Proposing to consolidate suburban and rural school districts with urban ones — by financial incentive if possible, by state mandate if necessary — Gov. Ned Lamont and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly are threatening to overthrow Connecticut’s social contract.
Their objective is not what they claim — to save money on administration and improve course offerings in smaller schools. After all, the city Democrats behind the consolidation proposals have never saved money in government — they only drive costs up — and course offerings are hardly relevant when Connecticut’s main educational policy is social promotion, more than half the state’s students never master basic high school work by the time they are given their diplomas anyway, and so many city students start kindergarten three grades behind and finish high school, if they finish at all, four grades behind.
Rather, the objective of the consolidation proposals is to give the cities political control of suburban schools, their budgets, and the property taxes that finance them and then to transfer their resources to the cities. This would be done in the delusion — shared by the suburbs — that spending has something to do with educational results, which actually are almost entirely a matter of parenting.
This delusion has been refuted by the last 40 years of Connecticut’s school financing policy, since even the state Education Department acknowledges that no evidence correlates student performance with school spending. But since increases in school spending are used almost entirely to increase the compensation of school personnel, more money is always necessary to the contentment of the members of the teacher unions, the Democratic Party’s foot soldiers.
For even longer than state government has been tinkering ineffectually with school financing, Connecticut’s social contract has been that the middle class would allow the government and welfare classes to turn the cities into poverty factories as long as the middle class itself could escape to towns where most kids have two parents and come to school ready and willing to learn.
The defense of “local control” of suburban and rural schools was sometimes depicted as racist, but then blacks, Hispanics, and other minority groups aspiring to the middle class began moving out of the cities for the same reason as the whites who preceded them. So Connecticut’s primary demographic trend long has been for the middle class to flee the urban underclass created and sustained by the welfare system. Home real estate values have become directly proportional to distance from the underclass.
All this may change if school districts are consolidated. Not only will suburban property tax revenue be diverted to the futility of educating the unparented kids in the cities, but the transfer of those kids to suburban schools will be facilitated. Then the social benefits gained from racial, ethnic, and class integration will be offset by the diminished performance of the suburban and rural schools.
Consolidation of school districts never would be proposed seriously in a General Assembly closely divided between the parties as the legislature’s previous session was.
School district consolidation is what Republican-leaning and politically competitive legislative districts in Fairfield County and elsewhere have just invited by electing many more Democratic state legislators to spite President Trump, as if he even notices or cares.
Meanwhile, of course, no legislator will address the disastrous irreducibility of the underclass, since it provides such lucrative business for the government class.