by Christine Stuart | Dec 5,
Christine Stuart photo
Robert Dugger, managing partner with the
Hanover Investment Group
statistics regarding the future of Connecticut’s workforce brought
together early childhood education advocates and business leaders Friday
for a candid conversation about the future of the state‘s children.
Connecticut business leaders heard from national
experts about how only 25 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds
qualify to serve in the U.S. military, most children reading well below
grade level at the end of 4th grade will not graduate from high school,
and a majority of 4th and 8th graders are not proficient in both math
and reading in any state.
But statistics won’t solve the problem, which national and state
experts outlined as an alphabet soup of programs with little
coordination or coherence for children from birth to five. Complicating
matters is the fact that financing for these programs comes from the
private, local, state, and federal level.
“This is all about the formation of human capital,” David Nee of
Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund said. “The natural
resources we have in Connecticut exists between our ears. That‘s what
we have to offer the world.”
When Gov.-elect Dan Malloy and the legislature actually get to work
grappling with the $3.8 billion budget deficit “they need to
distinguish very carefully between those things that have a high future
payoff and those things that are pouring money down a rat hole,“ Nee
Nee suggested looking at the Corrections Department and taking money
from incarcerating individuals, whose only crime is being addicted to
drugs, and redirecting those resources toward early childhood education.
Karen Foley-Schain, executive director of the Children’s Trust
Fund, said her organization understands that “good quality child
care,” involves not only the child, but the parent.
She said her organization’s Nurturing Families Program has about
125 workers making 2,000 visits to families each year. Half of the
population of mothers participating in the program are teenagers so a
significant time is spent in the home teaching the parent with their
Foley-Schain estimated that of the approximately 40,000 births each
year in the state about 10,000 of those children are born to families
with at least one serious risk factor for abuse or neglect or poor
outcomes. She said this means her program only serves about 20 percent
of those 10,000.
Nee suggested there needs to be a point of coordination for early
childhood education so more children can be served and funding
“There certainly needs to be a point of coordination in state
government where all of this comes together because so many agencies are
involved,” Nee said.
Soon-to-be state Sen. Beth Bye of West Hartford said during her 30
years working in early childhood she sees how money is spent in all
these different “silos.” There’s the School Readiness program,
Headstart, Department of Children and Families, local school districts,
and state Education Department funding.
“It’s very hard to coordinate it all, but that’s why I’m so
excited about Gov.-elect Malloy,” Bye said Friday.
Bye, who worked with Malloy in Stamford, said as mayor he streamlined
early childhood education efforts and as a result was able to offer
every four-year old access to pre-school. He has said as governor he
would continue working on those efforts statewide.
Christine Stuart photo
Linda McMahon and Bryan Flint
Malloy’s track record is also encouraging to volunteers like Bryan
Flint who works with the Vernon Community Network and the School Family
Community Partnership in Vernon.
He said there are 33 agencies delivering some element of early
childhood education in Vernon which has a population of about 30,000
“Death to silos,” Nee said. He said the Annie E. Casey Foundation
is working at the federal level to coordinate some of the federal
funding coming down through the reauthorization of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act. But short of their efforts Nee opined the state
should create a position for an early childhood education coordinator.
Aside from state and federal government and foundations which have
funded the bulk of these programs, the business community is getting
involved in early childhood education efforts,
Robert Dugger, managing partner of the Hanover Investment Group, said
the business community “gets it” that is needs to be part of the
solution and contribute financially to the problem. But it’s been a
One former businesswoman who says she “gets it” is former
wrestling executive Linda McMahon.
McMahon, the former U.S. Senate candidate and former state board of
education member, said she attended Friday’s event because she is
still interested in early childhood education.
“I’m such a proponent of early childhood education and through
just my short tenure on the state board really started understanding
this performance gap widens so quickly,” McMahon said.
“There is opportunities for businesses to form partnerships for the
growth of our education and to invest in our economy by investing in
education, it‘s just going to be the way we do grow and prosper,”
McMahon said. “It is pulling the business community in. I do believe
it is a private-public partnership. It is an investment in our economy
not only on the local, state, but on a national basis.”