Op-Ed by Roxanne Coady

Published by The New Haven Register, April 18, 2012

There has been much debate about the pros and cons of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s legislation that provides the framework for reforming our education system. The bill that emerged from the legislature’s Education Committee removed many of the concrete steps proven to have changed outcomes in other states.

The reasoning given is that before such dramatic action could take place, studies need to be done — analysis “needs doing.”

What needs doing is addressing the needs of our children. We owe our children an educational system and structure that provides the means for everyone in the system to excel, to be empowered, to learn.

Connecticut has the largest achievement gap in the country. On average, our poor children are three grades behind their peers who are not impoverished.

Connecticut spending per student is in the top 10 percent in the country.

One hundred thousand Connecticut students attend schools that have been in need of improvement for five years or more.

One in five Connecticut students drops out of high school every year.

Each high school dropout costs Connecticut $518,000 over the student’s lifetime from loss of income and tax revenue, as well as increased costs for unemployment benefits, incarceration, subsidies for food, health and housing.

Each class of dropouts costs $155 million more in lifetime health care expenditures.

Interestingly enough, the debate about reform has focused on whether teachers or parents or society are more responsible for these outcomes.

What a wasteful diversion! No one is in disagreement about where we are.

No one is in disagreement that our children are suffering the consequences. No one believes the status quo is acceptable.

Who is responsible is not the issue. We can agree that everyone involved in educating our children — members of school boards, superintendents, principals, teachers and parents — want our children to succeed.

The education reform legislation backed by the governor starts the process of putting in place the components that will help each constituency have the training and support to help them make that happen.

Other states began addressing these problems years ago. They have instituted reforms with proven results — other states with the same economic and societal problems as Connecticut.

The reforms of the original legislation are what we need. These comprehensive reforms have narrowed the achievement gap in other states; have contributed to teachers feeling empowered and, most significantly, have given children the environment in which to excel. These elements of reform work.

I am the child of immigrant parents who believed that education was the single most important gateway to independence and productivity. Raising children out of poverty is critical to our economic future and higher levels of high quality education is one of the most effective ways to raise children out of poverty.

With fully one third of the children in Connecticut living in poverty, taking action now is essential.

We must provide a quality education to our children and we must provide it now.

We cannot allow one more day without giving them all the tools they need to be successful in school and in life.

I urge you to call your legislator and ask him or her to restore the original language in the governor’s legislation, Senate Bill 24. Our state’s future depends on it.

The issues have been studied — remedies are known — results can happen. We must act now, to do otherwise would be tragic.

Link to the article here.