Creating an Education System That All Students Deserve

Sep 25, 2023

The start of a new school year is a period of new beginnings and excitement for many children across Fairfield County.

But in parts of our community, it can be a time of frustration and anxiety as students return to schools ill equipped to support their learning.

Because public school funding in our state is tied to a district’s local tax dollars, Fairfield County has vast disparities in the resources that support our schools. As a result, some of Fairfield County’s school districts rate among the best in the country, while others rank far below national standards.

It should be no surprise that students who attend schools with fewer resources are less likely to learn to read effectively, graduate high school, pursue post-secondary education, and ultimately build livable-wage careers.

And here in Fairfield County, too many of our youth face narrow odds at achieving those milestones.

Our 2023 Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index shows that for Fairfield County’s Class of 2014, only 22% of high school students in Bridgeport and 40% in Danbury earned a college degree within six years. By comparison, in the county’s six wealthiest towns, that figure was 82%.

With the disruptions connected to the Covid-19 pandemic, those figures are predicted to worsen in the coming years if we don’t act to increase educational access and opportunity within our region.

So, what does the vision of a brighter future for our children, and by extension our community, look like?  First, it is ensuring that all youth growing up in Fairfield County have equitable opportunities to graduate with a high school degree and obtain post-secondary education or employment after they graduate.  Over time, this will mean more families can afford to buy homes and build assets. It means that we’ll grow our skilled workforce, strengthening businesses and the regional economy. And it will also mean improved health outcomes and safer communities.

At the Community Foundation, we have committed to this vision and are working with many individuals and organizations that share our goals.  We’re doing this in a number of ways — including investing in advocacy efforts to create equitable funding policies.

We’re working to increase wraparound supports in schools. During the 2023 Connecticut Legislative Session, for example, we advocated for school meals for all children because we know that when students are fed, they are more likely to perform well in the classroom. We’ve also been standing up with partners and our fellow Connecticut community foundations to encourage a state-level Child Tax Credit, which has shown to improve the health, educational attainment, and long-term earnings of children growing up in poverty.

We’re building critical cross-sector partnerships to invest directly in our youth through efforts like the Fairfield County Business Collaborative for Education Equity — a multi-year partnership with our business community to eliminate educational disparities among our most under-resourced students, their parents and guardians, as well as teachers and staff.

In the coming months, you’ll be hearing how we are reengaging youth from across the county to drive our strategies for improving educational outcomes and providing increased targeted financial support for young people to pursue post-secondary education and participate in career training opportunities.

Although I’ve been working throughout the country to improve educational systems for more than a decade, when I became a parent two years ago, it became even clearer to me how necessary this work is.  We all have the same basic hopes for our children to learn, explore, create, and be valued and validated, so that they might lead joyful and personally fulfilling lives.  As I explore preschools for my daughter with that lens in mind, I am constantly reminded how much all our children deserve enriching educational opportunities.

If you share this perspective, I invite you to join us in supporting efforts to equip every young person who is growing up in our community with the developmental tools they need to thrive.

To learn more about how you can support Fairfield County youth through their educational and early career journeys, please reach out to Liz Hoagland, Director of Youth Education & Career Development ( or Joe Collin, VP of Philanthropy ( to set up a call or meeting.

In Community,

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