Upon discovering that three Biblical excerpts were included in my university’s required “Literature Humanities” seminar, I was shocked. After dropping out of my Confraternity of Christian Doctrine education at a young age, my exposure to the Bible had been nonexistent. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is the liberal social norm that dominates in Connecticut when it comes to religious beliefs. Consistent with that norm, my public high school education avoided Biblical references. Whenever students mentioned the Bible, my teachers uncomfortably shuffled their feet, awkwardly looked to the side, and quickly changed the subject. Consequently, participating in classroom Bible analysis was an enlightening culture shock.
Last week we learned that state funds for critical programs that serve high-risk youth and families was “swept” as “an inadvertent casualty” of the transfer of juvenile justice services and its funds from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to the Court Support Services Division (CSSD), a branch of the Department of Justice. The transfer resulted in a $7 million shortfall for DCF-funded behavioral health services. Letters have been sent to providers informing them funding for these programs will be eliminated as of June 30, 2018. And the high-risk children are those with substance use, mental health, and behavioral problems severe enough to land them in juvenile court and in jeopardy of out-of-home placement. One hundred kids and their families, in one Waterbury program alone, are to be terminated from services.
Nationwide we are celebrating National Charter Schools Week, and noting how far the charter movement has come since the passage of the first charter law in 1991. But locally we are on the cusp of celebrating something equally as important, with the potential to change lives right here in our proverbial backyard. For the first time in four years, two new, high-quality charter options are being proposed to serve kids in our state: Danbury Prospect Charter School and Norwalk Charter School for Excellence. These would be the first new charter schools to open in Connecticut since 2014.
Now that NEASC has confirmed what most of us already knew —that the Board of Regents’ Students First proposal to consolidate the state’s community colleges was a very bad idea —we are now left with the challenge of what to do next. NEASC clearly did the right thing —saving the state of Connecticut from a deeply flawed plan that was not good for the state, not good for students, and not good for community colleges. Characterizing the plan as not “realistic,” as NEASC did, is putting it kindly. There were many things that were deeply troubling about this proposal and the way it was developed and promoted. Two stand out as particularly egregious.
ByCathryn Addy, Jonathan Daube, Booker DeVaughn and Robert Miller |
As the legislative session draws to a close, the budget debate continues but in a much different environment than last year. Hopeful predictions for the future are changing the discussion from “slash and burn” to restoration and rebuilding. As you search for common ground in a budget that will demonstrate government’s responsibility to ensure the quality and availability of public services, we urge you to invest in public higher education by preventing the threatened closure of community colleges.
On Monday, April 30, the Central Connecticut State University Senate voted by an overwhelming majority (38-1) through a secret ballot to call for President Mark Ojakian’s resignation, a halt to implementation of all parts of the “Students First” consolidation plan not already rejected by NEASC (the regional accrediting agency), the abolition of the current Board of Regents and its replacement by a body or bodies which will help rather than hinder the colleges and universities, and full funding for pubic higher education in our state.
Wasting time and money, Mark Ojakian has churned the higher education community up-side down with his so-called “Students First” plan that the accrediting agency described in the press as “too half-baked to approve.” What a disgrace for Connecticut. Ojakian responded with a threat to close community colleges.
A few months ago, the Connecticut Mirror afforded me the opportunity to be one of the first critics to “come out” on the misguided initiative called “Students First” led by Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, and his benevolent Board of Regents. May the good Lord afford them some compassion for the wasted time we all had to invest on this. It has drained many of us. I could have retrieved many more Puerto Rican students displaced from Hurricane Maria if I was not so distracted by this bad mix of ideas and pure scorn towards the system I have been part of for the last 28 years.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and comes at a time when our country is experiencing a reckoning with sexual violence. Many people are sharing their experiences with sexual harassment and assault, more institutions are holding perpetrators accountable, and space is being created for authentic conversations about consent.
What really makes a difference? At the High Road School of Hartford, we would say teamwork. We saw the power of collaboration in action recently when a new, innovative mobile dental program was piloted at our high school. The program addresses a critical need in the local area by serving underprivileged students who might not otherwise have access to such care. For some, it was the first time they received basic dental exams and cleanings.
The tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has forced a national reckoning. The images of that fateful day continue to haunt me, and sweeping regulations on gun purchases and use are long overdue. But the shooting and its aftermath are about something more than guns. The past few weeks have reinforced one of my deepest beliefs, which inspired me to commit my life to public service in the first place: young people are the vanguard of progress.
I hope that state legislators will see that public charter school leaders want only to be a part of the solution for communities that we care deeply about. We have proven through our results that we are able to help students overcome the bigotry of low expectations. But in order for our schools to truly thrive, we need our leaders fund our students fairly, and allow more success stories like ours to lift up Connecticut’s children.