Change is on the way to improve Connecticut’s public schools and bolster the state’s economy. The legislature this year approved a landmark education bill that calls for a wide range of reforms and arrives just in time to impact the state’s application for second-round federal Race to the Top (RTTT) education funding.

This week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that states able to demonstrate a “very strong and serious reform agenda” are likely to win the RTTT competition. He also wants to see “widespread, deep support” for education reform in the states applying for funds.

In fact, Connecticut’s reform efforts have the strong, bipartisan backing of the governor’s administration and lawmakers along with the state’s education and business communities. The legislation was hailed as a much-needed first step to improving our schools and equipping young people with the skills to compete in the 21st century economy.

Connecticut’s RTTT application is due June 1, with about $200 million in federal dollars at stake. Also, a task force commissioned by Gov. Rell to address Connecticut’s education achievement gap—currently the worst in the nation--is meeting throughout the state to figure out how to narrow it.

The Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement is a volunteer and privately funded commission composed primarily of business leaders and other professionals. The group held public hearings in Hartford and New Haven this week and will meet soon in Bridgeport, Norwich, Willimantic and Waterbury.

CBIA President and CEO John Rathgeber serves on the commission, which is charged with finding out why Connecticut has one of the largest achievement gaps between low-income students and their more affluent peers. The commission will make recommendations to the governor, lawmakers, relevant state and local institutions and the public on how to close the gap.

State policymakers, education officials and the business community are determined to help Connecticut schools achieve high levels of performance for all of the state’s young people.