For the 18th time in 2018 a school shooting has rocked a community. For the 18th time this year, the 273rd time since Sandy Hook on Dec. 14, 2012, and Columbine on April 20, 1999, a community is in mourning over killings that seem senseless. Over 150,000 students in 170 schools (according to the Washington Post) have been exposed to these shootings. And yet the signs were there, if we listen.
America has become an angry society. Family destruction and income inequality have left many young males in the dust. Judicial rulings have made it impossible to institutionalize the mentally ill. Thus, we have disturbed angry young men who view their lives as empty wishing to make a statement. And they do so by gaining access to powerful guns and killing innocent victims. The latest massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida by a lone gunman, Nikolas Cruz, has pushed the country over the edge. This must stop. But how?
As Connecticut struggles to embrace policies and programs that promote innovation and entrepreneurial exploration, neighboring states appear far more focused on long-term strategies for establishing a viable pipeline of workers able to meet marketplace demands. Connecticut should take note: Our state is failing its residents by not adequately focusing on early education needs, by not ensuring a well-lighted path to higher-education opportunities and by not doing everything in its power to make sure a college education is accessible and affordable.
It is not a surprise to see most college students outraged when a professor at Southern Connecticut State University was placed on leave after using the N-word. While I understand these students are upset and their emotions are high, it is more upsetting to me how they are addressing issues like these.
The young man is alone. He has no friends. He has been expelled from school. He has no relation with his family: they are dead or at least dead to him. He has been told all his life that he is a bad person. He now believes it. He hates himself. And, because he hates himself, he hates everything around him. The world is a giant conspiracy aimed at keeping him down, preventing him from being who he is. Most of all he feels powerless. Nothing he does has any effect on his hated environment.
The “Students First” plan proposed by the CSCU Board of Regents, intended to save $28 million by consolidating the state’s 12 community colleges, has engendered frustration among system faculty due to the lack of visible research or analysis proving that the plan will realize the projected savings. Faculty, therefore, were taken by surprise when a recent CT Mirror article reported that the accrediting agency, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, had given feedback on a draft plan for the Students First initiative submitted to it by the Board of Regents.
As a Hartford teacher of 28 years, I’ve seen how inequitable state funding deprives our students of true educational opportunity. Shrinking budgets year after year mean students have few, if any, advanced courses to choose from, and elective courses like art and music, designed to catalyze students’ creativity and ingenuity, are often entirely eliminated.
Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget gives a tax break to the rich.
Here’s what it is:
He advocates extending the 529 college savings plans, called CHET (Connecticut Higher Education Trust), to savings plans that can be used for K-12 education as well as college. As reported in the well-researched and comprehensive article in The CT Mirror by Jacqueline Rabe Thomas on Jan. 16, the state currently allows parents to avoid paying state income taxes each year on up to $10,000 that they put into a college savings account. In addition, they don’t have to pay taxes on the earned income when the money is withdrawn to pay for college.
The provision of an adequate education for all young people living in Connecticut is a requirement, and access to quality education should not be dependent on a child’s family income or zip code. As reported by Jacqueline Rabe Thomas in her June 2, 2017, piece for the CT Mirror, in the 20 years since the landmark Sheff vs. O’Neill case ordering an end to the racial isolation of Hartford’s public school students, the state has enlisted 42 themed regional magnet schools in an attempt to integrate white suburban youth into minority Hartford student classrooms.
A “minimally adequate system of free public schools” is the new court standard for State education funding. Town and School leaders are stunned by the recent CCJEF v. Rell ruling. Unless reconsidered, the responsibility of moving our state education system forward rests with state elected leadership. We hope they accept this challenge and adopt a higher standard. Our state’s future depends on making this the top priority and working together to provide more than a minimally adequate education system.
If anything, the recent Supreme Court decision clears the deck of subjective educational arguments and leaves only the issue of local taxation as a questionable aspect of Education Cost Sharing. It places full onus on the legislature to arrive at an ECS distribution system IMMEDIATELY that treats all Connecticut towns and taxpayers equitably. It cannot wait ten years and be dependent on $400 million of unlikely new revenue as does the current legislative plan.
The superintendent of Hartford has proposed to close two schools and consolidate others mostly in the poorest and most segregated areas of the city in order to cut cost and avoid costly building renovations. The vote will take place in the next Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16. As professors who worked in the past several years in partnership with Simpson-Waverly Pre-K-8 school, we would like to suggest that such closure will do more harm than good and will be much more costly in the long run for the city of Hartford.