I teach at Bulkeley High School in Hartford and so often I find students who lack even the most basic digital literacy skills. Asking students to log into an online platform will take 15 minutes. Organizing documents in Google Drive will take even longer. These are the basic skills which a governmental commission has frequently reiterated from the year 2005 to the present. If this objective has stood for 12 years –the standard measure of time for a student to be enrolled in K to 12 education –– why is it that my students are still coming to me without even the most basic skills in digital literacy?
Imagine sitting in a room with 360 other people. Now imagine that 95 percent of these people are women. Indeed, the room is filled with chatter, laughter, and anticipation. The room is in a downtown Waterbury hotel and occupied by pre-school and kindergarten teachers, home daycare providers, and administrators. The women, and the handful of men, have come to kick off an important movement in Waterbury: to make early childhood care more aware of and informed about the prevalence and impact of trauma. Specifically, how traumatic experiences influences the lives of the young children they work with.
Connecticut residents have grown weary of budgets that both cut services and increase taxes — understandably so. It’s time to bring the oppressive cycle of tax increases, followed by revenue shortfalls, service cuts, and yet more tax increases to an end. But it can only happen if there are structural changes to the way our state does business. Connecticut’s leaders — at both the state and local levels — must work together to prune and reshape a legal and regulatory thicket that is choking Connecticut’s growth, and putting the cost of state government on a steep upward trajectory.
The state budget is still an open book. It is not hard to see that Connecticut has serious unresolved fiscal challenges, but it is also apparent that our state has fundamental advantages and strong economic development tools at its disposal to promote job creation and infrastructure investment. One such tool is the Connecticut Green Bank.
Connecticut is known for many “firsts” and “onlys.” We can be proud of many of them. The first telephone book, the first hamburger and the only steam-powered Cider Mill in the U.S. just to name a few. But right now, we’re leading the nation in something else, and it’s not good. Worse, it’s to the detriment of our children. After a stalemate of more than 100 days, we are the only state in the nation without a budget. And for the children of Brass City Charter School in Waterbury, specifically the children we work for every day, this isn’t just unfair — it’s unacceptable.
As student debt mounts nationally, with the $1.4 trillion in U.S. student loans now surpassing credit card debt, it’s critical to ensure Connecticut parents and students have smart college financing options. A little-known mechanism — tax-exempt Qualified Student Loan Bonds — provides Connecticut families an important pathway to finance their college dreams.
But as Congressional leaders tackle tax reform this fall, that tool could be on the chopping block.
Today, my first-grade son said goodbye to his kindergarten “class Grandma.” After cuts to the program, today was her last day. This was a federal program, but as we cut kindergarten paraprofessionals in 2016, these women were our last line of defense. According to the Connecticut School Finance Project, under Gov. Dannel Malloy’s executive order, Bridgeport will receive $5.6 million less in state funds than last year. Under the Republican budget, passed by the legislature but vetoed by the governor, that number would’ve been $7 million.
This year’s complicated and difficult process to develop a state budget has inflicted disproportionate injury on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families. While the protracted negotiations continue, young graduates from our public schools have been forced to sit at home in state-imposed isolation, as there is no funding for the critical and longstanding Employment and Day Services program. As difficult as this has been, there is some reason for hope.
The world’s climate, and Connecticut’s, is heating up rapidly. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and the destructive tropical hurricanes this summer are just the start of more extreme storms we can expect from our warming of the oceans. Global warming has increased the probability and severity of extremely hot and wet weather worldwide. While the political shouting in Washington continues, there is a broad scientific consensus that these climatic changes are driven by the heating of Earth’s atmosphere from carbon dioxide released by the burning of fossil fuels. If we are going to limit extreme climate change, we need to make every effort to utilize every non-fossil energy source we have. And timing matters.
During my nearly 40-year association with higher education, I have made the same equity case about the value of community colleges. Their history is rooted in the public good. Their mission embraces the community. Their vision points to a stronger future. Their core values demand respect. They are the embodiment of the Civil Rights Movement. They are splendid institutions.
In its 92 years, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has been a steady resource throughout the Greater Hartford region despite the rise and fall of the economy. We have been through uncertain times before: the Great Depression… the oil crisis of the 70s and the recession that followed… the dot com bubble burst of 2001, and the 2008 Great Recession. While this fiscal uncertainty is not new, our response must be. It cannot be business as usual.
On Thursday, Sept. 28, the Connecticut Supreme Court heard arguments in a landmark education case, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell, (“CCJEF”). It is no hyperbole to say that CCJEF has the potential to be the Connecticut equivalent of Brown v. Board of Education. As in Brown, the CCJEF trial court found the disparities in Connecticut’s public education system to be too vast to ignore. In Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and other urban centers across the state, fewer than one in three children is on track to be college and career ready, “nearly 1 in 3 students … can’t read even at basic levels,” and many high-school graduates are “functionally illiterate.”
Yet there is no question Connecticut’s public schools can do better