You wouldn’t want to have been in the shoes of Connecticut Light & Power Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Butler following the freak October 29 snowstorm that blanketed much of the state and plunged more than 880,000 customers into darkness throughout much of CL&P’s 149-town service area.
More than a week later (as this edition of BNH went to press), tens of thousands of Connecticut households and business were still without power, and politicians from local selectmen all the way up to the Governor’s Mansion were calling for blood.
It’s easy to see why. The double-whammy of the October snowstorm and Tropical Storm Irene in late August left much of Connecticut in the dark for multiple days twice within two months — a double-dose catastrophe that many had not seen in their lifetimes.
For its part, CL&P makes an ideal whipping-boy. Since 2003 profits at the division of Northeast Utilities have been rising steadily — not least because the utility has pared its workforce by more than ten percent over the past decade, leaving it vulnerable to unforeseen emergencies.
What was so unforeseen about the October 29 event was not the snow itself, but the fact that many trees had no shed their leaves at that early date, making them much heavier as snow accumulated on their branches.
In a rush to assign blame, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and top legislative leaders on Nov. 4 announced a sweeping inquiry into CL&P’s poor performance in restoring power to benighted Connecticut communities. Given the anti-business ardor predominating at the Capitol, it’s easy to see where this might be going: onerous and costly new regulations and mandates on electric utilities that the latter invariably pass along to their customers — thus hurting precisely the “little people” the laws were purported to protect.
Comes this month the unwelcome news that the so-called achievement gap between poor and more affluent schools in Connecticut — already the nation’s widest — has gotten even worse.
According to the 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the average achievement discrepancy between low- and higher-income students on fourth- and eighth-grade reading tests increased from 2.97 in 2009 to 3.1 grade levels this year. On math tests the disparity widened slightly to 3.2 grade levels. That means low-income students are three years on average behind their more affluent peers (see story, page 7).
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has proclaimed that “much of the 2012 legislative session should be devoted to the issue of education.” (That’s funny; we thought it was supposed to be “jobs.”) Which leaves us wondering: When in the history of Connecticut public policy have so many words been squandered on such paltry results as education “reform.”
Here’s your “reform” right here: The achievement gap will never be closed until underperforming urban school districts are no longer in thrall to change-resisting public-education unions. Then may come a day when city public schools are operated not as jobs programs for the politically favored, but actually run to educate children.