2021

A Year in Review

We are always trying to look toward the future, and most importantly what impact we can make for Connecticut students. But for today, let’s take a quick look back at 2021. 
 

Much to come in 2022!  Thank you for your help as partners and friends, advocates and leaders. Wishing you and all the amazing students in Connecticut health, happiness, and big dreams. 

 

- The DFER CT Team - 

Legislation to Overhaul
Early Literacy

Our affiliate, Education Reform Now CT, developed and led a diverse coalition called Right to Read CT that passed landmark legislation to overhaul how the state addresses early literacy instruction. Right to Read CT built a broad network of support for this legislation and met with allies, school district leaders, advocates, and state officials across Connecticut and nationally.

The legislation was ultimately incorporated into the state's budget implementer bill. It establishes a Center for Literacy at the State Department of Education to oversee all of the state's reading instruction and monitor implementation.

The law also requires all districts to update their early literacy curricula in grades K-3 from a list aligned to the Science of Reading, which will be approved by the Center.

As the Hartford Courant noted after the close of the legislative session, the passage of the Right to Read legislation will touch every K-3 literacy classroom in Connecticut, and hundreds of thousands of students when implemented.

Click right for more coverage of this effort.

WORLDWIDE

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ERN CT helped to lead a statewide conversation about the intersectionality of affordable housing and public education—including participation on the Desegregate CT coalition, advocacy for an original piece of legislation linking school construction grants to municipal efforts that increase affordable housing options, and public awareness. Look for more on this in 2022.

Intersectional Advocacy:
Affordable Housing

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Passed!

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This year, ERN CT saw the passage of legislation to remove non-medical exemptions to school immunization requirements—so that all families have access to safe and healthy classrooms free of preventable disease.

This is the result of a multi-year effort that began in 2019, in the wake of an inter-state measles outbreak, and that was ironically put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered both schools and the legislature in 2020.

Safe and Healthy
Schools

COVID Relief:
Federal Funds

In January, for instance, ERN CT released a guide for the state to help plan for strategic use of federal relief funds. Through federal contacts in ERN's national office, the CT chapter was also able to provide an early briefing on the American Rescue Plan and the incoming education dollars that would impact Connecticut. A later brief in March identified lessons from states about impactful strategies for allocating Connecticut's relief funds at the state and local levels. 

Under the pillars of both resource equity and accountability, ERN CT was heavily involved in conversations about how the state can best make use of COVID-19 relief funds in a manner that benefits students.

Polling the Public
on Education Issues

In October, the Connecticut chapter of Education Reform Now Advocacy commissioned a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, ahead of the municipal elections. Although many of the education policy topics that were surveyed might be considered controversial nationally, the poll found a lot of consensus among CT voters, in favor of equity and fairness. Specifically, the poll found that: (1) 85% of likely 2022 general election voters are familiar with Critical Race Theory, and a plurality know that it's not actually being taught in CT public schools; (2) 56% favor prohibiting the use of legacy preferences to prioritize the college admission of children of alumni; and (3) Nearly two thirds of respondents favor vaccines and masks for both students and teachers. Additionally, the poll showed promising news for Governor Ned Lamont who seemed to be in a strong position heading into the 2022 gubernatorial election.

Condemning
Discriminatory School Discipline

Following a record of standing up against discriminatory school discipline policies, Amy spoke up again this fall when the CT GOP began to build heavy-handed rhetoric about harsher discipline for youth who commit crimes.

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"Stop punishing kids in the classroom," she urged in an opinion for the CT Post, which argues that we need to invest more in students' education, not in punitive measures.

Then in November, ERN CT co-hosted a virtual forum on the topic with the ERN national team, featuring an engaging conversation with US Senator Chris Murphy.

Equitable Financing of Teacher Pensions

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This year, ERN CT teamed up with the Equable Institute to release a research report that looks at resource equity from an original angle—by establishing a new metric for the state: the Per Pupil Pension Subsidy. The report, titled "Who Benefits? How Teacher Pension Financing Impacts Student Equity in Connecticut," explores the implications of having the state fully fund each local school district's pension obligations—in spite of the fact that local school districts set their own salaries.

The report shows how the state's coverage of teacher pensions amounts to a subsidy for school district compensation packages. Looked at on a per student basis, the Per Pupil Pension Subsidy allocates more dollars to higher performing, more affluent, less diverse school districts. That puts districts with the greatest need at a structural and systemic disadvantage in terms of compensating their teaching workforces.