State News Roundup for March 17, 2012


Connecticut – Educators speak out at Governor Malloy’s education reform meeting in Windham

Jeannette Picard, a reading consultant at Lebanon Middle School, [ed note: pictured above] was among the hundreds of people who attended Governor Malloy’s education reform plan town hall style meeting in Windham, and one of a handful selected to ask the governor a question.

Picard, who has been teaching for 29 years, works with academically troubled students. She told the governor to put the interests of children first. She said that, while she loves her job and the children, they wouldn’t need her help if they received the services they needed from the beginning, and that 500 new slots for preschool are not enough to solve the problem.

“Rather than punish teachers, let’s look at the real problem and spend the money for early childhood education that our children deserve,” she said.

To read the complete article and see upcoming locations for Governor Malloy’s education reform tour, visit

Idaho – Lawmakers kill oversight bill

The House Education Committee today killed H646, the bill to seek more transparency of Education Management Organizations doing business with Idaho taxpayer dollars, despite about 90 minutes of testimony mostly in support of the bill. Although this was arguably the most important education bill of the session, few reporters were on hand since the State Senate Affairs Committee down the hall was hearing a controversial ultrasound bill.

“Idaho parents, teachers and voters are concerned that local school districts must make in-depth expenditure reports while out-of-state corporations face no such scrutiny,” Mike Lanza, co-chair with Maria Greeley of Idaho Parents and Teachers Together, said in a statement after the vote. “House Bill 646 would have given Idahoans a better look at how for-profit corporations are spending their tax dollars, but given the way lawmakers ignored public opinion last year, we are not surprised at the results. Fortunately, Idahoans will have the opportunity to overturn the 2011 laws that promote privatization of our public schools by voting No on Propositions 1, 2 and 3 this November.”

Bert Marley of the Idaho Education Association offered testimony from Erica Haynes, a Sandpoint teacher who worked for K12 Inc., which operates the Idaho Virtual Academy and iSucceed Virtual High School. Haynes spoke about how her student load grew from 160 to 300 students after K12 Inc. became publicly traded and the corporation started putting profits first.

“I didn’t feel like what I was doing every day was ethical or healthy for kids. … If I didn’t believe in it, I couldn’t keep doing it.  The failure rate was really, really high. There was a lot of pressure to pass students,” Haynes wrote. “We were trying to reach a 75 percent passing rate.  And at 250-300 students, there were some days I could not even open assignments before they were graded if I wanted to meet quota. In the end, it was so impersonal I couldn’t even remember my student’s names.” Haynes added that she is not opposed to online education and she now teaches both for Sandpoint High School and the not-for-profit Idaho Digital Learning Academy, which limits class sizes and emphasizes a team-teaching approach.

As the bill sponsor, Rep. Brian Cronin (D-Boise) pointed out in his testimony before the committee, school districts are required to provide an accounting of how they spent taxpayer dollars. They also must make that report of expenditures available online. Shouldn’t organizations that, in lieu of a school district, be subject to some of the same transparency requirements? Regardless of whether it’s the district or the another organization spending the money, taxpayers deserve to see where it goes. The IEA is thankful to Rep. Cronin for his efforts to move this important discussion forward.

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Colorado – CEA president, teacher experts cite benefits, deficiencies of early literacy bill

The Colorado Education Association continued its efforts to strengthen proposed legislation for early childhood literacy through testimony before the House Education Committee, March 12.

House Bill 1238 [ed note: pdf link]would enact a variety of measures intended to enhance classroom instruction and heighten parental involvement around early literacy.  CEA is actively working with legislators to ensure the bill reflects standards and practices demonstrated to have real success in improving early childhood literacy.

“We thank the sponsors for shining a spotlight on the important issue of literacy.  It is a critical issue for our students and our members,” said CEA President Beverly Ingle said in her testimony before the committee.  “Our members are committed to bringing the highest quality instruction to all children, especially those who struggle to read.”

Ingle said she appreciated the sponsors’ collaborative efforts in working with CEA to strengthen the bill by placing greater emphasis on early interventions, more focus on literacy programs starting in kindergarten, and a reduction in administrative paperwork that would take a teacher’s time away from students.

Ingle, though, shared concerns about implementing a comprehensive literacy program during a period of overwhelming budget cuts to public education which have caused school districts to cut teachers and literacy coaches, increase class sizes, and reduce funding for instructional materials.

For instance, one school district in Adams County was forced to cut all 28 of its reading intervention and literacy coach positions to come in line with state budget cuts.  With such examples common throughout the state, legislation imposing more mandates on schools and teachers without adequate funding will conflict with the goal of delivering the best public education to Colorado students.

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New York – NYSUT criticizes Tier VI pension vote

New York State United Teachers today expressed its deep disappointment in Gov. Andrew Cuomo and those legislators who voted to slash pension benefits for future workers.

NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said the new Tier VI provides zero near-term savings to school districts and state and local governments, while slashing benefits for middle class working New Yorkers. New York had a better choice, he said: closing corporate loopholes to bring in billions of dollars to invest in jobs and education, while enacting new legislation to recoup from Wall Street the $100 billion in pension losses stemming from abuses that crashed the state’s economy in 2008.

“It is very simple: Those who chose this path are requiring the 99 percent to pay for the sins of the 1 percent,” Iannuzzi said. “We thank those who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with organized labor and the hard-working middle class. This was an opportunity for every legislator to stand with labor and not pander to the 1 percent who are funding the non-stop attacks on labor. Sadly, not all understood that responsibility.”

NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said the clear linkage between this morning’s Tier VI vote and a plan to redraw legislative lines is a disappointing reminder of the “old Albany” many had vowed to clean up. “Make no mistake, we know this was tied to redistricting, and we’re going to ask: Who chose their own incumbency security over the next generation’s retirement security?” he added.

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