Rich Deecken, a Bassick High School history teacher running for State Senate in the 22nd District against incumbent Marilyn Moore, issued the following statement regarding education policy in Connecticut:
A world class education system is an economic driver. Years ago, talent would move to where businesses were located to obtain employment. Now businesses are moving to where the talent is located and we can all agree the talent pool has opted to leave Connecticut and many businesses have followed suit.
While Connecticut is given high marks for education, we are unfortunately situated in an area of the country where neighboring states also receive high marks for education, and people are opting to move to those states. Connecticut is currently ranked 5th nationally in education for grades pre-k through 12 by US News & World Report; however, we are ranked lower than first-ranked Massachusetts and second-ranked New Jersey. It is important to note that over the last 7 years, both these states added over 200,000 new residents, while Connecticut has only added 8,000 residents.
While it’s great to be ranked in the top five, it’s better to be first. We can only start on that road to higher achievement if the educational community acknowledges that we are being outperformed than our neighbors, and that it’s time to raise our expectations. We must do better. If we don’t, we will continue to cede more residents, jobs, businesses, and opportunities to our tri-state and New England neighbors.
Education as occupational/skilled labor training:
Bassick High School, where I currently teach, has recently begun the process to adopt an Advanced Manufacturing curriculum, which will function alongside local colleges and universities to prepare students for careers by delivering focused training in specific trades. Graduates who successfully complete the program will earn, in addition to their high school diploma, a certification in their trade, which will demonstrate their skills and allow them to apply for jobs in trades otherwise only open to older applicants.
This offering should be expanded to public high schools throughout Connecticut, giving students more opportunities, as well as promoting job growth and economic redevelopment by demonstrating to businesses that our schools are producing well-trained, job-ready graduates–a perfect pool of applicants for openings offered by their companies.
Closing the achievement gap:
We must expand access to child care and early childhood education. Studies prove that such access promotes higher academic achievement and career readiness. In urban areas, the community school model has been proven to help meet the social-emotional and healthcare needs of students and families, while providing important academic and extracurricular support.
In recent years, Bassick has embraced the community school model, and while it was postponed due to administrative turnover and budget cuts, this system can work in harmony with any curriculum, and is a path worth exploring.
Equitable school funding:
Education Cost Sharing funds must be guaranteed to all school districts. School funding must never be subject to arbitrary whims of political leaders, but instead, must be distributed fairly among all districts and should not be held hostage in state budget negotiations.
The special education overcourse–the amount of budget overages the state covers–should be increased from 33%, allowing for all students with special needs to receive a quality education without unfairly penalizing the municipalities for the amount of special ed students they have.
Connecticut is amid an employment crisis that risks turning into a death spiral. Our economy’s sluggish job growth must be enhanced by targeted funding toward educational programs and infrastructure. By embedding occupational training alongside the standard high school curriculum, Connecticut’s employable pool of skilled labor can become better suited for the 21st century work environment and Bridgeport’s diverse set of specialized high schools can lead the way in showing that our state is open for business.