As Connecticut’s 2012 legislative session enters the homestretch, a surprising amount of vitriol has been injected into the public discourse on school reform. In recent days, supporters of Senate Bill 24 have been painted as “special interest groups” with designs to “privatize public education.” Groups that support the Governor’s version of SB 24 do not represent “anti-education” special interests. Rather, these groups represent Connecticut’s principals, superintendents, local boards of education, the State Board of Education, university leaders, municipal leaders, chambers of commerce, and business leaders. Teachers, teachers-in-training and students have also added their voice to the collective call for reform.
The only “special interest” common to this diverse group of stakeholders is ensuring that every child in Connecticut receives a high-quality education, and that our state is taking every action possible to make certain that it happens. Those supportive of reforming Connecticut’s schools are not working to punish teachers or silence their collective voice.
We should all recognize that public education is a community issue. We cannot effectively address the challenges within our current system until all stakeholders – educators, parents, employers, civic groups and government leaders – come together for a constructive, mutually-beneficial dialogue on how to do what’s best for all children. We have a unique opportunity and a shared responsibility to use these last days of the legislative session to focus on how we can improve the educational opportunities and academic outcomes for all of Connecticut’s public school students. We cannot allow this opportunity to slip through our fingers. In the final weeks of the “Education Session,” we must put aside the vitriol. Connecticut’s students, families and communities deserve better. We can still pass comprehensive school reform this year. The time is now to commit to the necessary changes that will benefit all of Connecticut’s students.