$130 MILLION in federal money is going to rain down on Hartford, and Bridgeport public education systems presumably thanks to “Covid relief”. These are two of the worst performing school districts in the state. Some attribute the lack of family structure and poor local economies to their failings. Presumably, this money will lead to a 40% increase against current base spending. Historically, school administrations usually fight for 1-2% increases. A betting pool should be starting soon that will predict when they will complain 40% is not enough. New Haven and Waterbury systems will see $95 million. The question is over how they will spend it as well.
So, imagine a class with 10 students. Roughly speaking, this means an additional $40,000 or more for that class. What is the best way to spend it? There is an endless stream of studies correlating poor academic performance with income level. The data also claims that charter schools are not immune to the drag on performance created by poverty. Since liberal activists constantly complain about the lack of money, it is now put up or shut up time. If you cannot improve student academic performance with a 40% windfall, then your diagnosis of the ills of education are completely wrong. Money is not the problem, as conservatives have been saying for a long time.
Then, there is the allegation of lost federal money, on the order of $200 million, poured into the Bridgeport public school system many years ago (app. 2006). A state representative from Bridgeport had asked for an audit of the money. Results? The money reportedly could not be found.
In addition, the State of Connecticut, for years, has set aside around $35 million every year to “Alliance Grants” meant to target the same 30 some troubled school districts in the state. Has any of this improved academic performance in any of these school districts? The short answer is no. Some will argue there is some nominal improvement. But compared to the costs to get that improvement, it can be argued that is not the best way.
Also, a recent dust-up in New Britain highlights the point being made. Mayor Erin Stewart was critical of the performance of the school district, and their response was to say “Give us more money”. That does not seem very imaginative on the school district’s part. To lay all your ills one thing like money seems disingenuous. Their position is made more difficult by the behavior of their counterparts in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles. The best example was the “secret” Facebook message in a teacher’s union site telling everyone to keep the Miami trip on the down low because the optics of vacationing there would look bad while parents were demanding they get back in the schools. A group called Women of Watts have recently been calling the teachers union out for their dishonest and destructive behavior towards the students. All the debates about money and education are wrapped up in the conflict between the Women of Watts and the educational system.
While Connecticut might be experiencing some of these issues on a smaller scale (The population of Los Angeles is approaching 4 million, while Connecticut is about 3.5 million) they demonstrate that money may be a minor factor for excellence in education. The question for some is: When will the system stop trying to reduce teaching to the level of a technician, and instead realize that dedicated and well-educated teachers make all the difference in the world?