Connecticut Parents Union Pushes for Reform

The Connecticut Parents Union, a parent advocacy group, has called for its voice to be heard when the state prepares to enact education reforms during this year's legislative session.

Gwen Samuel, founder of the Connecticut Parents Union, said at a press conference at the Legislative Office Building:

"Children don't vote, they don't sign medical release forms, you can't even send them on a field trip without our consent. But yet the decisions that would impact their fate, their future, lies in everyone else's hands."

Most of what happens within the education system is outside of parents' control, says Samuel. The group was formed during last year's session to campaign to give parents a voice to influence education policy decisions, writes Hugh McQuaid at CT News Junkie.

Rep. Douglas McCrory, a vice principal at Hartford's Capitol Region Education Council, also believes parents need to be brought into of the reform process "instead of doing reform and tell them, ‘okay, this is what it's going to look like for you.'"

"For the past 20 or so years that hasn't worked and we cannot continue down that path," he said.

Samuel is quick to emphasize that the group is not anti-teacher and praising the leadership of the CEA and AFT. But AFT's efforts to "circumvent" the Parents Union last year on a legislative proposal to give parents more say in how failing schools are run was not acceptable, writes McQuaid.

"I want this to be very clear—as long as you have my child, I am not circumventable," she said.

One of the reforms the group is keen to endorse is the proposal put forth by the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents that recommends offering teachers five-year contracts which would then be up to the district whether to renew or not.

"We have some great teachers. We have some okay teachers and we have some that need to find another profession and for some reason we're afraid to say that. But yet you will hold parents and families responsible for the decisions that are made in the classroom."

Samuel also criticized the controversial "scream rooms" at the Farm Hill School in Middletown, where misbehaving students are sent to calm down, writes Kathleen Megan at the Courant.

"News of the rooms, which are reportedly used at other schools as well, surfaced last week after parents witnessed two Farm Hill staff members holding a door shut on a small room while a child kicked and screamed inside."

The parents union has called for ending non-therapeutic "time-out/scream" room practices.

"If you had qualified staff, best practices in place, you wouldn't think you had to put a baby in the dungeon," writes Samuel.

Samuel also wants to see the state's school residency laws reformed.

"Parents should be able to choose which public school their child attends and not be punished for wanting them in a safe school.

"When schools are not performing, when schools are unsafe, you have to give us a measure to choose something better."

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