Special Session Edition: If it's Thursday, It's Time for Wednesday Weekly!
This weekly segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. On the roster this week: Inside the Budget Implementer; Unpacking the State’s Plan for ARP ESSER Funds; and Quick Links to Other Must-Reads.
House and Senate Pass Budget Implementer Bill
After midnight last night, the House passed a Budget Implementer Bill, SB 1202, which was voted out of the Senate on Tuesday and covered all of the critical resources within the state’s biennium budget. The bill now heads back to the Senate today for votes on a few amendments, and then on to the Governor for his signature. Appropriations Chairs Cathy Osten and Toni Walker did a commendable job on the floor presenting this complex and progressive legislation! Among the topics included in the Implementer were some notable wins for students:
The Right to Read Legislation (hurray!)—a new policy that all districts will use a research-based literacy curriculum program grounded in the Science of Reading by 2023 and report the reading programs they are utilizing to the state. This legislation also founds a Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success to oversee a statewide early literacy response, and it funds an expanded targeted intervention program in the Alliance Districts.
Minority Teacher Recruitment Legislation—tasking the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) with administering the “minority candidate certification, retention or residency year program” to assist minority teacher candidates in enrolling in a residency program and assist boards of education in hiring and retaining minority candidates. This new legislation requires Alliance Districts to use a portion of any funding increases to partner with operators of residency programs to enroll and place minority candidates.
Improvements to the ECS Grant—adding additional weights phased in for English Learners and students living in concentrated poverty.
Charter Funding Legislation—shifting from a set per pupil state charter grant amount to a formula-based grant, with a foundation amount matching that of traditional public schools.
Automatic Admissions to the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities—qualifying all Connecticut students with a standard grade point average and minimum class ranking, thereby increasing access to high-quality, affordable options.
Unpacking the CT State Department of Education’s ARP ESSER Plan
Last week, the CSDE announced that it had submitted to the US Department of Education its required plan describing how it will effectively use the incoming $1.1B of federal ARP ESSER funds. 90% ($995M) will go to districts and 10% ($110M) will be used as a state set-aside, of which the CSDE plans to invest a portion in:
A statewide K-8 model curriculum;
Online supplemental curricula provided by Apex Learning (accelerating learning for 6-12 through standards-aligned coursework, and summer credit recovery for grades 9-12);
Online supplemental curricula provided by Defined Learning (accelerating learning for grades K-12 through project-based pathways with a career focus);
Expansion grants for programs that can offer new slots in existing summer camps or programs;
Innovation Grants to programs delivering innovative summer enrichment programming; and
Reserve funding for pandemic-related costs in the five public school districts and endowed academies that are not eligible for ARP ESSER funding.
The CSDE’s plan observes that equalizing access to high-quality education and support is a prerequisite to advancing educational equity. We agree and particularly appreciate the CSDE’s first three priorities in the above list because they will set consistent academic expectations and resources across district lines.
Beyond these buckets of investment, the CSDE also plans to reserve funds to address unforeseen needs and is considering investments in other evidence-based strategies, such as mental health supports and high-dosage tutoring (HDT). Kudos! Back in March, when ERN CT released its recommendations for using the ARP ESSER grants by the state and local districts—HDT and school-based counseling systems were among the top priorities recommended.