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).

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