“I am pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement on meaningful education reform. I can say, with confidence, that this bill will allow us to begin fixing what is broken in our public schools.
“I want to thank my team – Mark Ojakian, Commissioner Stefan Pryor, and Liz Donohue, our policy director – for their hard work on this.
“I also want to thank all the key stakeholders – legislators, teachers, administrators, advocates, parents, and students – for the passionate voices that were heard during the past five months.
“And I want to thank Senate President Don Williams and Speaker Chris Donovan. I know how hard you and your respective staffs worked, and I appreciate the commitment you bring to the issue.
“This is a big issue – maybe the biggest we’ll tackle, because it involves our children. And with any big issue, especially when you’re trying to change things, it’s hard. Change is hard.
“But we have achieved change, and our children will benefit.
“We will not fix what’s broken overnight – we can’t. But we will begin to.
“This agreement adheres to the six principles I said I believed should guide education reform. I first laid out those principles last December, and we’ve talked about them a lot since then.
“First, I said we needed to enhance families’ access to high-quality early childhood education opportunities. This bill does that, by funding an additional 1,000 early childhood slots.
“Second, I said we needed to be able to intervene in our lowest-performing schools in order to turn them around. This bill does that in innovative and powerful ways – including the launch of the Commissioner’s Network and a new ambitious pilot program to enhance literacy for our youngest students.
“Third, I said we needed to expand the availability of high-quality school models, including traditional schools, magnets, charters, and others. This bill does that.
“Fourth, I said we needed to unleash innovation by removing red tape and other barriers to success, especially in high-performing schools and districts. This bill and the work of our Education Department are doing that.
“Fifth, I said we needed to ensure that our schools are home to the very best teachers and principals – working within a fair system that values teachers’ skill and effectiveness. This bill will allow us to do that – definitively, thoughtfully, and respectfully.
“Finally, I said we needed to put our money where our mouths are in order to deliver more resources, targeted to districts with the greatest need – provided that they embrace key reforms that position our students for success. This bill will allow us to keep that commitment.
“At a time when our state – and states across the country – continues to face financial challenges, I believe this agreement also speaks to our commitment to improving public education.
“By allocating nearly $100 million additional dollars to reform our public schools, we are saying that every child can and must receive an education that allows them to compete in the 21st century economy.
“And we are doing one other thing – for the first time ever we are creating a common chart of accounts, so that we’ll have a clearer sense of where schools and school districts are spending their resources.
“It seems like a minor change, but it will give us greater insight to the needs and priorities of school districts – and provide parents and residents with greater transparency for how their tax dollars are spent.
“One note about this process which is important. People have been working long hours over the past few weeks, and especially the past few days. And this is a very complex issue, and the final bill will be well in excess of a hundred pages. So there’s a chance that there will be language in the bill that needs to be fixed. Not because anyone’s trying to pull a fast one, but because we’re all human. That said, if that occurs, the Senate President and Speaker have given me their word that whatever mistakes are made will be corrected. And I take them at their word.
“I am grateful to the people standing here today, and many others, for the work you’ve put in over the past 6 months.
“More important, someday our children will be grateful.
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