What Will Weingarten Say in Connecticut on June 17?
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is no friend to public education. As education historian Diane Ravitch notes in December 2013:
Malloy has abandoned his commitment to equality of education opportunity and now relies on high-stakes testing, evaluation of teachers by test scores, and ample funding to charter schools as the reforms that can take the place of equitable funding.
He even appointed a co-founder of the state’s leading charter chain as his state commissioner of education.
In his re-election campaign, Governor Malloy can count on the financial support of some of the wealthiest equity investors in the nation, who live in sheltered enclaves in places like Greenwich and Darien and support charter advocacy organization like ConnCAN.
Since Malloy introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union education reform bill of any Democratic governor in the nation, the corporate reform industry has spent more than $6 million lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s initiatives. One education reform group, A Better Connecticut, which was formed by the present and former CEOs of ConnCAN spent in excess of $2 million television advertisements “thanking” Malloy for his leadership in promoting charter schools and the privatization of public education.
Malloy has also been going to the corporate education reform industry for campaign contributions.
Last year Malloy, a held a lucrative fundraiser for the Prosperity for Connecticut Political Action Committee at the home of Jonathan Sackler, the corporate executive who helped finance Achievement First, Inc., ConnCAN, 50-CAN and other education reform organizations. The fundraiser netted in excess of $40,000 for the Malloy related PAC.
This year the money from the corporate education reform industry has been funneled through the federal and state accounts of the Democratic State Central Committee.
Malloy’s recent contributions include another $20,000 from Sackler and his wife, at least $15,000 from other members of ConnCAN’s Board of Directors and at least $11,000 from members of Achievement First’s Board of Directors. Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, co-founded Achievement First, Inc. and the larger charter school management company has received a major increase in funding since Pryor took over the State Department of Education. [Emphasis added.]
Dannel Malloy is a corporate-reform-friendly governor.
He wholeheartedly promotes the flawed value added measures (VAM) method of rating teachers using student test scores. And what to do with an obviously failed VAM? Why, add more test scores. As civil rights lawyer Wendy Lecker writes:
Fact: Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan, because it relies on student standardized test scores, is fundamentally flawed. Student test scores cannot measure a teacher’s contribution to student learning. In fact, the president of the Educational Testing Service recently called evaluation systems based on student test scores “bad science.”
Rather than admit failure, the Malloy administration is trying futilely to “fix” the fatal flaw. Last week, PEAC, the panel charged with developing Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system, working under the direction of Commissioner Stefan Pryor, approved a change which calls for more standardized tests to be included in a teacher’s evaluation. …
By adding more tests of the same skills in the same subjects, PEAC merely added more meaningless “noise.” This addition will not give us any better picture of how well a teacher teaches.
Worse still, adding more tests increases the focus on tests, increases the frequency of testing, and distracts us from considering the skills teachers should be helping children develop. And since Connecticut’s evaluation system completely ignores these non-cognitive skills, they will be de-emphasized in school. [Emphasis added.]
Not only does Malloy want faulty VAM as a “measure” of teacher “effectiveness”; he wants to erase teacher due process rights and even supports a system whereby teachers’ jobs are secure for only one month at a time. As Pelto reports:
…On February 8, 2012, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, a Democrat, used his State of the State speech to eliminate teacher tenure as part of his corporate education reform industry initiative.
That day, on the fundamental issue of teacher tenure, academic freedom and the right of teachers to have due process, Malloy said,
“In today’s system basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours.”
Following that speech, Malloy introduced his education reform bill that became known as Senate Bill 24.
Malloy’s proposed bill eliminated tenure and replaced it with a complex system that left teachers at the mercy of losing their jobs every 30 months.
As shocking as it was that a Democratic governor would propose ending teacher tenure, Malloy became the only Democratic Governor in the nation to propose unilaterally repealing collective bargaining rights for some public school teachers —- in Malloy’s case, his bill proposed ending collective bargaining rights for teachers in turnaround schools.
Malloy is now up for re-election.
And the AFT’s Connecticut Political Action Committee (PAC) endorsed Malloy– who is well -financed by corporate reform interests. Malloy– who openly disrespects teachers and wishes for VAM-induced, rapid-fire, due-process-removed teacher turnover.
Pelto’s reaction to the June 4, 2014, announcement of AFT-Connecticut’s PAC endorsement of Malloy:
Without providing gubernatorial candidates with any opportunity to fill out a questionnaire or present their case, the members of the American Federation of Teachers’ Connecticut Legislative and Political Action Committee (LPAC) voted last night to endorse Governor Dannel “Dan’ Malloy for re-election.
