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The state chapter of a national organization, Democrats for Education Reform CT advocates for change guided by progressive values. We seek to promote great educational opportunities and achievement for all students by increasing equity, protecting civil rights, and strengthening the social safety net. We are building a political pipeline of Democratic leaders who will improve our education system so that it better serves students and families.
This year, our affiliate, ERN CT, managed to see most of its legislative priorities for the year passed, including the following:
STUDYING TEACHER PENSIONS
In 2021, ERN CT and Equable Institute released a report showing how the state reinforces educational inequities by fully funding local teacher pension obligations—which are largely based on the disparate salary schedules set by local districts. In 2023, the legislature passed a bill establishing a task force to study this issue, and appointed Amy to serve alongside other experts and stakeholders.
BANNING TRANSCRIPT HOLDS
Last year, ERN CT conducted research on the prevalence of the practice of withholding college transcripts from students with unpaid debts—finding that all institutions of higher education (IHEs) in Connecticut engaged in this discriminatory exercise. In 2023, the legislature officially banned IHEs from withholding a student's transcript from a prospective employer due to unpaid student debt.
DEFENDING RIGHT TO READ
In 2021, ERN CT led the Right to Read CT Coalition, which helped to secure passage of the state’s landmark early literacy legislation. In 2023, ERN CT successfully defended that bill, and supported the passage of minor revisions to implementation timelines so that districts can more effectively shift towards evidence-based early literacy practices.
HOUSING OPPORTUNITY AND EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY
For years, ERN CT has worked on a bill concept that would link affordable housing with educational opportunity. In 2023, the legislature passed this original concept in a bill giving districts that are deemed “inclusive” a five percentage point increase to the rate of reimbursement for school construction projects.
PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE
Special shout-out to our partners at the Connecticut Charter Schools Association for their advocacy and leadership on school choice this session. We supported their successful efforts to secure a more fair funding formula for charter schools and to add funding for two new charter schools for the first time in a decade.
In 2023, we have continued to successfully defend the 2021 Right to Read legislation, while monitoring implementation in close collaboration with the Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success.
In March, we co-hosted a legislative forum with the Connecticut Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity and the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. It covered the progress happening within public school districts as educators begin to implement Right to Read. Watch the event here.
Stay tuned for a new parent program that will provide Hartford parents with training in the science of reading, as evidence-based literacy practices begin to be implemented in their children’s classrooms.
Beyond the passage of new legislation banning colleges from withholding transcripts for indebted students seeking employment (Jump to Legislative Wins above)—ERN CT also put out an original piece of research this year.
The report, Still Less for More, provides an update to a 2019 analysis, looking at the costs and outcomes in Connecticut Institutions of Higher Education. In 2023, the report identified that:
The University of Bridgeport has a consistent six-year completion rate below 50%;
Three 4-year colleges have a consistent six-year completion rate at or below 50% for students of color; and
Fifteen 4-year colleges charge students from low-income families high prices, relative to peer institutions across the country.
The report argues that the state ought to invest in public colleges, which have insufficient resources but have great potential to become vehicles of upward mobility.
Teacher Effectiveness and Diversity
This year, ERN CT also started working on modernizing educator preparation and certification. In the fall of 2023, we started to discuss the early phases of a statewide push to address the teacher pipeline, giving substantial credit to the state for its creation of the Connecticut Educator Certification Council.
In December, the state chapter also put out a new brief, The Diversity Gap: 2023 Update, which builds upon last year’s research exploring the pace at which Connecticut is diversifying its educator workforce. The key findings were:
Widening Gaps: 11.2% of educators are teachers of color, as compared to a student population that is 52.5% of color—a gap that is widening over time, not improving.
85 to 1: There are 85 students in Connecticut to each teacher of color, a ratio that is improving over time.
The brief argues that Connecticut should rethink the systems that impact its teacher workforce, redesigning them with an eye towards clarity and inclusivity—because all Connecticut students deserve access to a high-quality, diverse teaching workforce.
More to come on teacher effectiveness and diversity next year!
Thanks for a great year. See you in 2024!