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Bysiewicz discusses education, economy with educators from across Connecticut

July 13th, 2018

HAMDEN — Susan Bysiewicz, currently running for lieutenant governor, met with educators from across the state Monday in Hamden, sharing policy ideas and responding to questions as part of a gathering held by the Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) administered by Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES).

Bysiewicz raised the idea of creating a school-to-work pipeline in the state by partnering with businesses, such as Electric Boat and Sikorsky, to link young people with jobs, which would keep them in the state and provides a stable, available workforce.

This idea resonated with Helene Becker, the ELL director in the Norwalk Public Schools, who asked for aid in making opportunities available to the young people she works with, many of whom have come from Central and South America.

“These kids are in danger of dropping out, because it’s very hard when you have a fourth- or fifth-grade education and you don’t speak English, to stay in school. And we’re trying our best to give them motivation to stay in school,” said Becker.

Internships and other opportunities, particularly those that do not require a significant amount of English, would be valuable for the group, Becker said.

The trick is connecting employers, including those in the trades, to schools and parents, providing awareness of the opportunities that are out there, Bysiewicz said.

She said she would work closely with companies and corporations to remain cognizant of their needs.

“I do think that whoever are our state’s leaders should be in constant communication with our biggest employers, because it should never come as a surprise that G.E. is going in a month,” said Bysiewicz. “We should have leaders who are talking on a regular basis to (businesses) … to say, ‘how’s our state doing? What do you need? What kind of trained people do you need?’”

Jill Johnson, executive director and principal of Explorations Charter School in Winsted, raised some of the issues and successes of the Northwest Corner — on one hand, a limited transportation network and lack of industry, on the other, a thriving relationship with Northwest Connecticut Community College.

Bysiewicz called for investment in the state’s transportation network and said discussion of closing community college campuses was “so troubling,” as some would not be able to get to another school.

She suggested potentially making community college free for students, either those in need or in total, by closing the “hedge fund loophole,” which allows owners of private equity firms or hedge funds to be taxed at a lower rate.

This would make college attainable for students when it otherwise would be out of reach and prevent students from incurring debt, Bysiewicz said.

“That would be, to me, an amazing investment in our state’s future,” said Bysiewicz.

Kristi Bellara, a current special education administrator in Norwalk, noted the commonality of mental health issues, including stress, anxiety and trauma, among young people.

Rachel Sexton, chief of the ACES Institute, suggested government officials consider the varied modern roles of schools , particularly as students are affected by societal trends ranging from school shootings to economic inequality to the opioid crisis, as they seek to assess their worth.

“From the executive branch and the legislative branch, having a recognition that schools are being asked to fix all of this — and recognizing that that’s impossible,” said Sexton. “Having what feels more like support from our politicians around what the truth worth of schools are, rather than (just) the test scores, I think is a step in the right direction.”

Leslie Abbatiello, director of professional development and school improvement with ACES, as well as the head of the EPFP program, raised two structural issues in Connecticut — determining the future of Education Cost Sharing funding and the possibility of regionalization.

Bysiewicz said there was no one-size-fits-all solution for ECS — the formula is currently underfunded by $600 million and could be another place to use funding raised by closing the hedge fund loophole.

In general, economic growth and development should be the focus as the state seeks to get “back on track,” Bysiewicz said.

She said she would provide incentives for towns and cities to consider regionalization in education where it would be useful, as municipal governments already are doing.

Bysiewicz, in response to a question from Abbatiello, ended by discussing why she wanted to be lieutenant governor.

“My daughters ... the best paying jobs they could find were in New York City (after they graduated from college). So I will be getting up every day, saying to myself, how can I get my daughters back to Connecticut,” said Bysiewicz, prompting a wave of laughter. “It will be about how do we keep our young people here? Because if we do that, their parents, their grandparents are going to want to come here, and it’s all about getting our state growing again and making sure we have good-paying jobs and a vibrant economy.”

State Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, drew issues with Bysiewicz’s description of a “hedge fund loophole” Tuesday.

“This has always been the problem with Susan Bysiewicz. Facts don’t matter to her. She’s purposefully misleading people with an untruth. She doesn’t understand Connecticut tax policy nor does she want to educate herself about tax policy because it doesn’t fit her narrative. This is reminiscent of Gov. Malloy saying ‘we don’t have a deficit.’ They know it’s not true, but that doesn’t stop them from saying it,” said Fasano in a statement.

“Susan Bysiewicz is traveling across our state promising money to people that simply does not exist. There is no carried interest loophole in the state of Connecticut because Connecticut already taxes this income at the full rate. Even if federal tax policy on this issue was changed, Connecticut still would not gain one penny more in tax revenue because Connecticut already taxes this at the full rate... Her list of false promises is growing, and my confidence in her ability to be honest is continuing to dwindle.”

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