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: Trump courts evangelicals by protecting school prayer; how unfair housing policies are tied to educational opportunity in CT; and the results of the Greenwich special elections.
Trump’s “Cultural War” To Defend School Prayer
As President Trump angles for evangelical support in the 2020 elections, on Thursday he declared that his administration is engaged in a “cultural war” to defend school prayer from the far left. The administration will remove a requirement that faith-based providers (e.g. child welfare organizations or educational nonprofits) give notice of their religious character and of beneficiaries’ rights to an alternative provider. According to critics, this scheme is designed to easily enable religious groups' access to federal taxpayer dollars. Additionally, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is updating guidance for public schools: (a) reaffirming students’ right to pray, as long as not encouraged by school staff; and (b) requiring districts to notify the Education Department of any complaints made against them related to school prayer. In their coverage of the news, The Washington Post notes that there is no similar reporting requirement with regard to racial or sexual discrimination complaints.
Mayor Bronin on State Segregation
On Friday, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin called upon state and federal officials to break up concentrations of poverty by tackling regressive housing policies that have kept Hartford's neighborhoods segregated. He observed that because most Connecticut communities refuse to allow housing units for the poor—those units that do get built wind up concentrated in high poverty neighborhoods. Bronin pointed out, "we have—by policy—made this a community that can only be poor." This legislative session, beginning next month, ERN CT is addressing how housing opportunity is inextricably linked to educational opportunity. We will be advocating for legislation that uses bonuses in school construction grants as an incentive for municipalities that work to make housing access more fair.
One More Special Election
Yesterday, Connecticut held a final special election of the month for a Greenwich State House seat, and former Republican congressional candidate Harry Arora won with 54% of the vote. Previously, the seat was held for over a decade by Republican Fred Camillo who has been newly elected as First Selectman. Greenwich has seen an increase in Democratic registration in recent years, and other legislative seats in town have flipped since Donald Trump was elected. However, this seat has remained out of reach even as the margins decrease. The outcome ultimately leaves the State House in the same standing, with a 91-60 Democratic majority.