Why do all this now?
- Because many very poor towns with high educational needs and high local tax rates are also at the bottom of per pupil spending;
- Because the state’s achievement gaps by town, income group, and racial and ethnic groups are demonstratively unacceptable both in terms of opportunities and outcomes;
- And, because the state-funded share of all expenditures for public schools has been roughly the same for the last 30 years. Therefore, the over-reliance on the local property tax continues with inequities not only not having been reduced, but instead having been returned to the level of the 1970s.
It is true Connecticut has made some visible progress in its quest for more equitable school funding and in closing its achievement gaps. However, no one should claim victory and rest on the policies of the past. The glass is only one-half filled. Beyond meeting its legal and legislative obligations, Connecticut must aspire to meet its moral obligation to meet the needs of every student.
The problems of implementing a lasting educational reform in Connecticut have been no different than elsewhere in that they are political, economic, social, and systematic. There is disagreement on the goals of the reform, roles by elected and appointed leaders and interest groups, the absence of continuity in leadership, the increasing concentration of poverty in Connecticut’s major cities, the ever-widening income and wealth gaps, the loss of jobs, the decline in population, and the competition for public dollars from many directions. Moreover, there is a reluctance and/or inability to accept the need to change and strengthen our educational system, our instructional delivery, our expectations, our engagement of students and family, and our use of new technologies and innovations as we prepare students to embrace and thrive in the future.
The best way forward is to: 1) exhibit the will to transform public education, and 2) implement the appropriate strategies to bring about sustained change. Each school district and institution must have an improvement plan that focuses on eliminating those systems that are not only not helping students achieve at the highest levels but are denying students the opportunity to do so. Statewide, Connecticut’s improvement plan must directly address the inequities (the unfair- ness) in the system and strive for more nearly equal educational experiences as measured by expenditures, other resources, programs and services, and student outcomes. One key measure will be the transformation of Connecticut as a state with one of the highest achievement gaps to one of the lowest.
The following set of 30 recommendations from CAPSS is responsive to that quest. It is hoped that these courses of action will stimulate thought and discussion, but most importantly will result in real change, a change that will yield dramatic shifts in Connecticut public education, resulting in a better future for all Connecticut youth, for our communities, and for our state. These 30 recommendations should be viewed collectively, as a unit, as interlocking pieces that go together as a whole.
Please see Appendix D – For a two-page overview of all 30 recommendations.