20 Years and Counting: The Wait for Education Reform

Issues & Policies

Nearly 20 years ago, CBIA aired a statewide TV ad about the need for education reform in Connecticut. Today the same spot could run unchanged.

Picturing a number of young children, the ad asked, “By the time these kids finish high school in Connecticut, will they be ready to compete in the 21st century economy?”

Decades later the obvious answer is that too many of our young people don’t have the skills they need to succeed.

While other states acted, Connecticut ignored education reform. While other states showed foresight and courage, Connecticut took little action.

The result? Soaring dropout rates. Dwindling graduation rates. The nation's worst achievement gap. And too many of our children denied the chance for a great education.

Governor Dannel Malloy's reform proposals promised much: rescuing at-risk students, fixing broken schools, supporting teachers and administrators, offering parents more choices, and demanding transparency and accountability.

But the reforms didn't survive the legislature's Education Committee, where lawmakers stripped the bill of its key elements and passed a pale imitation.

Restore reforms

This week, a coalition of CBIA and five other statewide business and education groups appealed to state lawmakers to restore key tenets of Governor Malloy’s reforms. In a joint statement, the group outlined specific ways to improve the bill to make sure it restores the effectiveness of the original proposal and leads “to the fundamental reforms Connecticut’s students need.”

At the same time, the State Board of Education unanimously voted to approve a resolution calling for the legislature to restore the original version of the education reform bill, “so that our state can achieve the level of educational excellence that was once a source of great pride.”


Editorial writers around the state criticized the Education Committee. The New Haven Register said that without the original reforms, “Connecticut will continue to fall behind other states’ reforms to raise student achievement.”

From the Norwich Bulletin: 

The revised education bill essentially accomplishes the following:

It guarantees that for the next two years, at least, 70 percent of all high school graduates in Connecticut going on to state universities or community colleges will need remedial classes in English and math because they will be ill-prepared to tackle college course work.

It guarantees that for the next two years, at least, one out of every five high school freshmen will not graduate on time — if at all.

It guarantees that for the next two years, at least, the highest-in-the-nation achievement gap between poor and minority students and students from higher-income families will get wider.

It guarantees that the small percentage of teachers who fail our children in the classroom have job security for life.

And said the Hartford Courant: “There's much that's good about public education in Connecticut. But there's enough that's bad to worry whether our schools can turn out sufficient numbers of well-trained, well-educated graduates to join tomorrow's workforce and keep the state competitive — let alone prepare good citizens to live in and contribute to a participatory democracy. Connecticut's quality of life is at stake.”

Connecticut voters support education reform. So do parent groups, school administrators, and community and business leaders.

As the coalition said this week, bipartisan leadership and collaboration with Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Pryor can “restore the tenets of bold reform to SB24 … and do what it takes to enact [them] this year.”


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