What Education Reform Means for Our Schools

August 30, 2012

It is hard to believe that summer is finally winding down. After a few months of warm weather and family vacations, it is time to start preparing our children for a new school year. Thanks to this month’s tax free week, we could save on purchasing some new clothes and school supplies. It really is an excellent way for the state to provide much needed tax relief to hard working families. In addition, the state legislature made some important changes last session that will benefit our schools this year.

Why is reform so important? Education is an essential public service. Every child is entitled to a good education to prepare them for the future. Indeed, our children are the future. As such, we must make sure that they have every opportunity to succeed and live meaningful lives. As legislators, our role is to improve our schools and make sure that they have the resources they need.

From an economic standpoint, education is equally important. In fact, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association supported education reforms because a skilled workforce means more jobs, more economic development and the possibility of attracting new companies to our state looking for a skilled labor force. I agree that our children deserve every chance to reach their full potential. And ultimately, educated citizens mean an active democracy. When we all take part, we can make smarter decisions regarding legislation and which direction we want our state to take.

Today, Connecticut has the widest achievement gap in the nation. The “achievement gap” term refers to the disparity in the performance of poorer school districts when compared to more wealthy school districts. In response, the Governor named this past year’s legislative session as the “education session” to focus on school reform. The Education Bill, Public Act 12-116, passed the State Senate by a vote of 28 to 7. The law made important improvements to early childhood education, school district operations and funding, teacher and school administrator qualifications, and teacher performance evaluation, tenure and termination.

Perhaps the most important reform is that our schools will now receive additional state funding. As a result of this legislation, the schools in our district will now see an increase of more than $930,000 in Education Cost Sharing (ECS) funding that will help offset the cost of hiring teachers and maintaining school programs for our children.

In addition, Stratford will receive funding to create 13 new school readiness opportunities for our youngest students. These 13 pre-kindergarten slots are part of the 1,000 seats created around the state by the education reform law. It targets $6.775 million in new funding for increased access to high-quality early childhood education. These slots help early learners acquire essential skills for kindergarten.

The slots will be administered through the Connecticut School Readiness program, a state Department of Education initiative designed to strengthen and increase access to high-quality preschool for children ages three and four.

Overall, these reforms stand to make a positive impact on our schools. It will mean that our children have more opportunities to learn and take part in additional educational programs. It also means that our youngest learners will have a stronger foundation to become successful students when they enter kindergarten. Our educational system must nurture and enrich our children’s academic experience and our new law is a step in that direction.

The first day of school is an exciting time for families and children because it is filled with hope and possibility for our children’s future and a few photographs too! I hope your school year is successful, safe and full of enrichment. Enjoy the first day back to school!