Peyton R. Patterson, Chair of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform. Former President & CEO of New Alliance Bank.

We are fortunate to live in one of the wealthiest states in the country. However, we are here today because we also live in the state with the widest achievement gap in the country. This gap has an enormous impact on our state’s low-income students, 40% of whom do not graduate from high school in four years. Studies have shown that high school dropouts have an unemployment rate that is nearly two-and-a half times the rate for high school graduates. They also earn a mere 2/3 of the income of high school graduates, and each cost the state more than $500,000 in net fiscal lifetime benefits. These results are not acceptable outcomes for the state’s students or their parents. They also do not bode well for Connecticut’s business and economic viability.

The achievement gap and its negative impact make Connecticut a less attractive state in which to do business.  A healthy, knowledge-based economy requires a vibrant and highly skilled workforce to succeed. With our decline in educational achievement, Connecticut is losing its edge. It’s simple math: By 2018, 65% of all jobs in Connecticut will require some post-secondary training beyond high school. By 2020, Connecticut is predicted to experience a 3% decline in the 25-30 year old population holding a baccalaureate degree or higher.  All of this means that, if we do not change the way we educate our students in this state, then for the first time in 50 years, Connecticut will not replace its retirees with a more educated workforce.

This is an issue that should matter to all members of Connecticut’s business community, and that business leaders are particularly qualified to help solve. We are used to setting goals, measuring results, turning around failed efforts, and duplicating successful practices.  This is why the Connecticut Council for Education Reform’s mission is to be the business and civic advocate for closing this achievement gap while raising academic outcomes for all students. My esteemed colleagues on the board of directors and I are committed to reforming education in Connecticut. To do so, we will work to ensure the implementation of the 65+ policy recommendations of the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement. Our goal is for Connecticut to become the top performing state with the smallest achievement gap; thereby providing all students with a world-class education.

Other organizations, such as the Rodel Charitable Foundation of Delaware, have demonstrated that applying business acumen to the problem of a struggling education system can produce great successes. In 2006, Delaware’s Rodel Charitable Foundation helped to develop a comprehensive plan called Vision 2015 – a plan to develop world-class schools in Delaware by that date. Based largely upon that plan, Delaware was one of the first states in the nation to be awarded Race to the Top funding.

With 135 schools “In Need of Improvement” for 5+ years and after recently failing to secure Race to the Top funds for the third time, Connecticut needs a business group on its side. No other organization in Connecticut is sponsored by the business community and is aimed at developing a comprehensive strategy for reforming Connecticut’s education system. CCER is one-of-a-kind.

That’s why I have dedicated myself to serving as CCER’s chair. I consider my work with CCER to be an investment. I am investing in Connecticut children, Connecticut’s parents, Connecticut’s economy, and Connecticut’s future.