Fiscal Challenge: State officials must find the money to upgrade education
Hartford Courant Editorial
April 17, 2013
It's almost hard to remember, because intervening events were so powerful, that a year ago the state was embroiled in a bruising battle over education. It ended in May when the General Assembly passed the sweeping school reform bill proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
The idea was to light a fire under the state's public schools and bring them back to national pre-eminence. The bill outlined steps to eliminate the state's worst-in-the-nation achievement gap between rich and poor students, created more accountability and gave parents more school options.
In supporting the bill, The Courant said Mr. Malloy's challenge would be to maintain the momentum. With the economy stuck in low gear, that is still the challenge. But it must be met.
The reform package includes intervention in the state's lowest-performing districts, a comprehensive system of teacher and principal evaluation, enhanced early childhood education and a host of other programs, all promising.
But will the money be there?
In December, when officials had to mitigate a projected deficit, most of the main education reform proposals took a significant haircut. The Commissioner's Network, the program to turn around 25 of the state's lowest-performing schools, was cut back, as was the performance evaluation program.
Mr. Malloy has proposed $148 million over the next two years to implement the new reforms, including $73.7 million next year. With the state facing a $1 billion-plus deficit next year, new money will be hard to come by.
However, the Malloy administration went through the so-called categorical grants, grants for special activities or programs, and identified about $34 million in programs that can be eliminated, folded into other programs or covered by other sources of funding.
Officials should rake that ground again and assemble the necessary funds.
Way too many students from low-income families either drop out or graduate without the skills for college or a career. That is tragic. Businesses will go where the skilled workers are. If we want that place to be Connecticut, keep the school reforms moving.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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