Did you know that Connecticut has the largest achievement gap in the country? This means that there’s a huge difference between the way our low-income and non-low-income students perform academically. In addition to the obvious moral issues this raises, the economic implications are huge. According to the former CEO of New Alliance Bank, Peyton Patterson, the achievement gap “could have a crippling financial impact on Connecticut’s economy.” Now, if you’re thinking that this gap can be explained through the stellar performance of our state’s wealthier students – think again:Our low-income students’ perform among the lowest in the nation in both 4th and 8th grade math. This means that our low-income students are performing on par with low-income students from Mississippi and Alabama.

The gap doesn’t just demonstrate high performance in wealthy communities; it shows that we’re failing our low-income students. That’s bad news for everybody. High drop-out rates and an unskilled labor force harm all of Connecticut citizens, whether in the low- or high-income brackets.

High Drop-Out Rates: The Cost

Many students who struggle in school wind up dropping out, and each class of high school dropouts costs the state $155 million more in healthcare costs. In contrast, graduates contribute over $500,000 more in net tax contributions, and earn about twice as much as dropouts. They are also far less likely to be unemployed. High school dropouts are three times as likely to be incarcerated, and Connecticut spends about $90 per day on each inmate. The simple math says it all: it makes more sense add to the vibrancy and health of the economy – than to increase the economic costs of high drop-out rates.

Unskilled Labor Force: The Cost

Of those who graduate, too many never acquire the skills that will help them get jobs. This ultimately means that our unemployment rates increase. Those that do get jobs, often still don’t get the types of jobs that can grow Connecticut’s economy. Connecticut depends on a skilled labor force, so if we can’t produce highly capable graduates, Connecticut’s employers will need to hire skilled workers from other states. The more we need to export jobs, the harder it will be to attract thriving businesses to Connecticut. That means a lower GDP. It means lower tax revenues. It means Connecticut is likely to decrease in economic competitiveness on a national level. Find out how we can close the gap, and share your own ideas!