Dalio Philanthropies, Connecticut Dissolve Education Partnership

Dalio Philanthropies, Connecticut Dissolve Education Partnership

The Partnership for Connecticut, a public-private partnership launched in April 2019 with a $100 million commitment from Dalio Philanthropies, has announced that it is disbanding.

With the aim of improving educational opportunities and outcomes in underresourced communities in the state — especially those with both persistently high poverty and a high concentration of youth who are disengaged or disconnected from school — the partnership had secured a $100 million pledge from the state and was working to raise another $100 million over five years from private donors. The effort was plagued by problems almost from the start, however, including criticism of Connecticut governor Ned Lamont and the Connecticut general assembly's decision to exempt the effort from Freedom of Information and state ethics laws, The Hour reports. Public dissension erupted last week after the Hartford Courant reported on an email from the partnership's recently hired CEO, Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, to legislators and other officials complaining about disciplinary action initiated against her without all board members being briefed. 

In a joint statement issued by the governor and Dalio Philanthropies co-founder and director Barbara Dalio, Lamont said that except for executive sessions involving personnel decisions, all meetings, votes, and press opportunities were held in public. "Boards that are designed to accomplish significant goals must have a foundation of trust," he added. "It has been made clear since the inception of this [p]artnership that breaches of trust were part of the norm. The Dalios have lost confidence in this board structure, and I totally understand why, and together we have decided to dissolve the [p]artnership."

The end of the partnership comes despite an early success — the distribution of sixty thousand laptops loaded with software to students who lacked access to online learning technology during school closures. The Hour reports that Dalio Philanthropies will cover $20 million of the $24 million cost for the laptops, and, after the partnership is dissolved, the state will recoup between $14 million and $15 million of its investment to date, which it will apply to the state's budget deficit.

In the joint statement, Dalio said the foundation would invest $100 million over the next four years in initiatives to address the needs of disconnected youth. "We've tried hard over the past [fifteen] months to make this unique model work, but it has become clear that it's not working because of political fighting. Our dream of working together in a bipartisan way to help the disengaged and disconnected youth of Connecticut came to an end because politicians" — a reference to Connecticut House minority leader Themis Klarides, who served on the partnership's board, and deputy leader Vincent Candelora —"want to fight in the media rather than debate issues and resolve them with other board members. They sought to sabotage [t]he [p]artnership. It can't go on like this, so I suppose they 'won'." 

"Overall, I think this was well intentioned, but it came into existence under a cloud," Candelora said in a separate statement. "The way it was crafted, I wouldn't make it a partisan issue. Democrats had some of the same concerns that we did....It's frustrating for me to hear. This was never about politics but about policy and being an open and transparent process."