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Hedge Fund Billionaire Makes Record Donation To Connecticut Public Schools

East Hartford Superintendent Nathan Quesnel speaks at the announcement Friday April 5, watched by Governor Ned Lamont and Ray and Barbara Dalio.
Adam Hushin
Connecticut Public Radio
East Hartford Superintendent Nathan Quesnel speaks at the announcement Friday April 5, watched by Governor Ned Lamont and Ray and Barbara Dalio.

Billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio and his wife Barbara are making a $100 million donation to Connecticut Public Schools. It’s part of what the state hopes will be a $300 million public private partnership. 

Connecticut’s schools have the largest achievement gap in the nation, and Governor Ned Lamont is hoping to make an impact with this investment.

He said the state itself will raise $100 million to match the Dalios’ donation, and they’ll be looking for $100 million more in private funds.

Lamont made the announcement at East Hartford High School.

“This is $300 million invested in you, invested in urban high schools, invested in rural high schools, making sure that each and every kid gets their best shot,” he said.

Dalio manages the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, headquartered in Westport. He’s expressed his dismay with the Connecticut school system before, saying too many students are disengaged.

“I was very lucky in my life to be able to live the American dream, right? And what it means, most fundamentally, is equal opportunity, and most fundamentally, equal opportunity in education,” he said.

A non-profit entity made up of educators, representatives from Dalio Philanthropies, and state government employees will decide how the funds should be distributed, but there's little clarity as yet on what the specific goals of the effort will be, or on how districts will access the funds.

But in cash-strapped districts, any prospect of additional funds is welcome. “The thought of the state and philanthropy coming together in a partnership to support kids, and kids in East Hartford, that’s a really special concept and a very big deal,” said East Hartford's superintendent Nathan Quesnel.

Previous large scale charitable donations in public schools have a mixed record -- a $100 million effort in New Jersey funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2010 was widely criticized as a failure.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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