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CREC Selected as Inaugural Member of The Bridges Collaborative, A Nationwide Initiative to Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Education
Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) announced today that it was selected to join the inaugural cohort of The Bridges Collaborative, a first-of-its-kind grassroots initiative to advance racial and socioeconomic integration and equity in America’s schools. The Bridges Collaborative, which officially launches this week, is coordinated by The Century Foundation (TCF), a national think tank that has helped steer the conversation on school integration for decades.
The collaborative is unique in the world of K-12 education for its size, diversity, and mission. CREC is joining 55 other organizations—including 27 school districts, 17 charter schools, and 12 housing organizations—which together represent more than 3.5 million children nationwide. Together, the collaborative spans more than 20 states and includes representatives from three of the five largest school districts in the country, along with other organizations of varying size, geographies, and student demographics.
CREC’s core values — Demand Equity, Expect Excellence, Embrace Collaboration, and Act with Courage — are embodied in its everyday work for children and families. In the spring of 2020, CREC adopted a statement of diversity, equity, and inclusion:
“CREC is an intentionally diverse social justice organization whose members work to acknowledge, respect, and empathize with people of all different identifiers, such as race, socioeconomic status, gender identity and expression, education, age, ability, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, language, nationality, and religion. We commit to affirm and honor the lived experiences of others, to willingly challenge inherited beliefs and ideologies, and consequently learn, grow, and serve.”
Driven by this statement and the core values, CREC’s commitment to increasing access to integrated schools is continually demonstrated in work with students in the 16 CREC Magnet Schools and the partnership with 27 districts in the Hartford Region Open Choice Program. CREC Magnet Schools and Open Choice serve over 10,000 urban and suburban students from various ethnic, socioeconomic, and racial backgrounds.
“CREC is thrilled to be joining this impressive group of organizations working around the country to ensure that all of our students benefit from the promise of public education,” said CREC Executive Director Greg Florio. “This year has not been easy for our students. We know that any effort to achieve successful school integration will not occur in a vacuum, which is why we are especially excited about the opportunity to connect with, engage and learn from other national school leaders. We are doing this for Connecticut’s children and our community’s future.”
This unprecedented effort comes at a pivotal moment for the cause of school integration. Research has repeatedly demonstrated the myriad positive benefits for students who attend diverse and integrated schools, including higher test scores, higher graduation rates, and a host of positive social and civic outcomes. Despite the clear benefits, however, progress on integration has been minimal in recent decades—although those trends are beginning to change, especially with growing awareness on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on students and schools.
Over the next two years, the collaborative will serve as a hub for practitioners from across the country, providing school and housing leaders the opportunity to learn from one another, build grassroots momentum, and develop successful Capitol Region Education Council www.crec.org integration approaches. The initiative is led by Stefan Louis Lallinger, who most recently served as a Special Assistant to the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education and is a former school principal in New Orleans. Lallinger’s grandfather, Louis Redding, was a lawyer who argued the landmark school desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education, before the Supreme Court in 1954.
“Never before has there been an organization like the Bridges Collaborative. The sheer breadth and depth of knowledge and experience represented by the 56 groups in this cohort sends a clear message: we will deliver the high-quality, integrated school experience that the next generation deserves,” said Lallinger. “COVID-19 and the racial reckoning we’re experiencing underscore that the fight for racial and economic justice is far from over. To have any shot at winning that fight, we must first tackle the rampant inequities and segregation in our nation’s education system. That’s exactly what the Bridges Collaborative was built for.”