Connecticut Teachers Union Ignores PAC Recommendations

The Connecticut Education Association (CEA) has voted to endorse incumbent Democrat Governor Daniel Malloy, despite the recommendation of its PAC.  Jay Poppa, a union official himself, has the story in

ON FRIDAY, September 26, the board of directors of the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), which represents some 45,000 teachers, voted to endorse incumbent Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy for a second term.

The CEA leadership ignored the recommendation of the union’s political action committee to not endorse any candidate running for governor, a decision that two of Connecticut’s largest teacher locals in Bridgeport and Hartford had already made on their own.

The CEA is now committed to supporting the anti-union Malloy. This decision highlights the CEA’s failed strategy of choosing a so-called “lesser evil” in the belief that this will help to protect teachers, students and schools from the greater evil represented by people like Republican candidate Tom Foley. However, Malloy is just as eager to carry out the dictates pushed by the profit-hungry education “reform” industry, and has publicly stated so.

In the winter and spring of 2012, Malloy proposed and helped to get passed SB 24, a bill that was written by corporate lobbyists looking to weaken teachers’ unions. Malloy angered teachers across the state that year with his infamous comment before the Connecticut House of Representatives: “Basically, the only thing you have to do [to earn tenure] is show up for four years.”

The CEA, then led by Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine and President Phil Apruzzese, responded to SB 24 in a manner that could only be characterized as top-down, bungling and inadequate. Apruzzese and Levine initially agreed to some of the most hated aspects of SB 24, such as the new teachers evaluation that aimed to tie teacher certification to evaluations based heavily on standardized test scores. Instead of sharply and aggressively critiquing SB 24, the CEA hugged the line between collaboration and mild criticism, effectively making its critiques weaker at a time when they needed to be sharper.

The current CEA leadership has taken some steps to change the course of the union to focus more on organizing teachers and community members against these attacks. These steps, however, have been slow and often inadequate. In fact, outside of summer organizing workshops and the Bridgeport fight to keep an elected school board, the CEA has publicly continued on the path of compromise. On some provisions of SB 24, moreover, the new leaders have positioned themselves as good partners in Malloy’s education reform plan.

Unfortunately for teachers and students, most of the damage has been done. SB 24 locks in additional state funding for charter schools when our public schools aren’t even adequately funded. It still uses standardized test data to evaluate teacher performance, which will lead to more “teaching to the test.”

In the coming days and weeks, we will hear CEA leaders justify their decision in many ways. They will argue that not endorsing Malloy would have been irresponsible because our allies and fellow union members were counting on us to help keep Foley out. They will tell us that Foley wanted to bring right-to-work legislation to Connecticut or bring about a “Wisconsin moment.” We will hear that Malloy isn’t what we want, but he’s the best we can get, so we should hold our noses and vote for him anyway.

While Foley’s “money follows the child” position on education is inane and his pension ideas are frightening, the truth is that there is no good choice between the two mainstream parties. Supporting Malloy will only allow him to continue a rightward slide and attack on public education while saying to us, “Well, at least I’m not Foley.”