Unrealistic Expectations

Having read the stories in CT Mirror and the Courant I don’t understand how the state’s leaders could possibly have expected Connecticut to be a finalist for the Race to the Top.

When we lost out in the first round of funding last year, state officials engaged in a race to the mediocre by passing a bunch of legislation aimed specifically at getting money from the feds even as they paid lip service to actually improving education.

Now everyone seems to be racing to blame everyone else. Congressional leaders are complaining about the program itself; state legislators in the Democratic party are threatening to delay implementation of the reforms they voted through in the spring; Republican legislators are saying the Dems didn’t go far enough; the state education commissioner is “disappointed.”

The one thing that would probably gain Connecticut the money is the one thing that no one in this state will ever have the guts to do: Take all the money from all the municipalities and school districts, put it in one big pool, and divide the state into regions of equal size and give everyone the same amount. If anyone proposed this, towns like Darien and New Canaan would secede. Even under the gun of Sheff vs. O’Neill, the lawsuit over racial disparities in public education, no one dared to proffer that solution. (My newspaper colleagues and I predicted when the suit started that Milo Sheff, who was in grade school at the time, would be in a nursing home by the time the case was resolved. My prediction holds. He’s now in his thirties.)

Even after the Wall Street implosion of 2008, Connecticut is still the wealthiest state in the country. We have fabulous public schools that send students to top colleges year after year. We also have Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, etc., etc., where children struggle in physical plants that should have been torn down long ago, read from ancient textbooks, and suffer from a general lack of resources. The lack of local taxes to support education and stinginess on the part of the rest of the state sends the message: “We don’t really care whether you learn or not.” These cities graduate students who are unable to read or to do basic arithmetic. The proposals don’t get at the root of the problem, which is children who begin school without adequate nutrition, health care, or family structure that will enable them to learn. Increasing requirements for high school graduation will accomplish nothing if fewer students are able to achieve the goals.

Did our state officials really believe that slapping together a plan between January and the end of May would gain them a share of the $3.4 billion in federal money?

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2 Responses to “Unrealistic Expectations”

  1. Education Gap « Lizr128′s Blog Says:

    […] I’ve mentioned before (See “Unrealistic Expectations“) the wealthiest state in the country has been trying to overcome inequities in education for […]

  2. Education Gap Encore « Lizr128′s Blog Says:

    […] We flunked the Race to the Top. “Unrealistic Expectations.” […]

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