Since joining the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund a little more than a year ago, I have learned a great deal about Connecticut and how the Fund has worked with you and many others to improve lives for young children. All of us can take pride in your many accomplishments, which have increased access to early childhood learning, built community capacity, and created a new state office to support and grow the field. You and many others took up the cause of young children and moved Connecticut closer to the goal of ensuring that every child has what they need.
And yet, over the last few months, the Memorial Fund trustees and staff have been thinking deeply about the enduring, tough realities of disparity that, despite best efforts, show up in early childhood and education, as well as in housing, health, nutrition, civic life and every other facet of daily existence. Fifty-one years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared an "unconditional war on poverty in America." Now 51 years later, 51 percent of students attending public school in this country live in poverty (ASCD, Poverty and Education). And 50 years after the passage of major civil rights legislation, racial disparities persist more in Connecticut than anywhere else in America. These inequities are barriers for families of color and families living in poverty to reaching their full potential.
The Graustein family, trustees and staff, during our planning process, were confronted by the depth and persistence of racial and economic inequality, struck by the seeming acceptance of the status quo, concerned for the destructive effects of inequity on our individual and collective futures, and united in our resolve that rigorous attention to equity underlies our future work.
To guide us as we work to help remove these barriers, the trustees have adopted a new mission, and we are eager and pleased to share it with you:
The mission of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund is to achieve equity in education by working with those affected and inspiring all to end racism and poverty.
While many of us have been addressing these issues through one avenue or another, we have too seldom relied on one of our state’s strongest assets – the families and neighborhoods that have direct experience in raising children and dealing with the barriers of racism and poverty. Within all of us, and especially those most affected by racism and poverty, there are the strengths, determination, creativity and wisdom we need to succeed.
As a foundation, we do know that real change takes a long-term commitment from many partners. We intend to start slowly and co-create the path forward with those who would like to join us on this journey. What are the strategies? …the timeline? …the skills we will need to develop? …the benchmarks of progress? We invite you to help us think through these steps, to feel our way toward the incredible challenge and promise that this mission poses.
Imagine what success will look like. We are excited to begin this journey.