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Malloy Demands End to Failing Schools in Conn.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Making good on his promise to present education reforms to the legislature when it convenes Wednesday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced plans to spend nearly $25 million to turn around Connecticut’s lowest-achieving schools – including those in Fairfield County – and another $10.5 million to implement more stringent teacher standards and evaluations.

Malloy also said the state must invest more of its education funding in charter and magnet schools.

“During my time as mayor of Stamford, we created two charter schools, and the results were overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “We should assist in the ability of charter schools to reach these high-need student populations while also implementing requirements to ensure that those who can benefit most from this schooling are targeted.

“Charter schools provide families with options within the public school system, options that can be a real asset in targeting those students who have had trouble achieving success in other schools,” Malloy said.

Malloy proposed increasing support for magnet and charter schools, agricultural science schools and other "high-quality options” by bringing public charter schools closer to funding parity with traditional public schools.

State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, ranking member on both the State Education Committee and Higher Education Committee, said she supports Malloy's proposals to increase charter school funding and for state intervention to bolster failing schools.

"Increasing funding for charter schools is a positive step in the right direction,” said Boucher. “We should consider and support every means possible to improve the quality of education for children, particularly in persistently failing schools.”

Malloy, who has proposed a number of education reform in recent weeks, presented his latest plans Monday and Tuesday in Hartford. He will present his overall education reform proposal as part of his State of the State address to the General Assembly on Wednesday morning.

Malloy also wants to create a "Commissioner's Network" led by the state Department of Education's newly created "Turnaround Team" that would provide a system of support and interventions to improve the bottom 5 percent (about 25 schools) of chronically low-performing schools across the state. The schools would be selected for the network based on low student achievement and lack of progress.

“Transforming our educational system — fixing the schools that are falling short and learning from the ones that are graduating high-achievers — will help us develop the skilled workforce that will strengthen our state and our economy,” said Malloy.

Stefan Pryor, Connecticut's commissioner of education, was even more blunt.

"Our state has the dubious distinction of having the largest achievement gap in the nation. This situation cannot be remedied through patient rationalization and modest tinkering. Instead, we must get involved – immediately and vigorously – in the places where students' performance and life prospects are severely limited by their schools' struggles,” Pryor said. "The Commissioner's Network will attract and bolster transformational leaders and teachers, provide critical flexibility to enable innovation, and offer the resources and services needed to improve student learning.”

The proposed commissioner’s network would require $24.8 million in funding.

An additional $10.5 million would be earmarked for improved teacher preparation and recruitment, more professional development and implementation of upgraded teacher evaluations.

Mary Loftus Levine, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, said her group supports many of Malloy’s reform initiatives but warned about diverting public education funding for charter and magnet schools.

“We are encouraged the governor recognizes that magnets, vocational technical, and vocational agriculture public schools offer great potential to expand educational opportunities for students,” said Levine. “But as a member of the state [Education Cost Sharing] Task Force, I express sincere caution at the governor’s proposal to take funding from already strapped neighborhood schools and direct it to new charter schools.”

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