The state of Connecticut has the worst achievement gap in the nation. Governor Dan Malloy wants to change that but is he really willing to fully commit to the concept of education reform. If the truth is to be told, the real underlying issue is Connecticut’s economic gap that is causing an education gap. It is clearly evident that socioeconomic status plays an extremely critical role in student achievement here. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that meaningful reform will also require increased funding.
Our current national and state deficits along with the sluggish economy, has created a problem with providing the needed funds to adequately improve some of our public schools that need support. For years schools and districts across Connecticut have been underfunded, the cost sharing formula is antiquated and to add insult to injury, within two years litigation may force the Governor to fully fund education. Malloy is hoping to avoid litigation or at least the full effects of it by getting ahead of the problem and introducing his education reform measures. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, the suggested reforms fall short of providing the necessary money needed to make a true difference.
For example, this coming school year educational funding and grants for the cash strapped Ansonia school district will be substantially decreased. This will leave an already fragile system with a 1.2 million dollar deficit. Kindergarten classes have been reduced to half day programs, teachers are facing layoffs and supports for struggling learners will be decimated. Ansonia is identified as a Title I school district with approximately 70 percent of its students receiving free or reduced priced lunch. It is ironic that for the past four years the district has received much-needed state support, restructured the schools, increased student achievement, implemented drastic reforms but was rewarded by a decrease in monetary support from the state. This is clearly a set-up and a recipe for disaster that will reverse the positive gains and result in being identified as a failing school district.
It is clear that the dilemma in Connecticut is between the haves and the have-nots, funded and unfunded, economically disadvantaged and the advantaged. It is a divide and a gap that can be closed by adequately and equitably providing funds for those schools, districts, towns and cities that serve families and children who are economically challenged and are chronically underserved.