OP-ED by Rae Ann Knopf

Published in CT News Junkie May 9, 2012

The process we followed these last few weeks in search of education reform is uniquely American: messy and confusing, but glorious in its ability to bring diverse peoples together to do what’s right for the whole.

With the passage of Senate Bill 458, Connecticut took a major step toward resuming its rightful place as a haven for enlightened education and a leader in championing the civil rights of all its citizens.

Coming together after months of deliberation and polarized and contentious debates, Governor Malloy, the State Board of Education and Commissioner Pryor, and legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle have artfully drafted a meaningful framework for reconstructing public education in Connecticut. Rather than drib and drab low profile reforms over multiple years, Governor Malloy took a bold stance and proposed a massive comprehensive reform bill based on six principles for righting a listing ship (the State of Connecticut) by articulating education reform as the foundation for economic revival.

Spanning early childhood to graduation, and touching upon all aspects of public education and those who carry out its mission, this proposal brought to a fulcrum the many comprehensive recommendations for reform that were drafted in the state in recent years. Delivering his vision with firm resolve, the Governor never wavered on the importance of systemic change to ensure all children will end up with access to a high quality education in Connecticut. In the end, legislative leaders, leaders of organizations representing teachers, principals, superintendents, boards of education, businesses and civic leaders found common ground by setting adult fears aside, and putting children’s needs first.

Ann Plato, 19th century African American poet said, “a good education is another name for happiness.” One can only hope. Her statement resonates now, as it did then. She speaks to the ways in which a good education opens up the world for a child and invites them to contribute to it in their own unique way. It speaks also, to the importance of preparing our children in ways that afford them freedom of choice – the economic freedom to choose where to live, where to work, and where and how to raise their own children. It speaks to opening the doors of free will, the foundation upon which America was built.

We celebrate the choices made by so many in our state to do the right thing on this day – to put down the hammer used in recent weeks to beat down this issue and pick up a chisel so that we might artfully craft over time, the legislation and practices needed to compel sustained improvement and innovation in every school in Connecticut, throughout the 21st century and beyond.