“I am deeply disturbed that the leadership of the Connecticut Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers would deny me, or any other candidate, an opportunity to present our case. If there is any organization left in America that should be open, fair and transparent it should be a union that represents teachers,” Pelto said.
Pelto added, “The decision to endorse Malloy without an open process is a sad commentary on the state of politics. Putting aside the work I’ve done to speak out for teachers and their unions over the past two years, and my lifetime commitment to public education, Governor Malloy has proven himself to be the most anti-teacher Democratic governor in the country. There is not a teacher in Connecticut who has forgotten that Malloy proposed ending teacher tenure and unilaterally repealing collective bargaining for teachers in ‘turnaround schools’ when he put forward his Education Reform initiative.”
“The AFT-CT’s premature endorsement is insulting and inappropriate. While friends can disagree on even the most important issues, it is shameful that Malloy’s challengers weren’t given the opportunity to make their case to AFT members as to why students, parents, teachers and all of public education would be better off with a new governor,” Pelto concluded.
According to the union’s by-laws, the recommendations by the Legislative and Political Action Committee will now go to the AFT Connecticut Executive Committee for final action.
And so, on June 13, 2014, the Connecticut Mirror reports that AFT-Connecticut has officially endorsed Malloy for re-election, which puts him in line to receive the endorsement of Connecticut’s AFL-CIO.
Republican hopeful John McKinney says that AFT-Connecticut’s decision to endorse Malloy does not represent the wishes of “rank and file” teachers:
John P. McKinney, one of three candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor, said he was “stunned” that AFT would endorse Malloy in light of his comments on teacher tenure.
“This decision was clearly made by a small executive committee of union leaders, not rank-and-file teachers,” McKinney said. “This endorsement doesn’t take away their civic right to vote the way they want to at the polls.”
AFT-Connecticut President Melodie Peters defends the decision by saying that AFT-Connecticut is made up of members of other professions, including health care workers.
I’m sorry, but how is AFT (American Federation of Teachers) supposed to defend teachers if its interests are divided by those in other professions? Including other professions will serve to bring in those membership dues, though.
Why did AFT-Connecticut– still a union primarily of teachers– endorse a man who so obviously wants to destroy the teaching profession?
According to AFT-Connecticut’s “official” word in the Connecticut Mirror— because Malloy respects collective bargaining:
Leaders of AFT-Connecticut and other public-employee unions have said that Malloy deserved labor’s support for respecting collective bargaining rights for public employees at a time when they are under attack in other states.
On Tuesday, AFT President Randi Weingarten is scheduled to speak.
What will she say? How will she use words to attempt to shape AFT endorsement of Malloy into the way to “reclaim the promise of public education”??
There is something Malloy is doing of which Weingarten (not necessarily teachers, but Weingarten) wholeheartedly approves:
Malloy support the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In fact, his support runs so deep that Malloy is willing to hire a public relations firm to promote CCSS. As reported on Courant Blogs on December 24, 2013:
The state Department of Education is planning to spend up to $1 million to hire a public relations firm to promote the controversial Common Core curriculum standards.
According to a request for proposals on its website, the department is seeking a firm to develop a multi-media marketing plan to help parents, teachers, students, the business community and the general public better understand the Common Core. [Emphasis added.]
Note that “better understand the Common Core” is a euphemism for “be sold a message in support of Common Core.”
One issue the public needs to understand about CCSS is that all states involved in CCSS are little more than a grandiose, expensive, education-corporation-benefiting experiment.
So, what will Weingarten say? That Malloy “respects collective bargaining” rights of teachers who “only have to show up for four years” to get due process rights?
Will she thank him for his idea of Senate Bill 24 and the slap that it was to propose a bill that would place teacher jobs in jeopardy every month?
Will she applaud his support of CCSS and say her oft-used words that implementation is the problem and if only it were divorced from the high-stakes tests… even as she is endorsing for re-election a governor who wants to introduce more tests in an effort to “fix” VAM?
Or will she say that she is at the mercy of AFT-Connecticut’s PAC; that endorsing Malloy was “their decision” and she is simply supporting their choice?
Allow me to suggest a generic-feel-good speech about how teachers are pillars in American public education; how dedicated they are; where would our country be without them, etc., etc.
Keep it neutral, and smile for the cameras.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty