With just five days until Gov. Dannel Malloy and Republican challenger Tom Foley face off in one of the most hotly contested elections in the country, education policy — long a point of contention between the candidates — is emerging as a focus of the election.
Yesterday, Malloy’s office announced a plan to provide $4.7 million for pre- and after-school programs in New Haven Public Schools. The grant reflects one of the main aspects of Malloy’s platform, which calls for increased funding for public schools and greater availability of early childhood education. Meanwhile, Foley unveiled his “money follows the child” education plan in August, which reroutes state funds from public schools to charter institutions for each child transferring between the systems. Malloy’s supporters say that the governor has a strong track record when it comes to education policy and that Foley’s plan monetizes a system that should focus on students. But Foley’s supporters claim that Malloy has failed to effectively allocate state money to address Connecticut’s failing schools.
“Malloy’s education plan throws money at the problem without solving it,” said Yale College Republicans communications director Amalia Halikias ’15. “With policies where the money follows the child, you allow children the opportunity to attend a school they wouldn’t otherwise get to, and by leaving the schools, they add much-needed pressure to the schools to reform.”
In an August release from his campaign entitled “Restoring Pride and Prosperity in Connecticut,” Foley said that his “money follows the child” policy intends to “make sure no child is trapped in a bad school.”
Critics of the policy — like the Connecticut Education Association, which published an analysis of “money follows the child” in September — say it takes state money from struggling public schools and gives it to third-party charter institutions, undermining the state’s commitment to its public schools.
Supporters of Malloy, like vice-chair of the Greenwich Board of Education Jennifer Dayton, said that his education plans address the state’s needs for better early childhood education and increased funds for economically disadvantaged areas. Dayton said her view is not indicative of those of other members of the bipartisan Greenwich Board of Education, but added that she considers Malloy’s long history of involvement in education, such as his service on the Stamford Board of Education, one of his strengths.
Connecticut State Representative Tim Ackert (R – Coventry) said that while he struggles with the direction of Malloy’s education policy — particularly with its methods of evaluating teachers and school districts —he sees little that distinguishes the candidates’ education policies from one another.
“There are already charter schools available to kids, and money already goes there,” Ackert said, adding that Foley’s “money follows the child” policy is unlikely to pass the Connecticut legislature. “It just sounds good in political speak for conservatives.”
According to president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers Dave Cicarella, Malloy — who has gained the endorsement of the American Federation of Teachers — has proven to be available and has opened a dialogue about education issues.
Foley, meanwhile, has “never once reached out” to the group.
“I find that odd, with New Haven being so central nationally,” he said. “We’ve done some great work, so you would think they would reach out to us, to say here are some suggestions we’ve had.”
Yale students interested in education policy stressed the importance of having a governor who understands Connecticut’s education issues. John Luke Barrios ’16, who has volunteered in New Haven Public Schools, said he would not vote for a candidate who is not passionate about education.
Kelsey Miller ’16, the cohead of student-run think tank Roosevelt Institute, said the governor must address inequity in Connecticut public schools.
“You have districts like Bridgeport with schools that are really struggling next to districts like Westport that are doing just fine based off of standard metrics,” she said. “Improving resources like teachers, curriculum funding and cocurricular activities at the school level is what I’d really like to see.”
Malloy edged out Foley by less than 800 votes in the 2010 Connecticut gubernatorial race.
Clarification: Oct. 30
A previous version of this article implied that the New Haven Federation of Teachers had endorsed Gov. Dannel Malloy. In fact, the NHFT does not give endorsements.