Transparency related to a board tasked with overseeing a partnership between the state, a billionaire hedge-fund manager, and his wife is still an issue for lawmakers, even as that board gets together for the first time.
The Partnership for Connecticut board met in public for the first time Friday. It will manage a contribution made by Dalio Philanthropies, a private charitable foundation run by Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio and his wife Barbara, to help the state’s neediest students.
Back in April, the Dalios announced they’d be giving Connecticut $100 million over five years to help kids from low-income backgrounds who are struggling to stay in school. The state is matching that money to make it $200 million.
But when the state passed its latest two-year budget in the summer, lawmakers found out that the board in charge of overseeing the program wouldn’t be subject to state ethics and disclosure laws.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby) is on the board, and she raised a concern about one of the board’s first moves -- entering into a closed-door executive session. She wants all of the work the board does to be more transparent.
“In the interest of moving forward, I will certainly take part in this executive session,” Klarides said. “I would ask that, even though that it is with reservations, that going forward this board may consider the items we do take up in executive session in the future.”
Connecticut’s new education commissioner didn’t seem phased by any of the transparency uncertainty Friday.
Speaking on Connecticut Public Radio's Where We Live, Cardona was asked about the concerns over transparency within the Partnership for Connecticut board and he answered by saying he’s excited to work Dalio Philanthropies. He said he’s seen firsthand what it can do.
“I can tell you stories of students who’s lives are better because of the support they received through that partnership,” Cardona said. “Now, one of the unique things about that partnership is it allows educators to make decisions because they respect the background of educators to make what the best decisions are for kids.”
Cardona used to be the assistant superintendent of Meriden Public Schools. Meriden was one of a few cities where teachers and community leaders partnered up to unlock student potential under a program supported by the Dalios called CT RISE.
He said to expect that educators on the Partnership for Connecticut board to be called on in a similar way.
Also at Friday’s board meeting, the Partnership for Connecticut appointed Erik Clemons, president and CEO for the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, as its chairman.