As a long-time school counselor and school administrator, it is now my privilege to prepare emerging school leaders at Southern Connecticut State University.
I also have the distinct honor of co-chairing, with Alicia Roy, the Task Force to Study the Comprehensive Needs of Children in the State, which the General Assembly empaneled two years ago (Public Act 21-46), and which it reauthorized last year (Public Act 22-81). Here is our most recent report to the General Assembly.
The Task Force’s report includes 30 substantive recommendations, all focused – per the General Assembly’s charge to us – on the tenets of the Whole Child framework, which makes plain that, if children are to be engaged – and to be receptive to support and challenge – at school, they must first be genuinely healthy and safe, both physically and emotionally; and, by extension, that their families must enjoy access to healthcare, food security, economic security, appropriate social supports, and affordable housing in safe neighborhoods.
The Task Force explains in our report, “Despite having among the highest per capita income and the highest per capita wealth of any state in the nation, Connecticut is also distinguished as having among the greatest gaps in both household income and household wealth – and…in health outcomes, access to healthcare, and academic achievement.”
In light of Gov. Ned Lamont’s recently proposed budget –- a budget ostensibly intended to promote equity –- I appeal to the General Assembly to go much further than the administration has done; to boldly address the root causes of the inequities that have plagued our state for decades.
I point the General Assembly specifically to several of the Task Force’s recommendations:
The first of these is that the General Assembly create (or, more accurately, continue) a Connecticut Child Tax Credit – over and above the Earned Income Tax Credit that the governor included in his proposal [Recommendation H.12. in the report.]
Next, is that the General Assembly increase families’ access to safe, affordable housing by increasing the stock of affordable housing, and by increasing housing subsidies [Recommendation Sa.1], and – in order that families with low incomes may no longer have little choice but to be concentrated in urban settings whose schools and other services are greatly overburdened by such concentrations – that the General Assembly enact zoning reform to ensure that families have access to safe, affordable housing in all communities [Recommendation Sa.2.].
Given the long-standing concentration of students with high needs in certain schools and districts, the next recommendation is that the General Assembly now fully fund the Education Cost Sharing formula passed in October 2017 [Recommendation E.1.]. The governor cites his adherence to the planned roll-out as promoting equity; I remind the General Assembly, and the governor, that justice deferred is justice denied.
Finally, I point to the Task Force‘s recommendation that the General Assembly return Connecticut’s funding for state colleges and universities to pre-recession levels in order to ensure access for young people who may not otherwise be able to pursue post-secondary study. [Recommendation C.3.].
Public higher education – including, especially, the community colleges and the four regional state universities – exists to ensure that those with limited means, and those who need to complete their degrees on a part-time basis (due to work or family obligations) are able to do so without having to take-on unsustainable debt. Today’s students – a great many of whom hail from the historically under-resourced Connecticut school districts mentioned above – are every bit as worthy of the state’s investment as were previous generations of students whose college educations were generously subsidized by the state.
Christopher Trombly is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Southern Connecticut State University.