The clock is ticking on sensible state budget reform

I read with great interest Keith Phaneuf’s recent series on Connecticut’s serious budget challenges. He is clearly the best journalist on this subject in our state. Last month I watched Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget speech from the floor of the State House. The governor’s budget has already resulted in significant discussion and debate. Three of his key and controversial proposals deserve comment. Connecticut has waited far too long to address them. It’s not a matter of if related changes will be made, it’s really a matter of when, how and by whom. The clock is ticking and time is not working in our favor.

A rallying cry for equitable education funding in Connecticut

E4E-Connecticut’s teacher members — who collectively decided to take on the issue of funding reform — are urging state leaders to give serious consideration to the fair and equitable appropriation to our neediest districts while supporting our wealthier districts through this transition, and place our state on the path to repairing this funding system that leaves too many low-income and disadvantaged communities behind.

At a time of budget crisis, funding for child care must be a priority

On February 21, parents and advocates gathered at the capitol to testify to the legislature on the importance of Care4Kids, Connecticut’s child care subsidy program, which provides critical assistance to help low-income working parents pay for child care. Since August, new parents can no longer qualify for support, unless they receive TANF dollars; under Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget, Care4Kids would remain closed for the next two years, cutting off access to child care for thousands of Connecticut families. This would damage our state’s economy and cost far more than it would save.

Community college agenda: The endgame is a fair chance society

The American Association of Community College’s “Community College Agenda for the Trump Administration” is a blueprint for implementation of critical national higher education policy priorities, touching on needs regarding financial support, infrastructure investment and regulatory issues from a national policy perspective. In the recently released document, the AACC presents a vision of “how the federal government can help community colleges fulfill their mission of building a stronger America.” This vision resonates within Connecticut as well. I’d like to personalize that perspective to help underscore how investment in Connecticut’s community colleges helps secure the future of our state.

The state should fund public schools and public charter schools equitably

As a former Hartford public school student, as a father, and as a school leader, I have seen up close the potential of all Hartford kids. We recognize that potential in telling them that if they work hard, they can achieve on par with students from anywhere in our state, country and world. Funding our students equally is a necessary step as we push for the equity our kids deserve.

High times? A new low for Connecticut

…Legalizing marijuana for “recreation” is a draconian shift in public policy and a shock to our social mores and societal health. Legalized marijuana will indelibly change Connecticut; the state will become a different place, coarser and with a more ambiguous future. Many people who would otherwise avoid this drug will use it. And why not? It will be marketed as exciting and essentially harmless. Even though legalization would be intended for adults, barriers would be porous and easily breached. And the message that legalization sends, both insidious and hypocritical, would not be lost on the young. They will get it, consume it and use will spike. And then …

Legislators, move the parental rights bills

On behalf of myself and hundreds of other parents in Connecticut, we are wondering what caused the languishing of nearly 15 parental rights related bills? I am not aware of public hearings related to any of our bills, yet many other child welfare related bills were afforded a hearing, such as An Act Concerning the Use of Recycled Tire Rubber at Municipal and Public School Playgrounds. If this Act made it to a public hearing, what about bills concerning fundamental parental rights? Why did they die in committee? Will any of them make it to a public hearing? We are very concerned.

Why we can’t wait — Race and the Care 4 Kids Program

According to the United Way of Connecticut, the agency that administers the Care 4 Kids (C4K) program, 4,424 fewer children were being served in December 2016 than in August 2016 when the program closed to most new applicants. Families from cities like Bridgeport, Hartford, Waterbury and New Haven were hardest hit, with a combined 1,429 fewer children being served. These cities represent one third of the total subsidies lost between August and December. … I urge our elected officials to reopen the C4K program now and provide the required funding needed today and into the future to ensure that CT’s most vulnerable children begin on the right path from the very beginning. It is time to put our money where our mouth is.

Cutting Help Me Grow program will inflict collateral damage

In his proposed budget, Gov. Dannel Malloy has targeted Help Me Grow, a program of Connecticut’s Office of Early Childhood, for elimination. The mandated reconciliation of the state budget deficit creates, by necessity, a painful dilemma akin to Hobson’s choice. However, certain decisions provoke unintended collateral damage. Such is the case with Help Me Grow.

Malloy’s school funding plan does not go far enough

For more than two centuries, Connecticut has been colloquially known as “The Land of Steady Habits.” But our state’s tradition of arbitrarily, illogically, and inequitably funding its public schools is a bad habit Connecticut desperately needs to break. Unfortunately, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s recent budget proposal does not go far enough to address the fundamental flaws of Connecticut’s school finance system. Instead, the proposal continues the decades-old bad habit of funding education through a maze of unconnected, arbitrary formulas and does not ensure that all of Connecticut’s schools and districts have the resources they need to ensure equitable access to educational opportunities for all of our state’s more than 500,000 students. Malloy’s proposal rightfully ends the funding of local public school districts via block grants based on little more than historical precedent and the political power of legislators by proposing the state use a formula to distribute the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant to towns.

Reducing illiteracy will help close Connecticut’s achievement gap

One in four children in our country grows up functionally illiterate, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Did you know we spend $2 billion nationally every year on students repeating a grade because they face challenges reading? The state of Connecticut currently sees the second largest wealth inequality in the United States. While the state ranks as the fourth richest in the United States, children are still in need. On Feb. 25, Pi Beta Phi will donate 20,000 brand new books to Hartford groups serving low-income families at a book distribution through Pi Beta Phi’s partnership with First Book®.

Charter schools pose financial risk to municipalities

In December of last year, the Connecticut Department of Education issued a request for proposals for new charter schools – the first time in nearly three years. As the state grapples with a budget disaster and Gov. Dannel Malloy continues to propose changes that would dramatically change the way Connecticut pays for education, the state should refrain from opening any new charter schools and freeze the funding of existing ones.