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Affordable Housing , Community Development

The Next IForum: How Housing Can Close the Achievement Gap in Connecticut

1 April 2014

David Fink, Partnership for Strong Communities’ Policy Director
Connecticut is a rich state. It has the nation's highest per capita income, hundreds of hedge fund managers, many mansions.

But Connecticut is out of whack. It has the nation's largest growth in wealth disparity since 1990, three of the nation's poorest cities, and the nation's largest school achievement gap.
Economic segregation is rampant. Ten percent of the housing stock is affordable in only 32 of the state’s 169 cities and towns. Less than 5% is affordable in 99 of them.

According to the University of Michigan, Connecticut has the 10th worst black-white segregation in the nation, and the 7th worst Hispanic-white segregation. And given the cost of housing – the 6th highest median monthly housing prices in the nation, continually driven higher by those who can afford to pay them – it’s no wonder that low-income people in Connecticut are virtually trapped in those 32 municipalities.

If you look at those cities and towns, the educational achievement problem is apparent: they are the ones with overburdened schools and fewer community services. The relationship to the state’s achievement gap is undeniable: for all the excellent work done by the state’s teachers and administrators, for all the dollars spent and reforms crafted by Gov. Malloy and the General Assembly, improving the 9 a.m.-to-3 p.m. part of a student’s day won’t do the whole trick.

Whether that student has a safe, secure home or an overcrowded one with lead paint, dust mites and broken pipes; a quiet place to study or just a couch to sleep on; in a neighborhood conducive to homework and recreation, at a price his folks can afford, with services that include libraries and weekend soccer and access to fresh food – well, to put it simply, those factors have an impact on school success.

Even more important, for children whose parents’ only choices are homes in districts where schools are strapped for funds and may not have the enrichments – music, art, theater, foreign languages – or the class sizes or the new teaching materials or the extra help that their children need, research shows their reading and math scores badly trail those of more fortunate children.

On April 17, Princeton University sociologist Douglas Massey will come to The Lyceum to speak at The Partnership for Strong Communities’ 3rd IForum of the year from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. His topic – “Mt. Laurel’s Promise In Connecticut: How Housing Can Help Close Our Achievement Gap” – will show how low- and moderate-income families in Mt. Laurel N.J. flourished – school achievement and family income rose, along with their quality of life – when they were able to move into affordable homes in that high-resource school district. His research confirms previous findings across the country: that high achievement isn’t magic; it must include not just enhanced educational efforts during the school day but also emotional, environmental, recreational, quality-of-life and other supports from 3 p.m. to 9 a.m.

Massey’s talk will be followed by a panel discussion that will include influential state lawmakers and both housing and education experts. To register, contact Laura Bachman at or 860-244-0066.
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