After social promotion, Connecticutâ€™s foremost policy with education is just to throw money at it. So while billionaire investment fund manager Ray Dalioâ€™s gift of $100 million to state government for educational purposes, announced last week, is impressive for its size, the largest gift ever received by state government, little should be expected from it.
Dalio and Governor Lamont say the gift will be used to engage the estimated 20 percent of high school students who are alienated, demoralized, and at risk of dropping out.
While the governorâ€™s predecessor was always touting increases in graduation rates, they mean little when test scores continue to show little actual learning. Worse, though the nominal objective of Dalioâ€™s gift is laudable, there is as yet no plan for achieving it, only some talk about finding mentors for the alienated kids, an implicit acknowledgment of educationâ€™s real problem, which canâ€™t be frankly discussed - a lack of parents and parenting, the consequence of unconditional welfare.
Even Dalio can have little idea of what his gift will actually produce if he heard state Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell laud state governmentâ€™s â€śpartnershipâ€ť with him.
The commissioner said it â€śrepresents and confirms the stateâ€™s commitment to fulfill the promise of equity and excellence for all Connecticut students by bringing together a diverse set of stakeholders to provide the support, resources, and pathways necessary to create learning environments that engage students and transform the educational experiences and outcomes of thousands of young people across the state, especially traditionally underserved students and communities.â€ť
What does that interminable gibberish mean except that educators will be glad to spend Dalioâ€™s money one way or another?
Since how the money will be spent is yet to be determined, there is another compelling question: Will that $100 million and the $200 million the governor wants to add to it - $100 million from direct state appropriation and $100 million from other wealthy donors - really supplement governmentâ€™s educational efforts or just replace them? After all, state government faces a budget deficit approaching $2 billion and is always shifting and adjusting financial aid among towns. Will a town get Dalio money for mentoring only to lose state money for something else?
Further, without a plan for spending the money, why should the General Assembly appropriate anything for the Dalio program, and why should other philanthropists donate to it? There can be no assurance that the program will not devolve into dozens of slush funds, devoured by the big business of social work that is always ministering haplessly to Connecticutâ€™s tens of thousands of messed-up and fatherless kids.
In one respect Dalioâ€™s gift may have immediate impact, if quite apart from education. It may temper the eagerness of the increasingly crazed liberal Democratic caucus in the General Assembly to expropriate the rich, who already pay the bulk of state income taxes, to cover the budget deficit and finance lots more spending on stuff that does little beyond employing liberals.
Dalioâ€™s gift and the additional hundred million the governor would raise from other rich people will be reminders of how having them around is good for reasons beyond taxes.
Their paying more now, as philanthropy, will be an argument against compelling them to pay more later, especially if the additional philanthropy ends up largely in the pockets of those who advocate more taxes and spending.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.