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Fairfield County Lawmakers Vote No On Revised Ed Reform Bill

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Two Republican state lawmakers from Wilton were among only five Education Committee members who voted against a revised education reform bill late Monday night that eliminates the most significant parts of Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy’s sweeping reform proposal.

In a 28-5 bipartisan vote, the Education Committee approved a substitute bill that “eviscerates” Malloy's proposal, said State Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, whose district also includes parts of Norwalk.

Lavielle, along with State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, whose district includes parts of Westport, Weston and New Canaan, said they voted against the revised bill because it ended up being a “watered down” version of Malloy’s proposal.

It was Democratic leaders of the committee who had “exclusive meetings” with teacher union leaders during the weekend that produced the revised bill, said Lavielle and Boucher.

“To say that many of us are extremely disappointed would be an understatement,” said Boucher, ranking member of the legislature’s Education Committee. “The bipartisan process that was to reflect the good work that was done on the jobs bill last year was absent as many of us were left out of the room and the process.”

The new bill removes parts of Malloy’s proposal strongly opposed by the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, including a provision to link a new teacher evaluation system to tenure, certification and dismissal.

The revised bill only calls for a study of the current evaluation system and would delay any tenure reform until at least next year, decrease money for charter schools and reduce the number of under-performing schools in Malloy's proposed commissioner's network from 25 to 10.

“This is not even close to the comprehensive education reform proposal that Gov. Malloy presented,” Lavielle said. “I could not vote in favor of it and only hope that as the bill goes forward in the coming weeks it will be strengthened to include its original intent for real reform.”

Lavielle said she objected to both the “changes and the closed process used by (Democratic) committee members that led to making those changes.”

“I voted against the bill because they (Democrats) took out the real guts of the governor’s proposal and those of us who voted no did so to send a strong message that this will not result in the kind of reform outlined by the governor,” Boucher said.

“I can only hope the governor can convince members of his own party to seriously consider restoring key aspects of the bill so we can achieve real education reform in Connecticut,” Boucher added.

Lavielle, who also is a member of the Appropriations Committee that will review the proposed bill, said she intends to “strongly argue” in favor of restoring many components of Malloy’s original proposal.

“Even as we consider this legislation, the state has applied for a federal waiver from the No Child Left Behind mandate,” Lavielle said. “But I fear if we don’t approve comprehensive education reform in Connecticut like many other states, our request will be denied … just like last year in our request for Race to The Top funding.”

Teacher union leaders said they aren’t completely satisfied, but can support the revised bill.

“We consider this bill a work in progress,” said Mary Loftus Levine, executive director of teachers' union. “We will monitor the bill as it moves through the legislative process, and will continue to be unwavering in our commitment to ensure education reform gets done right.”

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