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CT House and Senate Ban Transcript Trap; CEA Calls for More; Final Negotiations Over Biennial Budget

🎓 CT House and Senate Pass Ban on Transcript Trap

Last night, the Connecticut House of Representatives passed SB 922, An Act Prohibiting An Institution Of Higher Education From Withholding Transcripts. Running for the second year in a row, the bill would prohibit Connecticut higher education institutions from withholding a student’s transcript from a prospective employer due to unpaid student debt. Following research conducted last year by our affiliate, ERN CT, regarding the prevalence of this practice in Connecticut—the Higher Education Committee advanced a similar bill in 2022. That bill received a joint favorable report, and was passed by the Senate, but was never called in the House. The cause was therefore revived by the Committee this year.

ERN CT's 2022 research had found that 100% of Connecticut four-year colleges engage in this practice, an exercise that is both unfair—preventing students from claiming credits they've already earned—and discriminatory— disproportionately targeting low-income students. In October 2022, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also explicitly defined this practice as "abusive," finding that it takes advantage of a consumer who cannot protect his or her own interests. It directed institutional lenders to cease the practice.

As a CT Mirror article by Jessica Bravo noted back in March, students can be caught in a Catch-22, unable to secure the type of full-time employment that will allow them to repay what they owe. A News-Times article last month also quoted Education Committee Co-Chair Senator Slap as calling the practice “penny wise and pound foolish.”

ERN CT Executive Director Amy Dowell testified in support of the bill again this year, observing: “This punitive and excessive practice prevents students who have run into financial hardship from pursuing further educational opportunities or productive jobs. It transforms a road bump into a roadblock—significantly impeding the success of students who are struggling.”

According to Jessika Harkay's reporting for the CT Mirror last night, once the 2023 bill is signed, Connecticut will be the ninth state to pass such a law. Thank you to Higher Education Co-Chairs Sen. Slap and Rep. Haddad, and Rep. Josh Elliott, as well as the Democratic leadership who have pushed the bill over the finish line this year. Having now passed both the Senate and House, the bill is headed to the Governor’s desk!

Teachers’ Union Calls for More

Yesterday, CT News Junkie covered Connecticut Education Association (CEA) President Kate Dias' comments at the Capitol regarding teacher shortages. Following the failure of a bill that would have set a minimum salary cap for teachers, Dias said that the union wants to see the legislature investing more in the teaching profession. But the article also quotes Education Committee Co-Chair Representative Jeff Currey as observing that plenty of legislation this year will address teaching conditions in Connecticut.

Just last week, for instance, the House passed HB 6880, An Act Concerning Teachers and Paraeducators. Among numerous changes that will impact work conditions for teachers, that bill:

  • Limits the use of edTPA, a pre-service assessment, which will only be used as an accountability measure for teacher preparation programs, after the bill's passage.

  • Raises the age at which children can start kindergarten

  • Adds new requirements for play-based learning in preschool and kindergarten, with aligned professional development; and

  • Requires school boards to conduct exit surveys for teachers who voluntarily leave.

  • (Incidentally, this bill also will establish a task force to study the per pupil equity of teacher pension funding. More on that in last week's edition.)

As far as teacher satisfaction with working conditions and benefits in Connecticut, the exit surveys could become a particularly promising tool. According to coverage from the Hartford Courant, the CEA estimates that there are between 1,300 - 1,700 vacancies this school year. Before we can solve these problems, however, we need to understand why they’re happening.

Final Negotiations Over Biennial Budget

Don’t miss CT Mirror's Keith Phaneuf this week, unpacking the history of the state’s spending cap and the possibility of an impending budget crisis. His article quotes Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney as describing an "inflexible cap system that can respond neither to unusual events... nor to long-term trends coming to a head" - think pandemic, inflation, and long-underfunded social services—like K-12 and higher education.

In particular, Connecticut’s inflexible spending patterns could lead to serious repercussions for areas like higher education. The article says that the state colleges and universities could face big cuts in 2024-25, potentially leading to both layoffs and diminished course offerings. We expect budget negotiations to be finalized this week.

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