Gov. Malloy's blackmail is criminal ... how about we fight back?

There are no words. None. Zero. No words that accurately portray the latest missive from the governor’s office, eliminating Education Cost Sharing funding entirely for 85 school districts and reducing funding somewhat for another 54.

There are no words to describe the treachery involved in using our kids as pawns to get a budget passed.

There are no words to describe the criminal act of imperiling their educational futures and stripping the livelihoods of teachers and their families.

Although maybe there are some words. And they’d end with “and the horse you rode in on.”

Know what, though? That’s what Gov. Malloy wants. Outrage. It’s a time-honored way of affecting change. Use the kids? Threaten livelihoods? All in a day’s work.

I say this: Channel your inner Elsa from “Frozen” and let it go. Think more practically. Given that actions of state lawmakers suggest they merely feign interest in education, are there other creative ways school systems can pursue revenue streams and perhaps make their districts more enticing?

Answer: Yes.

I believe the single most significant way a school system can retain its kids and attract others from surrounding towns is athletic success. You may disagree. Free country. But, alas, it belongs under “sad but true.” No other tentacle of a school system generates more positive public relations than a successful athletic program.

Athletics are, as Reggie Jackson once famously said of himself, “the straw that stirs the drink.” We can harrumph about warped priorities until we hyperventilate. Sports resonate. For every teacher that gets a sniveling email from a wacko parent, the coach gets 10 more.

OK. But what if you’re stuck in a small town with a limited number of kids who don’t happen to be any good with basketballs, bats and tennis rackets?

Expand your base with the magnet concept.

Example: Montville.

The governor’s edict would cut more than $6 million from the Montville school budget. Devastating. Unfair to a school system with good test scores and good people. But here’s an idea: Why not kick the tires on a partnership with Mohegan Sun to create a magnet high school specializing in culinary arts and hospitality?

Think about it. Mohegan Sun’s home is Montville. Tribal members live there. Many (most?) were educated in Montville schools. Hundreds of employees live in town. The Mohegans have always been good to kids. (They give the CIAC the arena rent free for the state basketball championships, providing free transportation and food, too).

A magnet high school for culinary arts and hospitality would give kids from Montville — and throughout the region — a chance to learn in the most practical way. It’s Johnson & Wales before attending Johnson & Wales. You think it wouldn’t be attractive to kids and families throughout the region? Montville would expand its student base and attract at least some kids that are good at sports, thus becoming a destination.

Imagine the headline in The Day: “Montville tops Waterford, Celebrates With Shortstop’s Duck A L’Orange.”

Plus, the magnet concept would open at least some revenue streams from the state, or at least while the state remains interested in funding some limited aspects of education.

This is a good idea.

It’s also not mine. Friends in the Montville schools have brought this up over a few Diet Cokes many times. It would require effort and creativity. (Translation: It’s work). But it’s not worth exploring? I would think the Mohegans would love the idea of being associated with education and giving back to their town. Maybe they’d pitch in a few bucks, too.

And I’d make the same argument for Ledyard (and North Stonington) with nearby Foxwoods. Ledyard High, which has an Agri-Science program that attracts kids from 12 different towns, could expand its reach all over the region. Imagine: an innovative high school plan that just happens to keep your school winning everything and on the front page for all the right reasons.

New London has shown us the magnet concept, at least in some aspects, works. Put it this way: Families from the burbs are sending their kids to New London schools. Enough said. New London’s problems stem from bad leadership, not a bad concept. Montville, theoretically, would have the power and interest of the Mohegans behind it. So might Ledyard with the Mashantucket Pequots.

School systems from all over the region are faced with similar dilemmas. This requires thinking so far outside the box you can see Wyoming. But use your resources in town. Reach out. Get creative.

How about starting with Mohegan Sun High School?

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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