Dr. Carolanne Marquis testifies in support of HB 5101: Opportunity Scholarships

Co-Chairs and distinguished members of the Finance Committee,

My name is Dr. Carolanne Marquis. After a career as an education administrator and college president, I have had the privilege for the past nine years to serve low-income families throughout Connecticut. As CEO of the Connecticut Center for Educational Excellence (CTCEE), we partner with parents seeking scholarships to private K-8 schools.

I am testifying in support of Bill 5101. Parents understand the educational needs of their children and unique situations of their family. When granted an opportunity scholarship, children can achieve their dreams and goals which were previously severely challenged by the obstacles of poverty, opportunity and often lack of education within the family.

Opportunity scholarships give parents the hand-UP they seek for their children, as they commit to the responsibility of the balance of tuition not covered by the scholarship.

Last year, upon launching the scholarship program of CTCEE, we received over 730 qualified applications from 78 CT municipalities in less than 3 months. This staggering response continued throughout our first year, bringing in a total of more than 900 applications.

We learn of family challenges that go far beyond economic restraints. Parents have often been unable to comprehend or even worse – have been overlooked or not heard. The default rate of payments from scholarship parents is less than 3%. 93.3% of scholarship students have been retained year-to-year, completing the 8th grade and all continuing to high school and often college or a trade school.

Nine years ago, a Bridgeport Mom reached out for assistance. Her oldest daughter, then in 4th grade, was devastated by a family tragedy. The daughter began withdrawing and quickly became a target at school, being severely bullied. She ran away from her 4th grade class on several occasions.

We found a scholarship for the oldest daughter and kindergarten sister at a private school that was well known for their small classroom, individualized attention, instruction, and nurturing environment.

This week, Mom called to announce that her oldest daughter, now a senior in high school, had applied, been accepted and was offered scholarships to no less than 6 colleges. After Mom finished her GED – she enrolled in a degree program to become a Cardiac/Surgery Nurse. She promised, if you help me help my children – I will study and make them proud.”

An entire family joins their scholarship opportunity son as he does his homework each evening, so they can learn as well. Their son entered his private school in kindergarten unable to speak any English. He now devotes his lunchtime, each day, to tutor new students in English.

Interestingly, Math is often cited as “a favorite subject”. One 8th grade student is already studying advanced calculus. Several 6-8th grade students wanted us to know they were already receiving college prep classes.

We can do so much more by offering these families the best choice in the education they deserve and that meets their individual needs.

On behalf of our kids- please pass bill 5101 which will enable our donors to increase their scholarship giving, as has happened in so many other states.

Thank you for your consideration.