Outgoing Board of Education member Maria Pereira, elected as a member of the Connecticut Working Families Party, has been a lightning rod since her win in 2009, even accusing local Democrats of a “plantation” mentality. (See video.) In 2012 she confronted Governor Dan Malloy in a testy exchange during the governor’s first road trip to promote his education reform package. Pereira was one of three elected board members who voted against state control of city schools.
Highly critical of Malloy’s education reform agenda, Pereira’s now chief of the Bridgeport WFP with a lot on the line for Malloy’s presumed reelection campaign next year. In 2010 Tom Foley had more votes on the Republican line than Malloy on the Democratic line. Votes added from the WFP line placed Malloy over the top. Can Pereira reverse herself as a Malloy critic and campaign hard for him assuming the WFP endorses Malloy next year? What happens in Bridgeport could determine Malloy’s reelection.
Last year in Hartford Pereira challenged Malloy during a forum to promote his education agenda that includes teacher accountability standards.
“On Tuesday, the Supreme Court overturned your administration’s illegal takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education,” Pereira chastised Malloy, “and I want to know if your plans to reform our schools are all about disenfranchising parents in schools all over the state like you’re attempting to do in Bridgeport?”
Malloy’s retort: “How happy are you with the Bridgeport schools?”
In the summer of 2011, the city’s school board threw in the towel, dissolved itself and asked the state to take control of the beleaguered school system. The state board of education accepted the task and appointed a board to set policy for city schools. Opponents challenged the decision in court. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled the city and state failed to follow the correct procedure for state control. Maria Periera, vehemently opposed to state control, was a passionate critic of Malloy while waiting to be reseated as an elected member of the school board.
Pereira earned her hard-working campaign stripes in 2009 with her victory (with Sauda Baraka) running on the WFP line, stunning Republicans for two state-required minority party slots on the school board. Pereira said she got involved because of a dysfunctional school system that subjected her child to a variety of teachers for the same class. Last year John Bagley became the third victorious WFP-aligned candidate in an effort for coalition control of the nine-member school board. On September 10 the WFP backed the three victorious Democratic challengers to the party establishment. Come November 5th, the WFP hopes to reach its goal to set policy for the largest school district in Connecticut running its own slate of candidates.
Backed heavily by union money, the WFP is a splinter group of the Democratic Party upset with the party’s centrist movement. See their website ct-workingfamilies.org.
The WFP has become a relevant voice in some state and local elections highlighting messages appealing to disaffected working class Democrats and unaffiliated voters such as increasing minimum wage, paid sick days, taxing the wealthy, affordable healthcare and rejecting privatization of local schools.
Pereira’s time on the school board has been marked by a series of heated exchanges with school board members she opposed as well as Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas, a national school reformer, brought in following state control of schools. She has even branded the city’s political establishment for a “plantation” mentality. (See video above.)
Pereira decided not to seek election to another four-year term. Some political observers say Pereira tired of school board battles while others maintain her confrontational style created liability on the campaign front at a time the WFP is so close to winning school board control. Diplomacy is not exactly Pereira’s strength.
Why would the WFP place Pereira in a key role with so much at stake for Malloy’s reelection? Is the WFP unhappy with Malloy? Is this a way to send a message, don’t take us for granted?
Taylor Leake, WFP communications director, says “There’s no politician we agree with on everything. That said, Working Families Party has been proud to stand with Governor Malloy on a range of issues from paid sick days to organizing rights.”
Check out this video in which Maria Pereira gives City Attorney Mark Anastasi a tongue-lashing.