Educators, elected officials and members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) gathered to hear Gov. Dannel P. Malloy discuss the proposed Education Reform Bill he calls a "modern-day Civil Rights Movement" Monday night at Shiloh Baptist Church.
The church was packed with concerned residents eager to hear the governor defend and promote his reformation, which was best described by NAACP Connecticut Chapter President Scott X. Esdaile as "a touchy subject."
NAACP Education Committee Chairman Dr. Benjamin Foster Jr. urged Malloy to promote a more culturally relevant education by "infusing multicultural content."
Malloy agreed with the importance of cultural sensitivity and said he wanted teachers to receive professional, post-graduate training.
Hamden High School Principal Gary Highsmith suggested that the proposed bill was not based on any substantial research or studies.
"It has been my experience that in absence of data," said Highsmith, "people fall back on 'let's disband the unions' or 'fire all the teachers' ... or they attempt to vilify teachers. There is no evidence that dismantling collective bargaining will lead to improved student learning."
Malloy countered Highsmith, stating, "The idea that we are trying to take apart collective bargaining is not true. We're not trying to take rights away from teachers. We're going to evaluate teachers in ways they agreed upon."
Attorney and NAACP member Michael Jefferson said that, "education in our community is life or death," and urged Malloy to focus on family integration rather than blame and bash teachers.
Malloy stopped Jefferson, saying, "If you are are intimating that I'm bashing teachers, you're dead wrong. They (teacher unions) celebrated the bill on their website."
When Jefferson responded by asking why then was the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) up in arms, Malloy stated, "They didn't inform their members," which prompted a loud outcry from the crowd.
Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor silenced the crowd by reminding them that they were in a church.
The night concluded with Capital Prepatory Magnet School Principal Dr. Steve Perry.
"Nothing in SB24 is going to hurt children," said Perry. "It will unhinge the guaranteed jobs our educators have had. Tenure needs to be more sophisticated. You need to be exemplary, you need to be an example.
"It's not about charters, it's about options. If there's a choice and no one chooses my school, then shut it down. We lock these kids in these schools to die and then blame them for the deaths they die. Don't let people squabbling over adult comfort get in your way. Go harder," said Perry to Malloy.