More Money Still Won’t Solve Connecticut’s School Woes

Chris Powell


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Has a Connecticut teacher union ever declared that the compensation and working conditions of its members are wonderful and need no improvement?

Probably not. So more than a few grains of salt should be sprinkled on the last week’s report from the Connecticut Education Association, whose October survey of more than 5,600 public school teachers from kindergarten through high school found that 74% are inclined to retire earlier than they thought they would a few years ago.

Sixty percent of respondents said Connecticut’s schools are declining, almost three quarters were unhappy with their working conditions, and nearly all said their top concerns are stress and burnout.

The union’s solution: More hiring of school staff, reducing workloads and supervision for teachers, and raising salaries, as if Connecticut hasn’t pursued such policies since its Education Enhancement Act became law in 1986.

Just a few weeks ago as he campaigned for re-election Governor Lamont proclaimed that Connecticut’s schools are the best in the country, and the CEA endorsed him. So if, as the CEA’s survey claims, schools in Connecticut actually have sunk into an emergency, why did the union endorse the governor and withhold its survey until the election was safely past?

Yes, Connecticut’s schools have serious problems. But if they were problems of money, they would have been solved long ago, and if the state’s politicians cared about anything more than pleasing the teacher unions, they might have noticed by now that rising spending long has correlated with falling student proficiency.

Of course the most recent disaster in public education was not the virus epidemic itself but government’s decision, made without good evidence, to close schools and convert to “remote” learning. That mistake, robbing as many as half of Connecticut’s children of as much as two years of education, was made largely under the pressure of the teacher unions themselves.

The stress teachers now complain about arises largely from the remediation that must be done for the long interruption of schooling.

But long before the epidemic schools were suffering from the collapse of the family that has been caused by the welfare system. Many students in Connecticut now are classified as chronically absent, especially but not exclusively in the cities. It’s hard enough to teach children who miss 10% or more of their classes; it can be nearly impossible when many of them are so neglected at home and so disturbed when they do show up that they misbehave and disrupt learning for everyone else.

Standards can’t be upheld in school if they are not upheld at home. But neither teachers nor elected officials dare to risk the controversy inevitable from approaching that problem. As always their only proposed solution is to spend more money even as such a policy long has failed to produce results in learning.

Perhaps better than anyone except police officers, teachers see society’s disintegration. They might do much to help identify and reverse it if their union wasn’t devoted to exploiting it for financial advantage.

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NADER’S NEWSPAPER: Seemingly indestructible at 88, Connecticut’s most famous native son, Ralph Nader, continues trying to hold government and corporations more accountable and to encourage people to take the responsibility of citizenship.

Now he is going against the grain in the most remarkable way yet. As journalism and civic engagement decline, Nader has started a monthly newspaper that offers only a print product, not an internet edition.

It’s the Capitol Hill Citizen, assembled by a small group of freelance but skilled journalists covering news unreported by mainstream publications. Poking fun at the Washington Post’s self-satisfied motto — “Democracy dies in darkness” — the Citizen’s motto is: “Democracy dies in broad daylight.”

Nader gained fame a half century ago by exposing unsafe automobiles, and while the country might think that issue has been solved, a recent edition of the Citizen showed that some big corrections are still lacking.

Predictably enough, the Citizen’s perspective is left-wing but it hits fair targets. A donation of just $5 made via the paper’s internet site — Capitol Hill Citizen dot com — buys a mail subscription.


Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut. (