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Hartford Courant: First, Give Me A Governor Who Believes in Public Education

By Rick Green

A panel of education and business leaders has assembled an impressive (and exhausting) punch list of what we must do to erase the achievement gap — a massive 65-item agenda that covers everything from kindergarten to teacher pay to summer school to school funding.

Bravo. We need more CEOs, bankers and businessmen and women who grasp the most important issue facing Connecticut – there is no economic future when you have public schools where poor, minority children fail and white suburban students succeed.

The 10 member Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement spent the last month building a massive framework of recommendations for the next 10 years emphasing high expectations, better teaching,  improved leadership, fixing failing schools and reforming school funding.

With all due respect, I’ve got a one-item list.

Elect a governor who believes that fixing our urban schools is the most important mission before us.

It could be Dan Malloy, who understands the importance of effective city schools. Or it might be Tom Foley, who might actually have the backbone to make he needed changes.

Nothing is more important. Not the deficit. Not cutting regulation. Not healthcare. Not high speed rail. Not even whether Notre Dame ever plays a down at Rentschler.

We’ve got lots of politicians worrying about those issues and one way or another, Democrats and Republicans will come up with a plan to deal with all of this.

It’s the schools that matter. Without a governor who is obsessed with reviving our schools and creating a new culture of education that extends into the family, nothing really matters.

Unless we have a governor who leads, who demands we change laws, school district boundaries, union contracts, the way we pay for education and that parents start doing their job, we won’t see enough improvement. This governor will have to show us that in some cases it’s going to take more money, but in many cases it’s going to be forcing the fat education bureaucracy to do things differently.

That means a governor willing to slap the unions – and the comfortable taxpayers in affluent, high-performing communities who think failure in city schools isn’t a problem for all of us.

About 4 out of 10 high school students in Hartford graduated on time this year.  Our future workforce isn’t coming from Avon or Weston. If it is here at all, workers will come from the cities where the most children are. Unless these students graduate with skills, there won’t be companies, there won’t be jobs, there won’t be an economy.

“This is one of the single most important things we can do to secure the future of our state,” Steven Simmons, CEO of Simmons/Patriot Media and Communications and chairman of the commission. “We call on the next governor to make narrowing the achievement gap one of his highest priorities.”

The commission said the governor must “lead the charge” in making dozens of courageous changes.

For now, I’m looking just one dramatic change: a governor who believes.

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