Award-winning Investigative Journalist Robert Parry (1949-2018)

Award-winning investigative journalist and founder/editor of, Robert Parry has passed away. His ground-breaking work uncovering Reagan-era dirty wars in Central America and many other illegal and immoral policies conducted by successive administrations and U.S. intelligence agencies, stands as an inspiration to all in journalists working in the public interest.

Robert had been a regular guest on our Between The Lines and Counterpoint radio shows -- and many other progressive outlets across the U.S. over four decades.

His penetrating analysis of U.S. foreign policy and international conflicts will be sorely missed, and not easily replaced. His son Nat Parry writes a tribute to his father: Robert Parry’s Legacy and the Future of Consortiumnews.

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JEREMY SCAHILL: Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker "Dirty Wars"

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Connecticut Education Reform Law Aims to Close America's Worst Racial Achievement Gap

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Posted May 23, 2012

Interview with Gary Holder-Winfield, chair of the Connecticut General Assembly's Black and Hispanic Caucus, conducted by Melinda Tuhus


Two days before the Connecticut legislature ended its 2012 session at midnight on May 9, the state House and Senate passed a landmark education reform bill that is aimed at closing the state's widest-in-the-country racial achievement gap. When elected, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy declared education reform was his highest priority. But when the legislative session began in February, many players thought he sabotaged the process by sarcastically stating that all teachers have to do to earn tenure "is show up for four years." That comment provoked the two teachers' unions in the state, the Connecticut Education Association and the Connecticut Federation of Teachers, to actively oppose the governor’s proposal.

But over the course of the three-month session, educators, legislators and the governor's team worked to reach a compromise. The resulting bill was passed by a lop-sided margin in the state Senate and unanimously in the House. Declaring that “education reform is the civil-rights issue of our time,” Malloy, unlike many other governors around the U.S., is supporting expanded state funding to assist low-income schools and their students, while avoiding teacher layoffs and deep education budget cuts.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Gary Holder-Winfield, a Democratic representative from New Haven and chairman of the Connecticut General Assembly's Black and Hispanic Caucus, which was instrumental in helping pass the bill. Here, Holder-Winfield describes the hurdles that had to be overcome for passage and some of the key points in the education reform legislation.

GARY HOLDER-WINFIELD: I think everyone felt by the end of the session, we had to get to a place where we did a bill that significantly dealt with the issues of education. So having that as something that – I don't know if it's proper to say it was held over people's head – but having that as something that was out there, I think had a big impact on what we saw. And I think the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus coming in near the end and saying, we're talking about all communities, but in particular we're talking about communities that are represented by the caucus, and we're saying, we need to make a step forward. Help.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What are the main points in the legislation that you think will represent significant progress on this issue?

GARY HOLDER-WINFIELD: So I think if you look at the legislation that passed here in Connecticut, the commissioner's network, which actually means that schools will be turned around, is important, and I recognize there is a conversation about what happens to teachers. But the reality is, you have schools in this state that have been failing for decades. And so they've failed generations of students. When you're in that situation, you have to actually make a move. And so the move you make has to think about those who work in that environment, but also has to make a significant change for the students who find themselves there. So I think that's one of the important things. The caucus – the Black and Hispanic Caucus, that is – had an effort to bring forward a bill separate from the education bill that ultimately was incorporated into it, that dealt with literacy grades K-3, because at the root of the achievement gap is the gap in the number of words that minority and non-minority populations enter the school with, and those with means and without means enter the school with, and that's where the gap is largely resident, at least initially.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Well, what about even before that? What about pre-school?

GARY HOLDER-WINFIELD: Well, we would have loved to have the bill be pre-K through 3, but we don't have universal pre-Kindergarten, so we started with kindergarten, at least in terms of titling, but the bill does actually speak to pre-K where it's available.

BETWEEN THE LINES: But isn't there some significant money to increase the number of pre-K slots?

GARY HOLDER-WINFIELD: Right. So initially, the governor imagined that we'd go to 750 slots. The bill that ultimately passed had 1,000 slots for early childhood, so that's a significant increase. The reality is we need probably 5,000 or 6,000 slots, but it's a step forward and a significant step forward, so the answer to that question is yes.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Gary Holder-Winfield, some of the bill is based on the education reform already underway in New Haven with buy-in from the teachers' union. I spoke with Dave Ciccarella, the president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, and he said after looking at the bill, that it's more good than bad for students and for teachers. The two state teachers' unions did not oppose it in the end. What changed in that equation for teachers unions that they were willing to go along with it?

GARY HOLDER-WINFIELD: I think part of the issue here was that initially the governor said some things that weren't useful to the debate, and so people weren't listening to each other from the outset. Also, I think, it was a huge bill, and there are many people who said they read it, but you could read it, a huge bill like that, and still not understand all that's entailed in it. The other thing is, there are some things you just have to know other laws to know what it means, so when you talk about teacher evaluations, because of Connecticut law, you're also talking about administrators. So when you hear this discussion, well, we're only talking about teachers, that's not actually true. So there are a lot of things that factor into why the bill was perceived in a way that might not have been favorable to teachers. Now, that's not to say there weren't parts of the initial bill that teachers wouldn't like or that might not be favorable to them, but I don't think the bill was ever as detrimental as people believed. The other thing is – and this is partially the Caucus's input – our bill was actually attempting to say, "Where there are problems, instead of being punitive, let's figure out simply what the solutions should be and make sure they're in place." So, you could have a teacher who's not really at the place where they can teach reading, but instead of saying, We're going to punish you for that. What we'll do is make sure that all of the resources are necessary and you'll have the opportunity to get better, or eventually, instead of firing you, we'll just make sure you don't teach those children or you get moved somewhere else. So it's a melding of different perspectives, I think, that made the bill better.

BETWEEN THE LINES: The new law requires that teachers receive a rating of "effective" to earn tenure, and they will have to receive a rating as "ineffective" in order to lose tenure; and there is no link between certification, pay and the evaluations. But what happens if a teacher is deemed "ineffective"?

GARY HOLDER-WINFIELD: The thought from the legislature was, there are teachers – and they're very few – but there are teachers who are not good at what they do. So what we should be doing is making sure we capture these teachers by an evaluative process and give them an opportunity to improve, and if they don't improve we have an expedited process – at least expedited compared to what we currently have – wherein we begin through a due process process to work on getting that teacher out of the place where they are.

For more information on CT’s education reform, visit

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