City | 7:46 pm | May 10, 2012 | By Nick Defiesta

Education reform caps productive session in Hartford

Gov. Dannel Malloy praised lawmakers in Hartford Wednesday night as the General Assembly ended a productive legislative session.
Gov. Dannel Malloy praised lawmakers in Hartford Wednesday night as the General Assembly ended a productive legislative session. Photo by Anjali Balakrishna.

Lawmakers in Hartford marked the end of a productive legislative session Wednesday.

In his address to the General Assembly at midnight Wednesday night, Gov. Dannel Malloy praised the hard work of legislators in passing bills to legalize medical marijuana, allow Sunday liquor sales, repeal the death penalty and permit Election Day voter registration. He also highlighted the 11th-hour passage of education reform legislation, which Malloy said was his top priority for the session in his State of the State address in February.

“Over the course of the last 16 months we have pushed more change through these two chambers than has occurred in Connecticut in a long, long time,” Malloy said in his address. “Now, thanks to votes you made over the past few days, we’re changing our public schools.”

The $100 million education reform bill — the product of a last-minute Monday deal between legislators — is somewhat tamer than the one Malloy had originally proposed, leaving the current teacher tenure system essentially intact. But it is packed with other reforms, including increased funding to charter schools and low-performing districts, as well as a teacher evaluation system.

Malloy’s plan called for requiring teachers to re-earn their tenure every five years based on evaluations tied to student achievement, with new teachers earning tenure after several years of “proficient” or “exemplary” evaluations. Under the bill passed Tuesday night, however, this system will not take effect for at least three years to allow for fine-tuning of evaluations, a move that drew cautious praise from the state’s teacher’s unions.

The bill also funds the creation of 1,000 seats for early childhood education and a pilot program to “enhance literacy” for young students, Malloy said.

“At a time when our state — and states across the country — continues to face financial challenges, I believe this agreement also speaks to our commitment to improving public education,” Malloy said after the agreement was announced. “By allocating nearly $100 million additional dollars to reform our public schools, we are saying that every child can and must receive an education that allows them to compete in the 21st century economy.”

The legislative session — only the second under a Democratic governor in the past 20 years — saw the passage of several landmark bills checked off Democrats’ wish list, including medical marijuana legalization and death penalty repeal. But other bills, including one to raise the minimum wage over the next two years, were not brought to a vote due to a combination of Republican opposition and lack of time in the three-month session.

The General Assembly plans to hold a special session in order to implement certain aspects of the budget that could not be completed before the Wednesday midnight deadline. In the special session, party leaders also hope to bring up a bipartisan jobs bill that failed to clear the House in the regular session’s final days.

The 2012 legislative session began on Feb. 8, 2012.

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