Malloy Vetoes Unnecessarily Restrictive Education Commissioner Requirement

People are coming out of the woodwork to criticize Gov. Dannel Malloy’s decision to veto HB 6977 – a bill that would have imposed unnecessarily restrictive qualifications for individuals appointed to the position of State Education Commissioner.

I have one question for state leaders who are considering holding a vote on overriding Malloy’s veto: Has anyone actually thought this legislation through?

To illustrate my point, here’s a not-so-exhaustive list of potential commissioner candidates that would be disqualified if HB 6977 were signed into law:

      • California Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson
      • New Jersey Commissioner of Education David C. Hespe
      • DC Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang
      • Maine acting Commissioner of Education Tom Desjardin
      • Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton
      • Iowa Director of Education Ryan Wise
      • Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen

All of the people listed above currently run state departments of education, and in fact, most of those listed have at least some classroom or administrative experience – and yet, if the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) and Connecticut Federation of Teachers (AFT-CT) get their way, none of these people would be qualified to run Connecticut Schools.

It’s not just the people you’d expect being disqualified either.

The legislation is very specific: a Commissioner of Education appointee must hold an advanced degree in education, have five years of experience in the classroom and three years as an administrator of a school or district.

So, possible candidates like Tennessee’s Candice McQueen, a veteran educator who was welcomed by her home state’s teachers union, the Tennessee Education Association, would be disqualified. While she did help run an entire college as the Senior Vice President of Lipscomb University, she’s never led a public K-12 school or district.

The absurdity doesn’t end there.

Someone like Iowa Education Director Ryan Wise, who was previously the Deputy Director of Iowa Schools, holds an Ed.L.D. in Education Leadership from Harvard University, and has both classroom and policy experience would also be disqualified, because guess what! There’s no waiver allowing state department of education experience to count.

Even California State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson, a former science teacher and legislator, whose re-election campaign was funded and backed by the American Federation of Teacher’s Political Action Committee, would not be deemed qualified to run Connecticut schools.

In other words, even one of the national teachers unions’ favorite public officials doesn’t require such stringent qualifications.

So why be so restrictive? Why disqualify candidates that are so clearly qualified for the role?

The answer: None of this is really about who’s actually most qualified to run Connecticut Schools.

Here’s the bottom line: Connecticut teachers unions want to limit the pool of potential appointees so that the Commissioner of Education almost certainly comes from their own ranks without regard for who’s actually the best choice.



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