Students Rally For Education Reform at State Capitol

Rachel Cogut

Approximately 30 students joined local chapters of Students For Education Reform (SFER) from other Connecticut institutions in Hartford to rally for education reform and the passage of Senate Bill 24 on Thursday evening.

Senate Bill 24 aims to improve student performance, expand access to early childhood education, change teacher standards and close the state’s achievement gap. It is part of a vigorous education agenda being pushed by Governor Dannel P. Malloy.

President of Quinnipiac’s SFER Chapter, Jordan Nadler, opened the rally by stating:
“Connecticut, by many measures, has the largest achievement gap in the country, and college students are no longer standing idly by … It’s time that our voices are heard.”

State Director for Students for Education Reform Kevin Coughlin said he expected students from 12 colleges to attend and was impressed with the 60 students present at the rally, half of those students coming from Quinnipiac University.

Nadler was pleased with and proud of the significant turnout. Quinnipiac students outnumbered groups from the SFER Chapters of every other Connecticut universities that attended.

University of Hartford junior Michael Daley spoke of his struggle through the public education system while growing up and attending elementary school in Hartford, which touched the hearts of many in attendance.

Daley said that he thought he had been receiving a good education at the Annie Fisher School in Hartford, until he arrived at Granby Middle School and found out that he was “drastically behind” his peers.

“I was so far behind my classmates that I was held back a year while I was in sixth grade,” Daley said. “I was put into special education because I was so far behind. It was humiliating, extremely devastating and tremendously discouraging.”

Daley said he wants to help kids get the quality education they deserve, and has plans to work as a teacher in Hartford.

Malloy told students at the rally that his education reform package would “move Connecticut from where it is in the back of the pack to where it should be and should have been, in the front of the classroom.”

“Here in Hartford, we could look at a room full of kindergartners today and, if we don’t change our way, guarantee that 45 percent of them will never graduate from high school,” Malloy said. “That is not acceptable in America.”

Malloy said negotiations on the education bill between his administration and legislators are continuing. The governor has stated that because lawmakers “gutted” his reform bill, he won’t sign it as is. He mentioned in his speech that Education Committee members have said that work needs to be done on the bill.

“Connecticut has the largest achievement gap in the country, which is really devastating, and especially in a state where you can kind of see phenomenal public schools in one neighborhood and drive 30 minutes away and see kids that are being doomed to failure, too, at the very best, entering college and having to go through a number of extensive and demoralizing remedial classes,” said Alexis Morin, SFER co-founder and co-executive director.

When there’s such a disparity between the haves and the have-nots in the educational system, it’s clear that change needs to happen, and that it’s possible, too. And it’s amazing to see college students rallying around making that change happen today.”

Until SB 24 was gutted one month ago, it consisted of a set of reforms for the Connecticut’s public education system, including the introduction of comprehensive teacher evaluations and providing additional funds to support charter schools.

Closed-door negotiations in the Senate continue over SB 24. The General Assembly has until May 9 to act on the bill.