The bill [to rescue the Medicare Savings Program] before the General Assembly on Monday is a far cry from fiscal responsibility. Despite a growing deficit, and a projected deficit for fiscal year 2019, based on the plan expected to be put before the legislature, the General Assembly appears content to avoid making tough decisions about how to deal with the $224 million deficit gorilla in the Capitol and instead has decided to just keep feeding it.
Dozens of bilingual teaching positions go unfilled every year in Connecticut, and the number of bilingual adults choosing the teaching profession has decreased dramatically despite the rise in the number of students who are English Learners. Therefore, even if our new Connecticut outlook is shifting towards embracing globalization and multilingualism, bilingual education will not exist until we understand why we have a bilingual teacher shortage.
ConnCAN was pleased to see The Mirror’s recent in-depth comparison of education outcomes between Connecticut and Massachusetts. As Jacqueline Rabe Thomas’ series pointed out, Massachusetts and Connecticut share more than just state boundaries. Our states are similar in many ways, including that our public schools serve similar students with similar learning needs. But our neighbors are doing a better job of educating all students, especially those in poverty and students of color. Massachusetts students also outperformed all other states in math and reading for grades four and eight on the Nation’s Report Card (NAEP).
Massachusetts, like Connecticut, has long boasted top-performing public schools (“Massachusetts Is Like Connecticut, But Does a Better Job Educating the Poor,” Dec. 11, 2017). Students in both states scored at or near the top on national tests before the start of high-stakes testing. But then, as now, there have been huge differences in academic outcomes linked to race, income, language and disability. These gaps mirror the two states’ large (and growing) gaps in wealth and opportunity, as well as glaring inequities in school funding between rich and poor districts. … Rather than follow Massachusetts’ lead and impose more tests, Connecticut should implement an assessment system using projects and portfolios that promote and measure deeper, broader learning.
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas’s three-part series about spending, education reform and student achievement in Massachusetts and Connecticut provides an outstanding review of the progress of education in both states over the past 25 years. I see the series from the perspective of having been Associate Commissioner for Finance and Accountability in Massachusetts from 1993 to 1998, Superintendent of the Fall River (MA) Public Schools from 2005 to 2009, and Superintendent of the New London Public Schools in Connecticut from 2009 to 2014.
The Board of Regents for Higher Education meets today to consider a consolidation of state community colleges. Since April, the deeply flawed proposal by state colleges and universities system president Mark Ojakian has been moving at warp speed, often under the radar. The board must slow it down. If not, the legislature must step in; should it too default, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the accrediting entity, must withhold its approval.
Public school funding has shrunk over the past decade. School discipline rates reached historic highs. Large achievement gaps persist. And the overall performance of our nation’s students falls well below our international peers. These bleak numbers beg the question: Don’t students have a constitutional right to something better? Many Americans assume that federal law protects the right to education. Why wouldn’t it? All 50 state constitutions provide for education. The same is true in 170 other countries. Yet, the word “education” does not appear in the United States Constitution, and federal courts have rejected the idea that education is important enough that it should be protected anyway.
In 2011, a Board of Regents for Public Higher Education (BOR) was created to supposedly save money through centralization of functions and to assure smooth student transition from community colleges to universities. But students were deceived about the transfer process as smooth transfers can be achieved without this centralized boondoggle. Since 2011, after five presidents, all there is to show is nearly quarter billion taxpayer dollars wasted on a bloated central bureaucracy with 150 employees at an annual cost of $35 million, and several failed proposals to merge the community colleges and the state universities with reassuring names such as Transform 2020, Go Back to Get Ahead, and the current plan, Students First.
The state’s Board of Regents Dec. 14 will vote on a restructuring recommendation by Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark Ojakian to fold the state’s 12 community colleges into one. The recommendation, which has been opposed by the Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges and other organizations, purports to save some $28 million by eliminating duplication of services within the system … while, as a BOR slogan says, putting “Students First.” In reality, the plan places finances first and students as also-rans. For this reason, we at the 4Cs encourage BOR members to reject the recommended proposal.
It appears the state legislature has preserved the largest single source of state support to municipalities, Education Cost Sharing Grants. There are, however, some devilish details that should be noted. First, because of cuts and authorized holdbacks, all but 30 Alliance towns begin 2018 with 12.95 percent less than 2017.
Between shrinking revenues from taxes, the continued growth of fixed costs (including long-term pension and debt obligations), and declining bond ratings, Connecticut faces a multitude of fiscal challenges that could pose problems to the state’s financial and economic health for decades if not addressed. However, to properly address these challenges we must first understand them and know what problems our state must solve. This starts with understanding the data. …[This is] what led us to develop, and officially launch this week, a new, interactive website (www.ctstatefinance.org) devoted to providing an in-depth, yet easy-to-understand, look into many of the fiscal challenges that Connecticut faces.
November is Adoption Awareness Month. But when millions of children around the world are waiting, longing for a family to hold them and love them and care for them, why only one month? Let me tell you about just one child who is waiting.