Education

Connecticut Legislators Spurn Governor on Teacher Salaries

By J.r. Sirkin — April 09, 1986 3 min read

Disregarding the recommendations of a special gubernatorial commission, the joint education committee of Connecticut’s Republican-controlled General Assembly approved a bill last week that offers teachers merit pay rather than large across-the-board raises.

Critics, including the state education commissioner and the major teachers’ unions, immediately denounced the bill as “disappointing,” “disequalizing,” and “an insult.”

Abraham Glassman, the chairman of the state board, said that unless the General Assembly amends the bill, he will urge Gov. William A. O’Neill, a Democrat, to veto it.

Hot Political Issue

In a year of hot political issues in Connecticut-the Governor and all the members of the General Assembly are up for re-election-raising teachers’ salaries has been perhaps the hottest of all.

“They’re playing politics and it’s too bad, because we’re all going to lose,” Mr. Glassman said.

Battle lines were drawn in January, when Governor O’Neill endorsed a commission report that called for both a statewide mandated minimum salary of $19,300 and a costly “salary enhancement” program for veteran teachers. (See Education Week, Jan. 29, 1986.)

The three-year, $300-million plan was targeted at the state’s poorest towns rather than rural and suburban areas where Republicans are strongest.

Veteran teachers would have received salary hikes based on a model salary schedule that topped out at $38,600 for a teacher with 14 years of experience and a master’s degree.

The “salary enhancement” program would have cost $47.5 million in fiscal 1987, more than 10 times the cost of the minimum-salary proposal.

The Governor’s plan also included incentives for districts to cut their pupil-teacher ratios to 15 to 1.

‘Dead on Arrival’

But educators said the Governor’s proposal never received a fair hearing in the General Assembly, which took the attitude that it was “dead on arrival.”

That attitude, they said, is reflected in the committee bill.

For example, while it would provide full state funding for the co t of raising all teachers in the state to an “average” minimum salary of $18,500 in 1986 and $20,000 in 1987, the bill does not mandate a minimum salary, nor does it recommend the same minimum for all districts.

Instead, it would allow districts to choose whether to adopt minimum salaries, which could vary from one district to another by as mu.ch as 30 percent, reflecting regional cost-of-living differences.

The state’s contribution—$3.34 million in 1986—would decline on a sliding scale over 10 years.

Also, while the plan would pay half of all new salary increases that teachers negotiate locally in future years, it would cap funds for that purpose at $9 million in fiscal 1987 , and spend more than twice that amount-$18.5 million-on so-called “career incentive” programs, a committee aide said.

Such programs would be subject to the approval of a new “super agency” created by the legislature. Only half the teachers in each town could qualify for incentive grants in a given year, and those who received “less than satisfactory” evaluations would be required to take the National Teacher Examinations. Those who failed the exam would be dismissed

The bill would also:

  • Allocate $6 million to help districts develop model evaluation and “career improvement” programs.
  • Establish a new three-tiered certification system recommended by the state board, including an alternative route.

Funds Could Be Siphoned

Among their many objections, educators said there was nothing in the bill to prevent towns from siphoning of funds intended for teachers and using them for other public purposes.

“This is a bill that provides revenue. It’s not an education bill,” Mr. Glassman said

“It’s way off the mark in terms of where Connecticut needs to go,” said Gerald N. Tirozzi, the state education commissioner. “I just think it misses the point.”

Mr. Tirozzi added that the merit-pay grants and the committee’s proposed formula for distributing other aid would “institutionalize disparity” among districts in the state.

A version of this article appeared in the April 09, 1986 edition of Education Week

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