Why is Christopher Columbus, a man born in 1491, whose life is memorialized throughout the country, a focus of collective discontent? Why are politicians, political activists and academia in New London and other progressive cities across the United States blaming him for the actions of people who lived years after his death? Why is Columbus accused of spreading diseases, committing genocide and inventing slavery?
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.
At this time of fiscal hardship in the state, districts are looking for ways to save money, such as by closing schools, sharing services and, sometimes, consolidating districts. As they are looking for more efficiency with at least continued effectiveness in carrying out their mission, they should keep an eye on their district’s enrollment projections.
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.
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
The Republican budget passed by the legislature had some terrible things in it: the elimination of the Citizens Election Program and the absorption of commissions that speak for the less fortunate into larger departments. One of the worst parts of the budget is the micromanaging of the University of Connecticut.
The Republican budget plan vetoed by Gov. Dannel Malloy nevertheless stirred up a hornet’s nest at the state’s flagship university. The usual suspects at the University of Connecticut rose up in arms at the proposed cuts.
In times of need every university turns to its alumni for help and support. But what is a university like the University of Connecticut to do when among its alumni are state senators and representatives who would vote for a budget that cuts over $300 million from their own Alma Mater, a cut that, quite simply, amounts to the dismantling of a major public university?
As our students return to school, they know they’re beginning a year of new challenges, new ideas, and new people. Behind the scenes, however, things look a little different. Because state legislators still haven’t fixed Connecticut’s broken public school funding system, the staff at Park City Prep is going into the new school year prepared to scrape by with insufficient resources.
There is a serious public health issue that is harming many high school students across our state. It may be causing them to be ill, have higher rates of depression and substance abuse, obesity, car accidents and sports injuries. It is reducing their academic performance in the classroom and on standardized tests. What is causing this crisis? Schools that start too early in the morning.