The facts about Connecticut’s low-income working families are troubling. Even before the current economic downturn, many families earning less than 200 percent of poverty, a level that is generally short of self-sufficiency in our high-cost state, had at least one full-time worker. In almost half of all working families that are also low income, no parent has attended college. These are the families most hurt by trends like the loss of manufacturing jobs, the movement of employers out of state, and growing income disparities.
Connecticut’s economy rests on the talents and abilities of its workforce. A competitive economy requires a highly educated and skilled workforce. Middle-skill jobs—those requiring an associate’s degree or work-related certification—also keep the economy going.
To improve the academic success of all Connecticut residents, education administrators and policymakers must eliminate the state’s achievement gap—one of the worst in the country based on differences in race/ethnicity and income. Most notably, more Connecticut children must become proficient readers. Children who are unable to read at grade level by the end of third grade rarely catch up and often drop out of school.
For many low-skill working adults, community colleges are the front line for postsecondary education. President Obama and Connecticut legislators are calling for an increase in community college retention and graduation rates, but the colleges cannot increase the number of two-year college graduates without a number of changes. Community colleges must revamp the delivery and availability of remedial education classes, increase academic and other counseling, and create alternative delivery methods for all courses.
To lead more Connecticut families to self-sufficiency while providing business with the workforce it needs, Connecticut education administrators and policymakers must ensure that the state’s education system is the strongest it can be–from basic skills development all the way through college.
CAHS works on these issues as part of the Working Poor Families Project (WPFP), a national initiative focused on state workforce development policies involving: (1) education and skills training for adults; (2) economic development; and (3) income and work supports. WPFP, at the state level, begins with an in-depth assessment of the economic conditions and state policies affecting working families and is followed by actions to strengthen those conditions and policies.