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May 19, 2020

Dalios’ exit spells end for education Partnership

PHOTO | New Haven BIZ Barbara Dalio: ‘I am not a politician and I never signed up to become one.’

Greenwich hedge-fund billionaire Ray Dalio and his wife have decided to pull the plug on the public-education initiative they launched a year ago with a $100 million commitment.

In a written statement released Tuesday morning, Partnership for Connecticut co-founder and Director Barbara Dalio wrote: “Today we are announcing our intent to withdraw from the Partnership. We’ve tried hard over the past 15 months to make this unique model work, but it has become clear that it’s not working because of political fighting. I am not a politician and I never signed up to become one. I only want to help people. Through this experience I’ve learned about our broken political system and I don’t see a path through it to help people.”

The Partnership for Connecticut was launched last April by the Dalios as a public-private collaboration to help “disengaged and disconnected” young people complete secondary education and embark on a career path. The Dalios’ $100 million was matched by a $100 million commitment from state government and amid plans to try to raise an equivalent additional sum through private philanthropic sources.

From the beginning the effort was roiled by controversy: Was it public, and therefore subject to public disclosure laws about its operations both in the light of day and behind closed doors, or a private effort that could operate as its wealthy patrons directed? Last spring the General Assembly in a controversial vote exempted the Partnership from Freedom of Information and state ethics laws.

That controversy came to a head following the March hiring of Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, also of Greenwich, as chief executive officer at a salary of $247,500. After barely a month on the job Schmitt-Carey was asked to resign May 4 by Partnership Chairman Erik Clemons for reasons that were not disclosed.

The Schmitt-Carey revelation came the same week as the Partnership’s announcement of its intention to purchase 60,000 laptop computers for public high-school students in poor districts at a cost of $24 million. Of those, 5,700 were earmarked for the city of New Haven, according to a spokesman for Mayor Justin Elicker.

Barbara Dalio said Tuesday that she and her husband would pay all or most of the state’s portion of the purchase price for the laptops. She also said the Dalios’ commitment to contribute $100 million over five years to improve public education in Connecticut would continue.

Instead, “We’ll work through Dalio Philanthropies [the couple’s 501(c)(3)] and we’ll work with people who want to help others above all else,” Barbara Dalio wrote.

Just not in Partnership with state government.

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