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Schools Big Issue For Malloy As General Assembly Begins

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Governor Dannel Malloy (Courtesy CT-N)

Governor Dannel Malloy (Courtesy CT-N)

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Text and audio of the governor’s state of the state address.

SUSAN HAIGH
Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called on state lawmakers Wednesday to help him create an economic revival in Connecticut, creating more jobs and overhauling the state’s public school system, including teacher tenure.

A little more than a year after taking office amid a massive $3.5 billion budget deficit, Malloy touted the accomplishments of his freshman administration, proclaiming the state has “passed through the crucible of that crisis” because he and state lawmakers have “brought positive, far-reaching, meaningful, and systematic change to Hartford” over the past year.

“Yes, it has been a long 13 months. But a state that was on its knees has stood up and said, ‘Enough is enough — we’re ready to change our future,'” Malloy told lawmakers on the opening day of the 2012 session of the General Assembly. “Yes, we have a long way to go, but a state that was at the crossroads of crisis and opportunity is beginning to turn a corner because we chose opportunity.”

Malloy unveiled his proposed revisions to the second year of his two-year, $40.1 billion budget passed last year. While the revised one-year $20 billion plan for the 2012-13 fiscal year does not increase any more taxes, it spends $329 million more than originally budgeted — a 1.6 percent increase. Malloy’s budget director, Benjamin Barnes, said much of that increase is covered by a surplus included in the original budget, as well as reductions in funding to medical programs for low-income residents due to eligibility changes.

There are also other cuts spread throughout state government.

Malloy said the state must maintain fiscal discipline and continue job creation efforts. But the hallmark of Malloy’s second term is expected to be his plan to overhaul the state’s public schools. He has called for spending an additional $128 million on various education proposals, such as funding 500 new early childhood education seats, targeting additional funding to problem schools and requiring they embrace key reforms, and having the state serve as a temporary trustee of public schools with the worst legacies of achievement.

He is also proposing revamp teacher tenure practices, acknowledging the proposal could damage his relationship with teachers. His plan would require teachers to earn and re-earn tenure by “meeting certain objective performance standards, including student performance, school performance and parent and peer reviews.”

To earn tenure, Malloy said that job security is “too easy to get and too hard to take away.”

Malloy also wants to overhaul teacher preparation programs and invest in-on the-job training for teachers.

“I’m pro-teacher, as long as that doesn’t mean defending the status quo, and I’m pro-reform, as long as that isn’t simply an excuse to bash teachers,” he said.

Both Democrats and Republicans alike applauded Malloy’s efforts to improve schools in Connecticut, which has one of the worst gaps in achievement between rich and poor school districts in the country. Lawmakers have predicted there will be bipartisan support for some reforms, but others could face challenges during the three-month-long session.

Malloy urged lawmakers to work together with him on a bipartisan basis, as they did last fall when they came up with a jobs package.

“I say that if we work together — all of us — we can make an economic revival a reality,” he said.

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Following are highlights of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed revisions to next fiscal year’s $20 billion budget, as well as legislative initiatives unveiled on Wednesday.

— TEACHER TENURE and TRAINING: Malloy wants to replace open-ended teacher tenure with a system in which Connecticut educators have to continue earning their job security based on such measures as student performance and comments from peers and parents. He also wants tougher admissions standards for teacher preparation programs, loan forgiveness incentives for the best new teachers to work in the academically struggling districts, and more professional development training for teachers, principals and superintendents.

— EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION: About 500 new preschool seats would be established for children whose families cannot afford them, and a rating system would be created to judge the quality of those programs statewide. The lack of such a system was cited as a problem when federal authorities rejected Connecticut’s recent Race to the Top application.

— PENSION FUNDING: The state’s annually required contribution to the employees’ pension fund would be increased by $123 million in fiscal year 2013, with additional payments through 2023, to help reduce the state’s unfunded liability.

— AFFORDABLE HOUSING: The plan earmarks $30 million in bonds to begin a 10-year, $300 million commitment to fix up dilapidated public housing and provide additional rental assistance. It also sets aside $12.5 million in bonds to develop 50 new housing units for the elderly.

— NONPROFIT PROVIDERS: The plan sets aside $8.5 million to provide a 1 percent cost of living adjustment to nonprofit private agencies that provide health and human services on behalf of the state, such as group homes and programs for the elderly.

— EDUCATION FUNDING: Malloy’s plan would add $50 million to the Education Cost Sharing formula, which determines state aid to municipalities to help support school costs. About 80 percent of the new money would be targeted to 30 districts identified as the most in need of major improvements. No districts would see their ECS grants decrease; about 139 would get increases.

— STRUGGLING SCHOOL DISTRICTS: Malloy wants the state to have more power to overhaul local schools and districts with the worst records of achievement, placing them in a “Commissioner’s Network” where solutions might include longer school days, bonuses to draw the best educators there and other changes. The $25 million initiative envisions turning around 25 schools in the next two years.

— TECHNICAL AND ‘CHOICE’ SCHOOLS: Five new state charter schools would open under Malloy’s plan, and millions would be set aside to support charter and magnet schools statewide. Agricultural science and technical schools would also get financial help, but would have to demonstrate strong plans to align their offerings with the job market.

Local districts would start paying $1,000 for every child who moves from one of their traditional schools into a charter school. Charter schools would also have to prove their commitment to serving special needs students — such as those with learning disabilities or those for whom English is a second language.

— COMMUTERS: The budget includes $261,000 to expand Shore Line East weekend train service, providing five round trips between Old Saybrook and New London and one round trip between New Haven and Old Saybrook, beginning April 1, 2013. The budget also includes $113,000 to expand night bus service in Waterbury.

— INSURANCE DEPARTMENT: Malloy is recommending additional funding of $1.5 million to hire 13 full-time and three part-time staff at the state Department of Insurance “to promote the state’s image as a leader in the insurance industry.” The additional staff in the agency’s regulatory division will help reduce backlogs and ensure the agency’s accreditation with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

— BRIDGES: Malloy’s budget sets aside an additional $90 million for state bridge improvements. They would be paid for with special tax obligations bonds.

— STORM PREPARAREDNESS: In response to the freak October snow storm and the remnants of Hurricane Irene, Malloy has proposed spending $500,000 to hold one, real-time emergency preparedness exercise per region, per year. His budget also includes an additional $2 million for tree-cutting, in addition to the $500,000 already budgeted for the Department of Transportation.

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Source: Office of the Governor

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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