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: Education on the Ballot on Election Night, COVID Vaccines Cleared for 5+, and Teacher Turnover in Hartford
Education on the Ballot: Results of the Municipal Elections
The results of Connecticut’s 2021 municipal elections have been trickling in, and we’ve been watching several races closely that centered on education.
In Guilford, Republicans and Democrats have been clashing over “Critical Race Theory” (CRT). Earlier this year, Republican nominations to the Board of Education were swept by candidates running on an insidious platform of opposition to CRT being taught in public schools. In September, DFER CT State Director Amy Dowell predicted in a CT Mirror article that taking these extreme, incendiary positions would backfire over the long-term. A poll we commissioned and released last week reinforced that assertion, revealing that 85% of the likely 2022 general election voters in Connecticut consider themselves to be familiar with CRT, and a plurality are aware that it's not actually being taught in public schools. Mark Pazniokas reported last night that, amidst an extraordinary turnout in Guilford, voters had decisively rejected the Republican candidates who ran on the anti-CRT platform. Congratulations to the slate of winners—including long-time friend of DFER Arnold Skretta!
In New Britain, Mayor Erin Stewart faced a competitive challenge from State Representative Bobby Sanchez, a Democrat, an ally for all students, and the co-chairman of the legislature’s Education Committee. Last night, Stewart claimed victory, securing a historic fifth term.
In Danbury—following former Mayor Mark Boughton’s departure for a position in the Lamont administration—Republican Dean Esposito has won a close race against Democrat Roberto Alves. Esposito has been an outspoken advocate for opening a state approved charter school in overcrowded Danbury, one of the most central issues of this race. The Danbury Mayor’s office has not gone to Democrats in two decades.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff has observed that these races may serve as an imperfect test of whether extreme messages are resonating with voters. Nationwide, parents are expressing distress over the state of their children’s education and mental health during the pandemic. Leading into the midterms in 2022, Democrats can win seats by talking less about inflammatory issues like CRT and instead committing to plans that support families, make schools welcoming places for all, and address lost academic ground for kids.
COVID Vaccines Cleared for 5 and Up
Reporters must be exhausted today! Last night, the news broke that Connecticut had already begun to administer some of the first COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11. The vaccine was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last Friday and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) late Tuesday. The Hartford Courant's coverage yesterday lists everything parents need to know, including that Governor Lamont has suggested that the statewide school mask mandate could end if there is enough vaccination among school-aged children. In his press statement yesterday, he observed that, with this roll-out, nearly all students can finally receive this protection for themselves and their communities. Under State Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani, the state had already ordered 100,000 doses of the vaccine for children, in anticipation of the CDC's approval.
Spotlight: Teacher Turnover in Hartford
A Monday story in The Courant explored high rates of teacher turnover in the Hartford Public School district–where lower-pay and time for support lead one in four teachers to move on after their first year of teaching. Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez and her school board have been working on a plan to use federal COVID-19 relief funds to increase teacher compensation, in an effort to improve retention. However, any workable plan will need to account for an impending fiscal cliff when the relief funds run dry. A second caveat is that not all outgoing teachers cite salary as the driver for leaving Hartford. District leadership are weighing various proposals, such as raising salaries for more experienced teachers; raising salaries for hard-to-staff positions; adding stipends for teachers who work in the highest-need schools or work extended days; and generating savings by denying pay step increases to teachers who are evaluated below proficient. We’ll be watching as this interesting policy debate unfolds.