — we're ready to change our future,'" Malloy told lawmakers on the opening day of the 2012 session of the General Assembly. "Yes, we have a long way to go, but a state that was at the crossroads of crisis and opportunity is beginning to turn a corner because we chose opportunity."

Malloy unveiled his proposed revisions to the second year of his two-year, $40.1 billion budget passed last year. While the revised one-year $20 billion plan for the 2012-13 fiscal year does not increase any more taxes, it spends $329 million more than originally budgeted — a 1.6 percent increase. Malloy's budget director, Benjamin Barnes, said much of that increase is covered by a surplus included in the original budget, as well as reductions in funding to medical programs for low-income residents due to eligibility changes.

There are also other cuts spread throughout state government.

Malloy said the state must maintain fiscal discipline and continue job creation efforts. But the hallmark of Malloy's second term is expected to be his plan to overhaul the state's public schools. He has called for spending an additional $128 million on various education proposals, such as funding 500 new early childhood education seats, targeting additional funding to problem schools and requiring they embrace key reforms, and having the state serve as a temporary trustee of public schools with the worst legacies of achievement.

He is also proposing revamp teacher tenure practices, acknowledging the proposal could damage his relationship with teachers. His plan would require teachers to earn and re-earn tenure by "meeting certain objective performance standards, including student performance, school performance and parent and peer reviews."

To earn tenure, Malloy said that job security is "too easy to get and too hard to take away."

Malloy also wants to overhaul teacher preparation programs and invest in-on the-job training for teachers.

"I'm pro-teacher, as long as that doesn't mean defending the status quo, and I'm pro-reform, as long as that isn't simply an excuse to bash teachers," he said.

Both Democrats and Republicans alike applauded Malloy's efforts to improve schools in Connecticut, which has one of the worst gaps in achievement between rich and poor school districts in the country. Lawmakers have predicted there will be bipartisan support for some reforms, but others could face challenges during the three-month-long session.

Malloy urged lawmakers to work together with him on a bipartisan basis, as they did last fall when they came up with a jobs package.

"I say that if we work together — all of us — we can make an economic revival a reality," he said.

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