Candidate name: Derek Slap
Candidate for State Rep. for 19th District
51 Fairlee Rd. West Hartford, CT 06107
Associate VP External Relations at the UConn Foundation
1) Why are you running and what are your top three priorities for education once elected?
I am running for three reasons: Maggie, Zoe and Charlie. They’re my three children but they represent all the children in the 19th district. I want them to be able to keep attending the best schools in Connecticut, perhaps even the nation. I want them to be able to find jobs in Connecticut when they graduate and I want them to be able to afford a home here as well. Should they chose to retire here, I don’t want them priced out of their communities. Furthermore, I want them to see Connecticut as a progressive state that takes care if its environment, helps its less fortunate and constantly innovates to create a dynamic economy that works for all residents.
In terms of education, my top three priorities are: protecting schools from harmful budget cuts, stemming the tide of increased state financial support flowing to charter schools (often at the expense of traditional public schools) and finally achieving universal pre-k in Connecticut.
2) Is the public education system broken and in need of reform? What about in West Hartford?
West Hartford has some of the finest schools, students and teachers in the entire country. Are there some changes that are needed? Absolutely. We need to revise and update the ECS formula so West Hartford’s current demographics are taken into consideration. We need to move away from our obsession with testing and penalizing teachers for test scores. And we need to ensure all districts have adequate resources to educate all children. That said, it concerns me when some people argue the entire system is broken. Surely, the corporate takeover of our schools isn’t the answer.
3) How would you move forward regarding an uncertain future with education funding and the recent court ruling?
The court ruling is being appealed by the AG and that’s good. While I agree that the current ECS formula needs updating, as I mentioned earlier, and that some districts need additional funds… I do not agree with several major parts of the judge’s decision. First, the judge dismissed the teacher evaluation system and implies that somehow teachers are to blame for the state’s educational challenges. I do not agree. Secondly, his comments regarding students with special needs, in which he says some of these children are essentially hopeless, is offensive and a violation of federal law. We need strong leaders to confront these idealogies and advocate for all students. Furthermore, I would fight to protect the great schools that the vast majority of Connecticut enjoys. I would also work to expand on the Smart Start program, which I helped to create when I worked for the Senate Democrats as their Chief of Staff. Universal pre-k is the best way to close the achievement gap and ultimately we need to add a year of school so children come to public schools for one year of pre-k before kindergarten.
4) What are your insights about charter schools?
I have addressed this in earlier comments but let me add that charter schools were/are meant to be labs where best practices are developed and then transmitted into public schools. I fear politicians and public policy makers from both sides of the aisle have taken the concept too far and now use it as a way to privatize public schools. In many cases these charters take resources away from the traditional public schools and they do it while operating in a less transparent manner. Furthermore, their philosophy regarding teachers tends to minimize it as a profession and assumes young professionals with little training can be just as effective as certified teachers. I don’t buy it.
5) Charter school funding.
I would not advocate for increased funding for charter schools, certainly not at the expense of traditional public schools.
6) Money follows the student.
I agree with WHEA’s position.
7) Collective bargaining.
I unequivocally support collective bargaining and WHEA’s positions as outlined in this question.
8) Any other issues or relevant positions that would be of interest to WHEA.
I would add three things.
First, I’m proud to have earned the endorsement of CEA. They have expressed their confidence in me that I will fight for public education and never scapegoat teachers when it comes to tackling the challenges we do face.
Second, I believe that an over reliance on testing not only has the unintended consequence of driving good teachers out of challenging districts but it can harm the students as well. We need to ensure subjects such as music and the arts are valued and supported just as much as STEM.
Finally, I am a product of public schools, my children attend their neighborhood public schools and my wife is currently training (ARC program) to become a public school teacher.
9) You’re welcome to post my comments.