Malloy pushes education spending

Gov. Dannel Malloy has indicated that he plans to make good on his promise to enact education reform — he has announced a series of legislative proposals over the past week aimed at improving and expanding schooling opportunities in Connecticut.

Malloy’s proposals, if enacted by the state’s General Assembly convening for its legislative session today, would affect students in levels ranging from preschool to professional job training programs. Last Thursday, Malloy proposed allocating an additional $12 million of the state budget to boost the quality and accessibility preschool education in the state. The next day, the governor announced that he will propose legislation to change the Connecticut Technical High School (CTHSS) system to tailor its curricula to the needs of the state’s employers so that students will be better prepared for employment upon graduation. On Monday, Malloy put forth a legislative proposal to improve low-achieving schools and increase charter and magnate school funding.

“We made a promise to our kids that education will prepare them for college or the workforce,” Malloy said in a Feb. 6 press release. “Transforming our educational system — fixing the schools that are falling short and learning from the ones that are graduating high-achievers — will help us develop the skilled workforce that will strengthen our state and our economy.”

In his preschool proposal, Malloy called for a $4 million “investment” to provide 500 additional spots in the state’s preschool education programs, $3 million to provide professional development opportunities earlier to students prior to college and $5 million to create a statewide “Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System” (TQRIS) that will allow parents to access information on early childhood school programs.

Connecticut’s lack of such a system was part of the reason why the state lost out on funding from the federal grant competition known as Race to the Top in March 2010, according to a Feb. 2 press release from the governor’s office. Race to the Top, started by President Barack Obama’s administration in 2009, awards funding to state and local K-12 programs that implement certain education reforms.

“Investing in early childhood is critical to prepare young children to succeed and close the achievement gap,” said Maggie Adair, executive director of the CT Early Childhood Alliance, a Connecticut-based education advocacy group. “The governor’s plan demonstrates his passion and commitment to building a solid foundation for young children in Connecticut.”

To address state vocational schools, Malloy announced on Friday that he will ask the Department of Education, in collaboration with the Board of Regents, Department of Labor and Department of Economic and Community Development to lead the process of revamping CTHSS programming and benchmark student performance standards against national and global models in technical training.

The centerpiece of Malloy’s Monday proposal affecting low-achieving schools is a new organization called the “Commissioner’s Network,” a system of supports and interventions designed to improve chronically low-performing schools to be established within the next year. The governor announced on the same day a proposed increase in per-pupil funding for charter schools by $11.1 million, which would bring the per-pupil funding for charter schools from $9,400 to $11,000.

In the Elm City, more than 73 percent of New Haven students enter kindergarten with preschool experience, according to City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04.

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