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: policy solutions to address systemic racism in education, and Senator Murphy’s calls for desegregating schools.
Leaders Call for Policy Solutions on Systemic Racism in Education
In our forum yesterday, we heard from DFER National President Shavar Jeffries and State Representative Jason Rojas about how systemic racism impacts public education. Shavar observed that, even in modern times, the lasting stigma associated with the slavery and
Jim Crow eras—in which black people were not seen as full human beings— "continues to rear its head in terms of implicit biases, often explicit as well, about who is really smart, who is really talented." He and Representative Rojas then had a dynamic discussion about policy solutions that begin to address inequities in public education—highlighting accountability, school choice, affordable housing, and literacy.
On the topic of affordable housing, in particular, Representative Rojas discussed a bill on which DFER CT had been collaborating prior to COVID-19’s abrupt shut-down of the 2020 legislative session. It would have linked education and housing needs by providing bonuses in school construction grants to municipalities that undertake serious efforts to create more inclusive housing and zoning policies. On literacy, DFER CT State Director Amy Dowell described Connecticut's stagnation in terms of improving reading outcomes, emphasizing the need for science-based reading instruction that incorporates phonics. Representative Rojas applauded prior efforts of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and the Neag School of Education—through work from leaders like Representative Miller, Senator Winfield, and Senator McCrory—to develop CK3LI, a research-based program that provided intensive reading services to students who were behind, coupled with comprehensive professional development for educators on effective literacy instruction. "It's a matter of having the political will and the resources," he offered, "to say, 'all districts need to use this reading model.'"
US Senator Chris Murphy Seeks School Desegregation in CT
Amidst protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, US Sen. Chris Murphy has been vocal about the need to desegregate the nation’s schools, particularly spotlighting Connecticut. In an article with Education Week, the Senator noted, “What's important at the outset is to create an expectation that if you are a white ally of the Black Lives Matter movement, that likely will involve supporting some change that impacts your life, not just one that impacts the lives of people of color.” In 2019, Senator Murphy introduced "The Strength in Diversity Act," a bill that would support voluntary efforts to diversify local schools.