Teachers wear many hats. Instructor. Mentor. Advocate. Mystery shopper typically isn’t one of them. But for this teacher and Stratford City Councilwoman, my past life as a mystery shopper has been instructive and complementary endeavor. It taught me a lot about what I believe in today and reinforced vital lessons, like the value of hard work and persistence, and the importance of strong writing and critical thinking skills.
Connecticut is not getting the message sent by General Electric, Aetna and other corporations who have either left the state for greener pastures or are contemplating a move. GE pulled up stakes and relocated its corporate facilities from Fairfield to Boston, where it felt there was a far more robust “innovation pipeline,” a greater talent pool and stronger incubation opportunities. Aetna is also moving its corporate office, a bastion in Hartford for more than a century, to seek better opportunities in Manhattan.
In light of these losses, you would think we would be doing everything in our power to convince companies that Connecticut has the talent to support the needs of its employers by prioritizing funding for higher education and financial aid.
An English teacher friend of mine was a finalist for Connecticut Teacher of the Year in the mid 90’s. As one of the culminating steps in the selection process, the four finalists were instructed to research a little-known subject and present their findings to an audience. The topic was charter schools. There were no charter schools in Connecticut at the time. My friend concluded that the worth of charter schools would depend on the answers to two questions: 1) Will the innovations created at charter schools inform and improve the public schools that the vast majority of children and adolescents in the U.S. attend? 2) Will charter schools be held accountable to address student needs as traditional public schools are required to do?
I am not forgetting about or unsympathetic to the state’s demanding financial situation and the complex challenges of addressing the projected shortfalls in the next biennial budget. At Naugatuck Valley Community College (NVCC), we know about increasing pressures to meet the needs of our constituencies while available funds keep decreasing. I say proudly that NVCC has remained in the black during each of the past nine years.
It’s 3 p.m., do you know where your children are? We often refer to youth as our future, yet when budget cuts roll around, the money used to invest in students gets put on the chopping block. Even with a state line item for after- school programming, 44 percent of students in Connecticut who are not enrolled in a program would be likely to participate if one was available.
As a public health advocate, I work each day to educate families and health care providers about the importance and availability of vaccines. As a parent, my top priority is the health and safety of my children. So, it was surprising to me when I recently encountered a potential issue in getting my son immunized against a deadly, yet vaccine-preventable disease — Meningitis B.
On July 19, the unelected, governor-appointed Connecticut State Board of Education approved 504 additional seats in state charter schools for next year, with 154 of those seats going to Capital Preparatory Harbor School in Bridgeport. Go figure: Connecticut is in a budget crisis with every expense being monitored, yet new charter school seats, which cost the state $11,000 each, are being initiated. The cost will be more than $5.5 million.
Attending a college is something most of us dream about as teenagers. We look forward to becoming doctors, police officers, artists, nurses, etc. When the time comes to enroll in a college, the last thing on our minds is the price and how much it’ll all cost in the end. All we are excited for is this new journey and becoming young adults.
When I first started college in the fall of 2012 at Central Connecticut State University, financial aid covered my yearly tuition in its entirety. Today, however, five years later, I maxed out of the money I can borrow from financial aid, and now all my stress comes from figuring out how to pay for college.
Have you ever played Jenga, the game where you try to preserve a structure built out of wooden blocks while at the same time you remove pieces one at a time?
If so, you know that there is a limit to how many building blocks you can remove before the whole tower comes tumbling down. Jenga offers an analogy for today’s ongoing efforts to remove pieces from the state budget without crippling state government or the people it serves. The big difference is that the state budget is no game, and what topples are not wooden blocks, but people’s lives.
It is troubling that several of the budget proposals floating around the State Capitol call for the merger of the Office of Early Childhood into the State Department of Education. It was just three years ago that we finally brought together services touching families with young children from five different agencies into one stand-alone Office of Early Childhood, under the direction of a commissioner.
I woke up recently to the headline that the governor of Nevada had signed into law the Nevada Promise Scholarship which would provide tuition-free community college to eligible students. Thus Nevada joins Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee in providing increased access to higher education for low income students through a robust community college system. Connecticut has taken the opposite route. Instead of looking at ways to increase access, the solution that is being proposed is dismantling the community college system by centralizing and creating a hierarchy with one president overseeing 12 colleges.