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OP-ED | Let’s Develop Solutions to Connecticut’s Toughest Problems

by | Sep 22, 2014 1:30pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Education, Opinion

Regarding Sarah Darer Littman’s Sept. 19, 2014, op-ed, “Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse,” the egregious twisting of facts and history buries the important message at the core of Littman’s argument. Sadly, the piece is also a distraction from the real issue at hand, which is improving schools for all children in our state.

Underlying Littman’s murky musings, it appears that she believes that the manner in which Connecticut students are funded is inherently unfair. In this she is correct. Too often the funding of child’s public education is based on where that child lives or what type a public school they attend.

ConnCAN believes that no child should be denied a great education based on race, where they live, or family income. I would hope that Littman agrees with this sentiment. However, nowhere in her op-ed does she offer any recognition that the quality of education in Connecticut varies wildly, based solely on what zip code a child calls home.

I also agree with Littman when she suggests that the laws and regulations governing Connecticut’s decades-old public charter schools should be updated, a belief I have shared publicly and often following the revelations of alleged improprieties at Family Urban Schools of Excellence.

As I said then, students and staff at every type of public school, including charter schools, must be allowed to benefit from the same legal and regulatory protections. At the same time, we must hold true to the basic premise of public charter schools: tough accountability in exchange for the flexibility needed to deliver results for kids.

Where I differ from Littman is in tone and intention. ConnCAN is dedicated to advocating for solutions to the problems that have for decades plagued Connecticut’s schools. In Connecticut, only one out of every three African American, Hispanic, or low-income 3rd graders can read at grade level. In cities like Bridgeport, one-third of students never graduate high school. 

That’s one out of three students not graduating high school ready for college and careers, prepared to become entrepreneurs or productive members of Connecticut’s workforce.

Given that national and international research is clear that a great education is key to personal and community economic success,  Connecticut’s students, families, and communities need better schools and they need them now.

That’s why public education options like magnet and charter schools are in demand. There are currently more than 4,000 names on waiting lists for those schools. But they are only one piece of the puzzle.

We must also give every child a strong start with high quality pre-kindergarten, ensure an effective teacher in every classroom and effective leaders in every school and district, hold students to rigorous academic standards, and fix our broken school funding rules so that every child is funded fairly.

I encourage her to join a real dialogue about how best to achieve these goals. It’s time to move away from tired personal attacks and unfounded conspiracy theories, roll up our sleeves and get to the real work of improving public education. Our kids are counting on it.

It is, after all, our responsibility to ensure all kids have the opportunity to achieve their goals. Together, with hard work, dedication, and a bit of creativity, we can ensure Connecticut remains a place where people want to live, work, and invest in their future.

Jennifer Alexander is the CEO of ConnCAN (Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now).

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(14) Archived Comments

posted by: ASTANVET | September 22, 2014  2:47pm

Schools get funded in a large part by taxes.  Who is ConnCAN to decide how each town should prioritize their taxes?  One would hope that the community at large would all agree that schools are the priority, however in hartford (largest taxes in the state) - they spend near the top of price per student and yet their schools still underperform… why is that?  Your model relies upon subsidy from other towns to pay for education in someone elses district.  Where is the benefit to moving to a good town, with good schools if we get over taxed just to pay for the same crappy educational system we left?

posted by: schoolmom | September 22, 2014  2:52pm

Oh - where to begin?  Ms Alexander accuses Darer Littman of twisting facts? Darer Littman’s piece was chock-full of links to sources and support.  As always, Alexander provides NO facts to support her conclusions.  Which facts exactly did Darer Littman twist? Please enlighten us.  You call her musings “murky” then say YOU have a different tone?
Here are some specific solutions:  The state should stop wasting taxpayer money fighting the CCJEF case. Settle it and ensure adequate and equitable funding for public schools.  The state must ensure that charter schools are educating THE SAME DEMOGRAPHICS AS THEIR HOST district.  90% of charters serve a less needy population than their host districts. Check out the strategic school profiles.  Charters should NOT be imposed on localities over community objection.  charters must report publicly on “waiting lists”, expulsions, exclusion, school demographics, discipline, attrition, sources of revenue, spending, governance, etc.  This is just a start. more “dialogue” to come .  And please, Ms. Alexander, USE FACTS TO BACK UP YOUR PROPAGANDA

posted by: RogueReporterCT | September 22, 2014  3:59pm


Slick. Excellent sleight of hand. Great response time. Steven Colbert would call you a formidable opponent.

