Dalio foundation announces major investment in CT schools

Gov. Ned Lamont speaks in East Hartford. At right are Ray and Barbara Dalio. (CTMirror.org)

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Gov. Ned Lamont announced a plan Friday to invest $300 million in private and public dollars in Connecticut’s schools — a plan centered on a $100 million contribution from hedge fund giant Ray Dalio’s philanthropic foundation.

State government will match the Dalio Foundation’s $100 million donation over the next five years, and work with that group to raise yet another $100 million from other philanthropic groups, Lamont said. The funds will be focused on communities with a high poverty rate and a high concentration of youth.

“I love public education. I’m always humbled and inspired by everything you do,” Barbara Dalio,  who leads the foundation, told hundreds of students, teachers and administrators gathered at East Hartford High School to announce the contribution. “You are amazing.”

Ray Dalio, who heads the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, said he grew up in a “lower-middle class” household and was fortunate “to have parents and teachers who cared for me.” Forbes reports his net worth at about $18.4 billion.

“Basically, all you really need,” he added, “is a good public school education with people who care about you —  and then marry a good wife.”

“The most important investment I can make as a governor … is investment in education, to make sure the next generation is ready to go,” Lamont said.

The new governor, who is trying to close major projected budget deficits in each of the next two fiscal years, said he had no choice but to propose a lean spending plan in February. But this partnership with private philanthropy, he said, will help ensure Connecticut students still enjoy a first-class education. 

“We’re here for you,” he said. “We believe in you and we’re going to be fighting for you each and every day.”

The partnership will focus funding on urban, suburban and rural districts. It will place an emphasis on public-private partnerships, programs that serve disconnected youth, as well as initiatives aimed at economic development.

Barbara Dalio (CTMirror.org)

Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell said the partnership  “represents and confirms the state’s commitment to fulfill the promise of equity and excellence for all Connecticut students by bringing together a diverse set of stakeholders to provide the support, resources and pathways necessary to create learning environments that engage students and transform the educational experiences and outcomes of thousands of young people across the state,  especially traditionally underserved students and communities.”

For example, partnerships with community-based entrepreneurs could be formed to create new mentorship programs for students, according to Lamont’s office. Nonprofits, high schools and colleges might work together to connect graduates with new jobs in cutting-edge fields.

Two local students joined Lamont in the announcement, offering stories about how a quality education in Connecticut has changed their lives.

Stephanie Sesenu, an 11th grader at East Hartford, said she was exposed to gang violence and a poor learning environment when her family first came to the U.S. from Ghana, settling in the Bronx.

But when they moved to East Hartford, local educators “gave me my passion, my true desire in life,” to pursue cultural studies.

Luis Cruz, a 12th grader at East Hartford High and a member of its leadership program, said the connections and mentoring he has received have changed his approach to life from shy and reserved to “brave, open and confident.”

“I’m in a good place where I am accepted for every single part of me,” said Cruz, who added he’s become “a spokesman for my Latino community and my LGBTQ plus community.”

(Many times the “plus” is added in references to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community to emphasize that it always will be inclusive.)

Lamont added that the first $20 million installment of state government’s $100 million match to the Dalio foundation contribution will come from the state’s fiscal reserves.

Connecticut currently has $1.2 billion in its rainy day fund, and analysts project the reserve could exceed $2.2 billion by the fall.


Piberman April 6, 2019 at 10:16 am

It’s never about just the “monies”. Norwalk matches salaries of surrounding wealthy towns where just about every grad secures a college degree. Less than half do. How to explain ? Just about every surrounding town parent has a college educated parent, most with major careers. But only 40% in Norwalk have college degrees and we have a 10% Poverty rate. Most of our students are non-English native speakers and many come from single parent homes w/o parents having strong careers. Clearly the home environment has a powerful influence on outcomes.

Int’l comparisons show US students way down the list. Asian students commonly attend school 6 days weekly for almost 10 hours and with only a short summer vacation. And they focus on math, science, computers, etc. China is a good example of how secure modern education.

Education at public schools and colleges is a good business for teachers in America. Among the highest paid in the world. With nice benefits. Job security. For many its a nice secure life. But as a nation we don’t do very well educating students from our lower income families especially those w/single parents. And unlike other advanced nations we’re not focusing on the STEM subjects nor with strong vocational training.

A good example is Electric Boat in Groton. Builder of the most complex machines ever built – nuclear attack submarines. A world leader. An industry close to my heart. For decades most of their employees are secured from out of State. We don’t produce a work force sufficiently skilled.

Anyway Kudos to Dalio. Money helps. Especially for our grossly underfunded public school systems in CT’s depressed major cities. But our troubles in CT education won’t be solved by monies. Much more emphasis on vocational training and STEM subjects is required.

When I retired and taught grad finance at UNH for several decades most of my students were from Asia, Africa and Europe. Without exception they were crackerjacks in science and math. None ever heard of Thucydides, Iliad and few were familiar with our Bibles. Or US Constitution. But as a group they ran over the American students who were commendably “well educated”. And almost all went back to their native countries with their valuable Amerian degrees. Americans are good at finance !

China is a good example of what happens when education is taken seriously. From poor farmers to a world superpower in just a few decades. And their graduates generally speak and write English ! So it can be done.

Ref April 6, 2019 at 2:57 pm

Thank you Dalio Foundation for your generosity and commitment to Connecticut education.

Do we no longer acknowledge philanthropy?

AL April 7, 2019 at 9:18 am

” China is a good example of how secure modern education”. Really?!

China is run by the Communist Party and they have the People’s Liberation Army to enforce their rule. Don’t forget to mention the math and science programs from the former Soviet Union…
Yes. Students are “motivated” in other countries and flock here for many reasons.Comparing the US to anywhere else on this planet is comparing apples to oranges. We do our best to offer opportunity to everyone in this country,even to folks in Norwalk.

AL April 8, 2019 at 8:27 am

The usual suspects are scrambling to get their share of the money.Typical Connecticut. It took just two calendar days. While I did not watch 60 Minutes, recall that Bridgewater received $52 million in “state aid” to stick around, after they failed to get a new HQ in Stamford.
The headlines with the $300M are optimistic and possibly premature.

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