By Rick Green

Published by Courant.com, February 21, 2012

So many people, so many priorities for the Year of Education Reform. My totally random breakdown as the General Assembly begins a long debate about improving public education in Connecticut:

Gov. Dan Malloy: He’s the man with the plan. Will he stick with his aggressive tenure reform proposal? That’s a great entertaining distraction, in my view. The real challenge is the huge middle — the OK-but-not-great teachers who will remain in the job. Can we get these folks to step it up? Watch changes to teacher certification, evaluation and how much money and new resources are directed to our lowest-performing schools. 

The unions: For a sign of change, follow the leaders of the Connecticut AFT. They represent far fewer teachers than the protect-the-status-quo Connecticut Education Association, but this group has shown far more willingness to rethink how things are done. If the unions are going to be part of the solution, leaders such as the AFT’s Sharon Palmer will be at the table.

Pressure groups: Everybody is out with an agenda, from the Connecticut Public School Superintendents to theConnecticut Business and Industry Association to the newly-formed Connecticut Council for Education Reform. The unions, representing 70,000 or so teachers, will turn out the crowds at the capitol. Will ConnCAN, the Connecticut Parents Union and some of the more traditional business and education advocacy groups be able to match labor’s muscle? New ConnCAN skipper Patrick Riccards will have to show his group is ready to step it up. Malloy is already running from the bull-reformer-in-a-china-shop Michelle Rhee, but if she does get involved, the former D.C. schools chancellor will provide the governor with valuable cover.

Legislators: Republicans are lukewarm to Mallloy’s plans for more money for schools but they like his ideas about tenure and teacher training. Democrats are dancing as fast as they can away from Malloy’s spank-the-unions agenda. Keep an eye on Democratic state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield and Republican state Sen. Andrew Roraback to see which way the wind is blowing. I’m curious to see if urban and Republican legislators can forge any meaningful alliance when it comes to reform. And what will House Speaker Chris Donovan — who is counting on strong union support in this bid for Congress — do when it comes down to taking a clear stand on the governor’s education reform plans?

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