Malloy Vetoes Qualification Bill for Connecticut Education Commissioner


Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has vetoed a bill that would have required the state’s education commissioner to have experience within the classroom as a well as with administrative duties, saying that putting those restrictions on candidates could hinder the ability of the governor to choose the best possible person for the job.

“Open-mindedness and flexibility are paramount in a search for the right candidate who can best respond to the educational challenges that face our state,” Malloy wrote. “The establishment of qualifications for the commissioner of education in statute closes the door on a broad pool of talented and diverse leaders who would otherwise be eligible and could foster greatness in our schools.”

The decision came as a shock to both the Legislature and teachers unions, who had overwhelmingly supported the measure.  Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, said that if classroom teachers were held to high standards and qualifications, the same should hold true for the commissioner of education in order to “attract the best and the brightest.”  He went on to say that he plans on discussing the situation with legislators in an effort to determine whether or not there is enough support to override the veto.

House Bill 6977 would have required the state commissioner of education to hold a master’s degree, as well as have five years of teaching experience and three years experience as an administrator.  According to Andy Fleischmann, co-chairman of the education committee, Connecticut is one of only four states to not have any requirements for the position.

Questions concerning qualifications arose during the reign of the previous commissioner of education, Stefan Pryor, who had been appointed by Malloy in 2011.  While he did carry a law degree and have a background in economic development, rather than experience within the classroom, he also was one of the founders of the first charter schools in the state.  Pryor eventually left the role to become the first secretary of commerce in Rhode Island, writes Daniela Altimari for The Hartford Courant.

Malloy backed his decision to veto the bill, saying that candidates for the position of education commissioner already could face a legislative review.  He went on to argue that requiring certain qualities by law could limit the talent pool, as women and minorities could become underrepresented.

“It should be our mission to encourage creative education leaders regardless of background to consider tackling the challenge of closing the achievement gap and leading our students and teachers to even greater heights,” the governor wrote.