Saying children, parents, and communities always deserve a qualified and experienced leader at the helm of public education, Connecticut teachers are urging state legislators to override Governor Malloy’s veto of HB 6977, An Act Establishing Qualifications for the Commissioner of Education, a measure that passed the State Senate unanimously and the House of Representatives with overwhelming support (138-5).
“Look at the qualifications for other state agency heads in Connecticut, and you will see that their experience directly aligns with their job responsibilities. The education of our children demands experience and expertise. We cannot afford a second-rate approach to education leadership in Connecticut,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen.
Nationwide, only four states have no required qualifications of any kind for education commissioner. Connecticut is one of those four.
The bill that the governor vetoed would have required that the education commissioner have an education degree, five years of experience as a teacher, and three years of experience as an administrator. It was strongly supported by educators, including teachers and school administrators.
“Enacting these qualifications is long overdue. To be truly effective, the state’s education chief must have boots-on-the-ground experience in public education,” said Cohen.
Cohen continued, “Connecticut’s children, families, teachers, and communities deserve a commissioner who has walked in the shoes of teachers and school administrators. We urge legislators to step up to the plate and do the right thing by overriding the governor’s veto of higher standards for the state Commissioner of Education.”
CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg elaborated on why HB 6977 must become law.
“Connecticut state agency commissioners in the areas of energy, corrections, public health, public safety, and mental health have specific qualification requirements. Real experience is just as important in education as it is in other state agencies,” said Waxenberg. “As legislators did the right thing by passing a state budget with additional school funding, we urge legislators to again do the right thing by overriding the governor’s veto of higher standards for the state Commissioner of Education.”
- The Commissioner of Public Health must be a physician or hold a graduate degree in public health.
- The Commissioner of Emergency Management and Homeland Security must have five or more years of experience in public safety, emergency services, or security management.
- The Public Utility Commissioners who oversee energy policy must have three or more years of experience in related fields such as law, economics, utility regulation, or consumer advocacy.
- The Commissioner of Mental Health and Addiction Services must have 10 years or more of experience in hospital, health, addiction, or mental health administration, and a master’s degree or higher in a health-related field.
- The Commissioner of Corrections must be an experienced correctional administrator.
Cohen concluded, “There is no credible reason why the statutory qualifications for Connecticut’s education commissioner must remain second rate. We urge legislators to act.”
Dr. Dianna Wentzell, Connecticut’s current Commissioner of Education, is a respected educator who meets the requirements of the legislation. The previous commissioner, Stefan Pryor, whose tenure as commissioner was marked by controversy, had no classroom or school administrative experience.