Connecticut has reached an inflection point with the future success of our children relying heavily on the decisions that our state leaders will soon make about the state’s biennial budget.

On Wednesday, Gov. Dannel Malloy will announce his budget proposal, which will set the stage for legislative negotiations this session. The governor’s proposal, and the General Assembly’s actions that follow, will either move us forward toward continuing to improve public education or act as an impediment to building upon the progress we’ve made in recent years.

In this tough fiscal environment, we know difficult decisions will have to be made. Gov. Malloy and our state legislators will have to balance the value of education, infrastructure, social services and many other programs that are important to Connecticut residents. But without bold investments in education, we jeopardize not only the future success of our students, especially our most vulnerable students who are disproportionately low-income and children of color, but also the entire economic future of our state.

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If Gov. Malloy and our General Assembly do not prioritize education in the state budget, there will be very real consequences for students.

These include students being left without a high-quality school to attend because their charter school doesn’t have sufficient funding to serve them as they move up a grade level. It would mean thousands of families across the state remaining stranded on wait lists. It would mean hitting pause on critical efforts to turnaround our lowest-performing schools for the nearly 40,000 children who attend them.

It would mean backing away from essential efforts to ensure every student has great teachers and principals or stalling on efforts to implement rigorous college and career ready standards for all children.

Our state leaders must deliver on the promise of public education in their budget. Failure to do so will only ensure that we are setting far more children on a pathway to prison than college, and will burden our state with costs it cannot afford to bear.

Finalizing the state’s budget will require tough choices this legislative session and our leaders cannot lose sight of the larger picture. If we do not invest in our children now, our state will reap significant losses for years to come, including billions lost in lifetime earnings, hundreds of millions in increased healthcare costs and tens of millions flowing into our state prisons rather than our state’s economy each year.

We must invest in our children’s present to ensure their future success and the future prosperity of Connecticut. Since 2012, our state leaders have worked together and made tough choices to help improve public education. We cannot stop now.

It is imperative that Gov.  Malloy and our legislative leaders continue to make sure that all Connecticut’s students get the excellent education they need and deserve. This includes expanding access to high-quality public school options like charter and magnet schools, while simultaneously working to improve some of our lowest performing traditional schools by strengthening the Commissioner’s Network.

It also means improving how we recruit and prepare teachers, moving forward with teacher and principal evaluation and support, and continuing to implement the Common Core State Standards so that all students are college and career ready.

With the upcoming budget, Gov. Malloy and our legislative leaders will either set us on a path that will make opportunity for all children accessible now, or defer the dream of success, especially for our most vulnerable low-income students and students of color.

Families across our state are counting on Connecticut’s leaders to ensure that their children receive an excellent education that prepares them for lifelong opportunity and success. Our number one priority, both economically and morally, must be to give our students a world-class education. It is their success that serves as the foundation to building a bright future for our state.

If Connecticut is to remain a place where people want to live, work and thrive, we must make great schools possible for every child, regardless of race, wealth, or zip code. Now more than ever, we urge Gov. Malloy and members of the General Assembly to show us what bold leadership and good government is all about, by working together to move forward and accelerate our efforts to provide every child with the great education they deserve.

Jennifer Alexander, is CEO of ConnCAN.

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