Ms. Coates and her husband had enrolled their two older children in private Catholic school, but that eventually became a financial impossibility. Instead of moving out of Bridgeport, where most schools in the city were rated far lower than those in surrounding areas, she decided to tackle the situation head on. Ms. Coates showed up at a Bridgeport Board of Education meeting, where she witnessed parents at odds with each other and a system that was not working for her kids.
The unfortunate consequence of Connecticut’s policy choices is that children who are born and raised in low-income households face daunting challenges and, research shows, have trouble overcoming them. While Connecticut’s overall student performance appears strong (87% graduation rate), the achievement gap betrays the truth; upper class families boost overall numbers and urban youth are left stranded in poor educational environments.
Bridgeport ranked highest in the nation for “family flight” as middle income families flee urban areas with failing schools, according to research done by Dr. Bartley Danielson, associate professor of finance and real estate at North Carolina State University. Danielsen examined 100 metropolitan areas across the United States and compared census data for families with children aged 0-4 and 5-9. His findings showed that families whose children reach school age relocate out of areas with poor performing schools.
As the Connecticut Department of Education mulls whether to close two technical high schools to deal with an expected $1.2 billion deficit, the state recently showcased a massive renovation project at the Emmett O’Brien Technical High School at a cost of $94 million, nearly double the national cost of constructing a brand new high school.
Connecticut teachers receive the highest average pensions, while Connecticut state employees rank second according to an analysis by a New Jersey based actuary. Connecticut’s teachers averaged $50,502 in pension payments putting them in the top spot, ahead of Illinois. State employees ranked second in the nation, behind California, with average pensions of $40,438.
Connecticut has a serious problem when it comes to educating some of its most vulnerable citizens. In a state with prestigious private schools and top-ranked colleges and universities, low-income students who attend public schools perform more poorly than their counterparts around the country. The only other state where school children are worse off is Alabama. Dacia Toll, co-CEO of Achievement First Charter Schools, shared this sobering reality at the Yankee Institute for Public Policy’s Milton Friedman Legacy Day Luncheon held in Avon on August 29.