Sen. Boucher Comments on Education Commissioner’s Departure Announcement

August 18, 2014

Sen. Toni Boucher, the ranking member of the legislature’s Education Committee, issued the following statement regarding Stefan Pryor’s announcement that he will not seek another term as state education commissioner:

“I am not surprised at the timing of Commissioner Pryor’s announcement. The governor needs to win back support and credibility that he lost among teachers and unions. After all, Gov. Malloy made a mistake when he told teachers in his 2012 state-of-the-state address that, ‘Basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours.’ While that was an insult, there were additional missteps in trying to address the real problems in our urban schools.

“Commissioner Pryor, always a gentleman, came into this position with great enthusiasm and great intentions to improve the educational quality of chronically failing student . However, he was charged by and under the strong direction from Gov. Malloy to push education reforms. Unfortunately, a great deal of these reforms were force-fed to educators, students and parents all at once, without all stakeholders at the table. Rather than focusing on failing schools which clearly need resources, support and training, the one-size-fits-all reforms impacted many school districts which were already doing a good job. We need to make teachers part of the solution and partners in the work. They know firsthand the challenges in our classrooms.

“Whether this move will placate our educators remains to be seen, but they have a long memory and are not easily manipulated. Frankly, I believe they will see through this smokescreen.

“It is my hope that the next commissioner, whomever that may be, will be an independent voice on behalf of education in our state. If this does not happen, the danger we face is that Connecticut could be perceived as too political and too hot to handle. That perception could lead to a failure to attract top educational talent to Connecticut, and that would be a sad outcome for what I consider to be a top priority facing our state, educational quality.

“The bottom line is that the administration created a toxic atmosphere of distrust amongst administrators, teachers, and parents. That atmosphere jeopardized education reform efforts. Even if you agreed with those reform efforts, they were so poorly implemented that the future of education reform in Connecticut is truly in doubt.”