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Dems Weigh Tensions Over School Closures; New Leadership for Danbury Charter; Elite Colleges Sued

Dems Weigh Tensions Over School Closures

An article in this weekend's New York Times explores the growing tensions between districts, parents, teacher unions, and elected officials amidst the Omicron surge. Chicago Public Schools shut down for five days last week during a standoff between the teachers union and the public school system over whether classes should be in-person or remote. Similarly, the article mentions union leadership in Jefferson County, Kentucky; Los Angeles, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Newark, New Jersey—all cited as voicing the possibility of a return to remote learning.

But what can elected Democrats do as they thread the difficult needle of continuing to support what is best for students, while acknowledging the complex political and social moment? Our national office conducted polling in November (featured in the New York Times piece mentioned above), finding that when Democrats lost the gubernatorial race in Virginia, school disruptions were a motivating factor for swing voters. DFER also hosted a virtual panel in December about the role that teacher unions will have on the midterms, featuring Brian Stryker (ALG Research) and Keri Rodrigues (National Parents Union). If you missed it, you can watch it here.

Here in Connecticut, Governor Lamont has pushed to require in-person learning, mirroring the stance of US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. While acknowledging this is easy for no constituency, we see setting this statewide standard as better for students and families, and more equitable across districts.

New Leadership for Danbury Charter

According to yesterday’s News-Times, there is a new operator committed to managing the opening of a proposed charter school in Danbury. The State Board of Education issued an initial certificate of approval for the new school back in 2018, but its opening has yet to be funded by the legislature. As of this month, John Taylor, the Executive Director of Booker T. Washington Charter School—a 2018 Connecticut “school of distinction” in New Haven—will assume the role of leader of the approved school. The revised plans under his leadership will need to go back to the state for approval. Rep. David Arconti said, “We want, I want our kids to have the best educational experience they can have, which prepares them for their lives, for their adult lives, so if Mr. Taylor and his organization think they can provide a solution or be part of that, then I welcome getting to know them and hearing what they have to bring.”

Elite Colleges Sued for Alleged Violation of AntiTrust Laws

A group of students filed suit on Sunday, alleging that sixteen elite universities (including Yale) have colluded in a price-fixing scheme to reduce the amount of financial aid they provide to students. Colleges are allowed to work together to determine financial aid, but only if they engage in “need blind” admissions—designed to create more diverse student bodies. However, the suit claims that the schools have used a common methodology to assess applicants’ ability to pay—permitting the schools both to raise net tuition prices and prioritize wealthier applicants who won’t require scholarships and grants.

Yale asserts that its financial aid policy is “100% compliant with all applicable laws.”

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