Over two long days this week, the legislature’s Education Committee heard hours of testimony on a single bill (SB 24) with a huge goal--reforming public education in Connecticut.

Testifying were hundreds of stakeholders, starting off with Governor Dannel Malloy, the bill’s sponsor, and including students, teachers, reform advocates, and numerous other state officials.

A groundbreaking reform package, the bill is receiving broad support among Republican lawmakers who, despite concerns over state spending, are generally in favor of the substantive aspects of the legislation. 

The lengthy bill, also supported by CBIA, proposes a series of reforms that work together to form a framework for the type of education turnarounds Massachusetts and New York have achieved. These competitor states have had similar reforms in place for a number of years.

Can’t fall farther back

If Connecticut continues to fall behind the rest of the country and the world, locations that have committed to reforms like those in SB 24 will actually benefit from our inaction.

Companies outside Connecticut are becoming more innovative as a result of access to highly-educated graduates. We’re losing what was once one of Connecticut’s strengths: a highly skilled workforce.

The problem doesn’t end with the faltering scores of our overall student achievement but is starkly seen in the fact that our low-income students are performing on an equal level with their peers in rural Mississippi and Alabama.

Every Connecticut student deserves a chance to succeed. Access to a high-quality education should not depend on a student’s ZIP code, ethnicity, or fiscal situation. Public education should provide the means to personal betterment instead of serving to maintain the status quo.

Our system of public education puts Connecticut at a workforce disadvantage within the United States and abroad and it fails to provide equal access to quality services for all state residents. SB 24 needs to be passed substantially intact to have the positive effect we’re witnessing in surrounding states and around the country.