The sweeping education reform package passed by the legislature late last evening takes a number of much-needed steps to turn around Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools, and provides Middletown with new funding for educational programs, according to State Rep. Matt Lesser (D-Durham, Middlefield and Middletown).
"Just last weekend, Gov. Malloy and teachers were fighting and reform of our schools looked out of reach. This historic bill will improve schools around the state, while protecting teachers' rights and it makes an important dent in the Achievement Gap,” said Lesser, who sits on the Education Committee.
Middletown, which will get $796,637 more for schools, "will have to submit a plan to qualify for the funding," Lesser said, "but we were careful to include language ensuring that the money is reserved for us and us alone."
The town will also receive more funding for Family Resource Centers at and elementary schools, and is eligible for new school-based health centers and early education slots. Middletown's funding will be conditional on achieving certain reforms as it is now designated an Alliance District.
The ’s Family School Connection will also remain open thanks to the legislation. The program, which provides home visiting and support services to families that have children who are having behavioral or academic problems or issues with truancy or tardiness, had been threatened with closure.
The Middletown Board of Education will increase transparency as part of an important provision in the bill that standardizes accounting practices used by local boards of education. "We've had a number of fights over recent years over accounting practices," Lesser said. "This will standardize accounting practices across every board of education in the state. The hope is that this will increase transparency and public confidence."
Rep. Lesser said that bill (SB 458), supported by both the American Federation of Teachers and the Connecticut Education Association, reforms the teacher tenure system by increasing the frequency of teacher evaluations, improving teacher training, and linking tenure to evaluations. It also requires the education commissioner to administer an evaluation pilot program in 8 to 10 districts.
The bill also establishes the Commissioner’s Network, which provides the intensive supports and interventions needed to turn around 25 of the most chronically low-performing schools in Connecticut. It grants the state commissioner of education the needed authority to develop or modify plans with teachers and parents at “turnaround” schools, while respecting collective bargaining rights.
A pilot program to enhance literacy for students in kindergarten through third grade is created by the bill. There are also funding increases for vocational/technical and vocational/agricultural schools, charter and magnet schools, and a new kindergarten through 8th grade science initiative.