In an extraordinary donation aimed at training Connecticut’s next generation of workers, the founder of one of the world’s largest hedge funds on Friday announced a five-year $100 million commitment that would be matched by the state and other philanthropists.
Ray Dalio, founder of Westport-based Bridgewater Associates, joined his wife Barbara, who leads the couple’s foundation, in a rare public appearance, along with Gov. Ned Lamont and his wife Annie, in making the announcement.
The funds — which will be matched by $100 million from the state and $100 million from other philanthropists and business leaders — will be used to benefit students in under-resourced communities with a specific focus on communities where there is both a high poverty rate and a high concentration of young people who are showing signs of disengagement or disconnection from high school.
It is the largest known philanthropic donation to benefit the state in Connecticut’s history.
“I love public education and I’m always humbled and inspired by everything you do,” said Barbara Dalio, after receiving a standing ovation from a packed gymnasium of students and leaders from throughout the state for her contributions to public education.
“We’re really excited, and I know that there are not many answers, but I know that if we come together we will find them,” she said. “We are looking forward to start brainstorming all the possibilities and hope that there is for students.”
Lamont said the partnership will form an independent not-for-profit that will bring together representation from Dalio Philanthropies, state government and public schools, to shape programming and administer resources to benefit students who are at risk of not finishing high school. The goal, he said, is to get those students through high school and into jobs.
“This is $300 million invested in you. Invested in our urban high schools, invested in rural high schools, making sure that each and every kid gets there best shot,” Lamont said, addressing the crowd at East Hartford High School.
Previously, Dalio Philanthropies contributed $65 million to public education programs in Connecticut since 2008. Of that, more than $50 million was donated in the past four years alone. That does not include separate grants made to higher education.
Ray Dalio, who founded the world’s biggest hedge fund and is the state’s wealthiest resident, credited his wife for her work in public education over the past decade and told his own story of growing up in a middle class family on Long Island.
“Basically all you really need is a good public school education, people who care about you, and then a very good wife,” Dalio said.
“When you think about the best investment you can make, it has to be in the children’s education and the teachers,” he added. “It’s fundamental. Education can’t be theoretical, it’s got to deliver an outcome, and if you don’t have an outcome in sight when you’re going through high school, you’re not going to have the pull to get through it and that’s what we’re on a mission to do. It was so great that when we would discuss this with the governor, like ‘Let’s do this thing.’ And we can do this thing.”
Bridgewater, which manages $160 billion in assets, received $22 million in grants and loans from the state under former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2016 to expand its headquarters. Lamont’s chief of staff, Ryan Drajewicz, worked at Bridgewater prior to joining the Lamont administration.
Lamont said the first $20 million installment of state government’s $100 million match to the Dalio foundation contribution will come from the state’s fiscal reserves, which could exceed $2.2 billion by the end of the year.
The partnership has generated bipartisan support from legislators.
“We appreciate Governor Lamont’s out of the box creative thinking in moving the state forward in pursuit of alternative methods of funding, such as a public-private partnership,” the legislature’s Republican leaders, Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, said in a joint statement. “We share the goal of creating more opportunity for Connecticut’s youth. This is an idea that is certainly worth exploring, but also that needs to be vetted in great detail. The wellbeing of Connecticut and all who live here is of the utmost importance to all of us and we look forward to many more in-depth conversations to ensure that all people in Connecticut have the best opportunity to succeed.”
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