Malloy says he hopes national education standard will help with achievement gap

Governor Dannel Malloy says he believes the state’s adoption of a new national education standard will help close Connecticut’s achievement gap, which is one of the worst in the country.
The national standards are sponsored by the National Governors Association. The hope is to bring diverse state curricula in alignment with each other. Here’s Ebong Udoma’s story:
Governor Malloy says the inability of public schools in Connecticut to properly prepare 12th grade graduates to compete in college or to have the skills to get a job is “frightening.”

We’re officially launching “State of Disparity”

We’ve been posting some interesting stuff to this blog for a little while now, but it’s time we told people about it! So WSHU Public Radio is happy to be officially launching the “State of Disparity” series and new blog.

Connecticut is home to some of the wealthiest people in the country. It’s also home to some remarkably poor people. The economic disparity in the state is seen in a range of areas – from Connecticut’s educational achievement gap to issues with affordable housing to differences in healthcare availability and health outcomes. Here at on this blog, and in stories on WSHU, we’ll be exploring those issues. We’ll take a look at the different ways that the gap between Connecticut’s rich and poor impacts the state. And we want to hear from you! Please comment on the posts you see here on the blog, and email us at We’re also tweeting at @CTdisparity

Here’s WSHU’s Craig LeMoult talking with “Morning Edition” host Tom Kuser about just how much disparity there is in Connecticut, and about the “State of Disparity” project.

Below you’ll find several interactive maps that illustrate the scope of economic disparity in Connecticut. There’s also some of WSHU’s coverage of issues on the topic, as well as links to reports and stories from other media outlets. Please check it out, and get back to us with your opinions and your stories.

How does Connecticut’s disparity compare nationally?

When it comes to incomes, Connecticut has one of the biggest disparities between its richest and poorest citizens. This interactive map was created by the Connecticut State Data Center at the University of Connecticut. Click on each state to see its score in the Gini Index, a scale of disparity.

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Incomes across Connecticut: an interactive map

This interactive map from the Connecticut State Data Center at the University of Connecticut shows the median household income for every U.S. Census tract in Connecticut. Click on a census tract and a chart below will show the breakout of incomes within that tract.

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How much disparity is there in each Conn. town?

This interactive map, from the Connecticut State Data Center, shows the level of disparity within
each city and town in Connecticut. The measurement is the Gini Index, which is a standard measurement of inequality. A score of 0 would mean the region was completely equal in its distribution of wealth. A score of 1 would mean one person had ALL of the region’s wealth. Note that Greenwich has the widest economic range in the state. The most equal Conn. town is Union.

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ECS Task Force asks for more time

With much of public education supported by local property taxes, the poorer cities and towns are at a disadvantage. That’s where the Education Cost Sharing Formula is supposed to help. ECS, as it’s called, was created to equalize funding to towns across the state. Governor Dannel Malloy created a task force to review the effectiveness of the ECS grant and how it relates to state constitutional requirements. Now, the task force says it needs more time. Here’s the story:
The task force is expected to present its recommendations to the legislature in January. We’ll be taking a much closer look at the ECS formula soon here on State of Disparity.

Economics and 4 year graduation rates

The U.S. Department of Education released preliminary data this week on 4-year high school graduation rates, and, not surprisingly, they show the impact of economics. Overall, 83% of students in Conn. graduated in four years. For “economically challenged” students, the rate was 69%. You can find the chart listing all 50 states here. And here’s Kaomi Goetz’s story on the report:

It’s the first year in which all 50 states used a common metric.More than half of all states reported lower graduation rates under the new measure – but officials say the new results shouldn’t be read as measures of progress or failure, but as a more accurate picture.

“Connecticut’s Ribbon of Hardship”

In this Businessweek story from July, reporter Esme E. Deprez takes a close look at disparity in Connecticut, in part through the story of Jodey Lazarus of Stamford. The headline of the story (and of this post) is explained in this passage.

“The Connecticut portion of Interstate 95 was dubbed the “ribbon of hope” by state planners for its promise of prosperity when it was built in the 1950s. It’s still an apt nickname for those living in the hedge fund hubs along it: Greenwich and Westport. In Bridgeport, 35 minutes northeast of Greenwich, and where Lazarus attends community college, I-95 is more like a ribbon of hardship.”

We see the economic differences through the eyes of Lazarus’ 8 year old Ahhsha.

“It’s school vacation week and Lazarus’s daughter Ahhsha gazes out the window as they pass exits for Old Greenwich and Cos Cob. ‘Greenwich looks very different,’ says Ahhsha, a rail-thin girl with five perfect fresh braids tracing her scalp. ‘They have more sun than us, more windows on the houses, more beautiful houses.'”

The story describes the so-called “Great Gatsby Curve,” which economists say illustrates the increasing difficulty in moving up in the world. “What the Great Gatsby Curve illustrates is that where Lazarus and her kids ultimately end up on the income spectrum will be more a reflection of their family background and not of their talents,” the author writes.

Report: Conn. falling behind other states in disparity ranking

A chart from the report shows how distribution of wealth in Connecticut has changed over the last three decades (click to make the chart bigger)

Another report says the gap between Connecticut’s richest and poorest residents is growing. This one, by the advocacy groups Connecticut Association for Human Services and Connecticut Voices for Children looked at tax and census data over the last three decades. It says incomes at the top of the wealth spectrum have increased dramatically, while the bottom has hardly budged.

You can hear about the report here:

Liz Dupont-Diehl of Connecticut Association for Human Services says Connecticut’s place is slipping nationally in this respect.

“So the gap between the very richest and very poorest quintiles, the top 20 percent and the bottom 20 percent, formerly was ranked 46th, and now is grown to the third worst. And that is since 1977.”

She says the top one percent in Connecticut now earns nearly 30 percent of all of the state’s adjusted gross income.

“The disparity is important because increasingly research is showing that the more unequal a society is, the lower the chance that people have the ability to attain mobility with their situation.”

The advocacy groups say the negative effects of inequality should be mitigated by raising the minimum wage and indexing it to keep up with inflation, making sure the state’s unemployment insurance system is solvent, making the tax code more progressive and strengthening Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Report: Affordable housing limited in more than half of Conn. towns

This map, from the Partnership for Strong Communities, illustrates the gap between the state median income, and the income needed to qualify for a mortgage to buy a house at the median price in that city or town (click to make the map bigger)

A new report from the advocacy group Partnership for Strong Communities says Connecticut’s median income in 2011 ($70,705) wasn’t enough to qualify for a mortgage in just over half of the state’s cities and towns (based on the median price in that town). You can hear about the study here:
According to the story, the three least affordable towns — Greenwich, New Canaan and Darien — had median home sale prices over $1 million. Those towns all had median household incomes over $120,000. As we’ve previously reported, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has made a commitment to improve access to affordable housing in the state.