Building Opportunity through Education Equity: A Business Imperative

Sep 12, 2022

By Robert J. Granata, Marc Lautenbach and William Tommins

We have a lot to be proud of in Fairfield County, and while thankfully we have passed the worst of the pandemic, many who call our region home will continue to face the economic and social inequities exacerbated by COVID-19.

In the business community, we have an opportunity to support our local economic recovery while also addressing the educational disparities that impact far too many children and families in our county.

Now more than ever, supporting education is critical to advancing equity and opportunity for all. It is unacceptable that entrenched educational gaps sharply divide Fairfield County students along racial, ethnic, and economic lines.

A child born in Bridgeport, for instance, doesn’t have the same quality of education and opportunities to succeed and thrive as a child born in Stratford and Trumbull.

For our business community, the case for closing that gap is strong.

By investing in quality programs that support classroom learning, assist students through academic transitions, and provide access to the nutrition required to focus and learn, we are investing in our collective future. Our workforce will be larger and more skilled, and our communities will flourish.

This simple idea inspired a group of forward-thinking Fairfield County businesses to join forces to invest in our community’s economic future. We teamed up with Fairfield County’s Community Foundation to create the Fairfield County Business Collaborative for Education Equity.

Each business in the Collaborative – Bank of America, First County Bank, Lapine Associates, Pitney Bowes, Synchrony Financial, The Tudor Foundation, Inc., Xerox, Gallatin Point Capital, The Ashforth Company, and Henkel Corporation – has pledged to invest resources to help address the most pressing needs facing our community’s most vulnerable pre-K through grade 12 students, parents, and guardians.

To date, the Collaborative has awarded $400,000 to Fairfield County nonprofits focused on improving kindergarten and college readiness, helping students avoid summer learning loss and addressing food security among youth and young adults.

And the math behind the Collaborative’s impact is truly promising:

● Nearly 85% of youth who received meals had improved access to fresh fruits and vegetables and nearly 9 in 10 experienced less anxiety about food insecurity.

● Three in every four students maintained at least a B average.

● More than 80% of students who took part in summer academic programs were able to recover academic credits.

● A majority of middle school students who took part in funded programs reported that they were confident about their transition to high school.

As business leaders, we play an important role in our local community. Together, we can help ensure that every child who grows up in Fairfield County receives an equitable education and opportunity to succeed and thrive.

In a very short time, we have seen the strength in working together and the promise that this partnership can accomplish in building resiliency and opportunity for all. This is a strong beginning and a sustained focus on the issues will make the real difference.

On behalf of the members of the Collaborative, we extend an open invitation to local businesses – of all sizes – to join us on our journey to help eliminate the educational disparities that are holding our community back.

If we can change these conditions and make it possible for every child in our county — regardless of their school or ZIP code — to reach their full potential, then our community has an opportunity to thrive like it never has before.

When we create a community where all our neighbors have an opportunity to succeed, we all succeed.

Robert J. Granata is Chairman and CEO of First County Bank and President of First County Bank Foundation. Marc Lautenbach is President and CEO of Pitney Bowes. William Tommins is President of Bank of America Southern Connecticut.

Originally published on September 9, 2022 by Hearst Connecticut Media Group.