posted by: ocoandasoc | September 22, 2014  4:17pm

So I see that even Ms. Alexander’s overly-gentle (in my opinion) criticism of Ms. Littman’s editorial is considered over-the-top by those who would protect the status quo of public education in Connecticut.  That’s regrettable, since her comments make so much sense.
First off, let’s talk funding. Virtually every service that the State of CT provides now is funded according to needs and priorities rather than proportionally to the amount of taxes the residents of any municipality pay in to the State coffers. Why shouldn’t education be that way?  (And no, I don’t accept the answer “Because that’s the way it’s always been done” or “Education should be run at the local level.” Both are bogus arguments.)  Expecting that locally administered and funded public education in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury, Norwich and New London will somehow pull itself up by its bootstraps and end the State’s achievement gap is just wishful thinking… or arrogant indifference.
And, please. Can we stop with the teachers’ union-bred hatred of charter schools? It serves no useful purpose, and over-regulating/dismantling/eliminating/banishing charter schools would not in any way improve CT’s public education situation. (And I suspect that if all the charter schools were unionized tomorrow the anti-reformers could go back to hating vouchers, privatization, and any other potentially useful innovations that might cut into CEA’s dues revenue.)
Full speed ahead, Ms. Alexander. Folks in Connecticut are beginning to understand who really has the interests of our most needy students at heart. And they’re starting to see through the misleading arguments of those that don’t.

posted by: Kathy CT | September 22, 2014  5:53pm

Ms. Alexander does not really address the main points of Ms. Littman’s piece.  Littman states “What’s really disturbing is that by funneling a grant through another foundation, a private foundation was able to impose public policy behind closed doors, and what’s more, impose policy that required taxpayer money — all without transparency or accountability.”  Where does Alexander address that?  Of course Littman and Alexander have the same goals in mind; ensuring the best education for our children.  The difference is how to achieve that. Alexander thinks that charter schools are a big part of ensuring that, but as we have seen here in Connecticut charter schools are great at promoting themselves while state officials have not done their due diligence to see through the hype.  The goal is to help ALL Connecticut’s children, not just the few who can be “saved” by a charter school.  Nationwide there have been so many instances of charter school entrepreneurs who are reaping millions at the expense of the children and the taxpayers.  The large achievement gap that ConnCAN is addressing will not be closed by the many education reform initiatives currently being foisted upon us.  Connecticut has a large income gap and until we address the effects of poverty on our students that gap will persist.

posted by: Charlie Puffers | September 22, 2014  6:05pm

Ms. Alexander is requesting a REAL dialogue about how best to achieve these goals.  The dismal failure of FUSE to replicate the Jumoke model in a REAL public school is where the dialogue should begin.  The major media has been quite careless with the truth when reporting on the “success” of charter schools and reformers such as Adamowski, Vallas, and Pryor.  Has Ms. Alexander ever worked as a public school teacher?  It would be nearly impossible to find a veteran public school teacher in Hartford who experienced surprise when the Jumoke model failed at Milner.  The failure had nothing to do with the hardworking classroom teachers or principal at Milner nor anything to do with the extraneous illegal activities of the CEO and others.  The failure had to do with a charter operator having to play by the same rules as a REAL public school. What would she bring to the table if a REAL discussion were to happen?  Would she be willing to start with the truth?

posted by: RogueReporterCT | September 22, 2014  7:01pm


it’s a classic rhetorical trajectory that illustrates the vulnerabilities of those who argue against education reform. Because Sarah Littman focused a narrow argument against charter schools and forgot to repeat the obvious often enough—disparate funding in rich versus poor districts is the underlying problem that needs to be addressed—Jennifer Alexander very facile-ly tried to seize the high ground by going there. So far, only one direct respondent bought it, and of course tipped his hand by bringing up unions.

posted by: ocoandasoc | September 22, 2014  7:04pm

Good thing Kathy CT wasn’t part of the rescue effort for the Titanic. Since ALL of the passengers couldn’t be saved I guess she would have chosen to let them ALL drown.

posted by: bgosper | September 22, 2014  10:10pm

So the answer, according to Ms Alexander, is to spend MORE money (read: raise taxes) AND hand over our education system to bureaucrats, third party data collectors, and high stakes testing. What could possibly go wrong??? Duh!!

posted by: Pro-Public Education | September 23, 2014  12:36am

Jennifer Alexander is a paid charter school proponent that earns approximately $200,000 annually. What else would one expect her to say. When both she and Jonathan Sackler enroll their children/grandchildren in charter schools, maybe we will listen. Until then, put a sock in it Jen. Please do not allow ConnCAN to con you.

posted by: justsayin | September 23, 2014  9:41am

This article is disingenuous. She offering her paid opinion and has not come close to a solution. Why did this model work for so long but not today? What changed? Why do those who went thru this model now claim it is a failure?

posted by: 27Reasons | September 23, 2014  9:50am

I’m very disappointed in CTnewsJunkie for continuously allowing Jennifer the opportunity to spread her propaganda. Groups like conncan ARE the problem! They are nothing more than educational parasites who use feel-good rhetoric to line their pockets at the expense of Connecticut’s children. Jennifer makes some pretty good money to demonize public education and the teaching profession. Littman’s piece was spot on. Jennifer’s piece… well, it’s a piece all right.

posted by: Bulldog1 | September 25, 2014  8:42pm

Oh Please!  ConnCan is advocating for the right of Corporate America to create a new revenue stream for themselves.

Children are merely a means to that end>

And by the way Oco I don’t belong to a teachers union (never did).  My animus is generated by ConnCan.

posted by: Integrity | September 26, 2014  8:35pm

I appreciate truth and a conscience. Jennifer Alexander is seemingly devoid of either…keep her far away from my kids….and ALL of our CT children.

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