Why Business Cares About Education Reform

04.16.2012
Workforce

Why are business organizations like CBIA investing so much time, energy, and resources supporting meaningful education reform in Connecticut?
“We need to do better,” John Rathgeber, CBIA’s president and CEO, said when he testified before the Education Committee in February. “Every student in Connecticut deserves a chance to reach their potential.
“With the largest achievement gap in the United States and with our overall performance slipping relative to states like Texas and the Dakotas, it is time to act.”
Building public awareness
CBIA launched a two-week television and radio public awareness campaign today, featuring two separate spots that outline the urgent need for comprehensive reforms.
The first spot, “Put Children FIrst,” notes that parent groups, school administrators, and business and community leaders all support the meaningful education reforms outlined in Governor Dannel Malloy’s original legislative package.
Many of the key elements of that proposal were removed when the Education Committee addressed Senate Bill 24 in March.
The second spot, “It Cannot Be an Excuse,” points out the dramatic differences in academic performances between low income students in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Massachusetts, like a number of other states, adopted many of the ideas included in the Governor’s proposal years ago–ideas like intervening quickly to turn around failing schools and attracting and keeping great teachers and administrators.
Nonetheless, it is Connecticut’s worst-in-the-country achievement gap that really highlights the state’s public education crisis.
For instance, low income fourth and eighth graders in this state perform up to three grade levels worse than peers elsewhere. Our graduation rate is in steep decline, with more than 8,000 kids dropping out of high school each year.
The cost of failure
The Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a non-profit organization representing business and civic voices in the reform debate, says the impact on those students is profound: higher unemployment rates, incomes far below those who do graduate, and three times more likely to end up in prison.
“There is an obvious moral imperative to change the trajectory of these students’ lives and improve these statistics by providing students with the skills and knowledge to graduate from high-school college- or career-ready,” reads an article posted on the organization’s website today.
“Moreover, the achievement gap in Connecticut makes this a less attractive state for business. Each high school dropout costs the state more than $500,000 over his or her lifetime in net fiscal contributions.
“Meanwhile, Connecticut’s business, industry, and economy, increasingly depends upon a skilled and educated workforce. However, for the first time in fifty years, we are not on track to replace our current workforce with a more skilled labor force.
“There is an obvious business and economic imperative to provide students with the skills and knowledge to graduate from high-school college- or career- ready and prepared to contribute to Connecticut’s workforce.”

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