State will be challenged to use $100 million gift wisely

In his campaign for governor and in his first State of the State Address, Gov. Ned Lamont talked of his intentions to reach out to the private sector as partners in tackling societal challenges. Last week such a partnership emerged that could bring in $300 million for programming aimed at keeping more students in low-income communities in high school, then help steer them toward good jobs with growth potential after graduating.

Ray and Barbara Dalio of Greenwich, the state’s richest couple, announced at a Friday news conference a $100 million pledge through the Dalio Foundation. The partnership plan is to match that donation with a $100 million state investment and $100 million from other philanthropic organizations and individuals.

A $100 million state investment spread over five years to leverage another $200 million from the private sector is a great deal the General Assembly should embrace. If it results in the intended goal of helping move more young people through high school to become contributing members to our communities and the state’s economy, it will provide a major return on that investment.

Ray Dalio, 69, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, is reported to have a net worth of $18 billion. The willingness of the Dalios to share their fortune to help others climb ladders of success is laudable. And Lamont should be credited for following up on his pledge to pursue private dollars.

How the money is spent will be critically important. The state should form an independent organization to plan the most effective way to use the funding. It should not be used to support or revive existing programs hit by budget cuts at the local level or losses of state aid. Instead, the massive investment should be used for new, innovative programs and support services, with standards established to test effectiveness.

While low graduation rates are especially a problem in some of our urban centers, many of the state’s rural communities also have underachievement issues and should not be ignored as funding is distributed.

It is not a challenge to spend $300 million, but it is a big challenge to spend it effectively. Connecticut needs to make the most of this opportunity.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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