McKinney vows to scrap Common Core if elected
Updated 10:43 am, Tuesday, August 5, 2014
State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said Monday if he wins the Republican gubernatorial primary next week and defeats Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in November, he would end the use of the federally mandated Common Core State Standards.
McKinney, whose district includes Newtown, said Connecticut educators do not respect the test for the controversial Common Core as a true indication of student learning.
"My intention is to get rid of the Common Core and develop a curriculum appropriate for Connecticut," McKinney told the editorial boards of Hearst Connecticut Media. "First and foremost, whether it's the educational reforms Gov. Malloy has tried to implement, whether it's the Common Core, you have to have a buy-in from the people on the front lines: your teachers in the classroom and administrators."
He said that teachers and administrators had "hardly any" such input in the development of Connecticut's Common Core curriculum, which has been criticized for not being adequately explained to teachers.
He said that urban and suburban teachers have very different educational challenges as they try to prepare children.
"So many of the teachers are not comfortable with, not just the Common Core standards, but how they've been developed by the governor and the commissioner of education," said McKinney, 50, who earlier this year called for state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor's resignation.
"I think it's time to start over, and I think you sit down with teachers and administrators throughout this state and you work on it," said McKinney, the father of three Fairfield teenagers. "I'm fully understanding of the need to have testing and to have higher standards for our kids, but I think that they need to reflect what is happening in our classrooms and reflect some of the differences that you see in say, a Bridgeport versus a Fairfield, even though they're right next to each other. So I think we need to start over again."
McKinney said student test scores should not be directly tied to teacher evaluations.
On the issue of regional cooperation among towns and cities, McKinney said that smaller communities need incentives to change purchasing procedures and jointly buy goods and services to save money.
He said that while some towns are already engaged in such cooperation, larger municipalities don't, even though they can save significant amounts of money. He gave the example of his hometown of Fairfield, where town government and the Board of Education have separate purchasing departments.
"We do love local control, but I think you can lead by example," McKinney said.
During a wide-ranging, 100-minute interview with editorial page editors of The News-Times, the Connecticut Post, The Advocate of Stamford and Greenwich Time, McKinney said Connecticut's economic future depends on turning around Bridgeport, the state's largest city, on which he promised to focus if he becomes the next governor.
Big tax breaks are a sensible way to attract companies back to the city, said McKinney, who is campaigning for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in the Aug. 12 primary against Tom Foley, of Greenwich.
McKinney said that while Bass Pro Shops will provide Bridgeport with some new economic activity near the long-neglected harbor, the creation of tax-free enterprise zones would allow developers to focus resources on cleaning up contaminated land called brownfields.
"I think, as governor, that we have to bring a renewed sense of reviving this city," said McKinney, a 16-year veteran of the Senate and the GOP leader for the last six years.
"I think being realistic, most people will go to the Bass Pro Shops, do their shopping -- they may buy an elk burger when they're there -- then they get back in their car and go back where they came from," McKinney said. "The tax revenue generated there is helpful, but that's not economic revitalization. There just needs to be a renewed focus."
McKinney said better communication between state leaders and corporate executives may also help the city.
"I absolutely think that governors can do a lot," McKinney said.
Instead of offering $115 million in state funds to assist the Westport-based Bridgewater Associates move to Stamford, as attempted by Malloy, McKinney said that the resources might have been better spent to try to persuade Ray Dalio, the founder and CEO of the wildly successful hedge fund, to relocate to Bridgeport.
"You would have thought he would have said `You know, `Stamford's doing OK, how about Bridgeport?' " McKinney said. "I mean, I'll give you all the land you want. If it's brownfields, we'll clean it up. And we'll give you the keys and you don't have to pay anything. I absolutely think governors can do a lot."
McKinney said that one of the reasons why he chose David Walker, of Bridgeport as his lieutenant governor running mate for the primary is Walker's commitment to the city.
"I don't think we can turn Connecticut around if Bridgeport isn't turned around as well," McKinney said. "I don't mean to exclude other places that are doing poorly, but we've had so many candidates for governor, even governors talk about what we're going to do for the cities, yet I don't think we've seen enough done for the cities."
McKinney said that while Malloy's predecessor, M. Jodi Rell, wasn't "pro-active" enough to drive important new development opportunities, Malloy is active, but falling short.
"I don't think that he's always been right," he said.
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