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: our education equity agenda, affordable housing gaining traction, and increases to costs for CT State Universities.
An Equity in Education Agenda
As legislators and policymakers prepare to begin another legislative session (2/5 start date!), we’re working to advance our 2020 policy agenda. ICYMI: Amy kicked off the year with an Op Ed in CTNewsJunkie, describing how recent polling on public opinion within the Democratic party is guiding our equity-driven policy agenda. Our policies fall into four buckets:
Fair Access to High Quality: This session, we are working with leaders to link educational opportunity, access to affordable housing, and more regional options for families. We’ll advocate for the expansion of the Open Choice program (1 pager here), as well as a new idea that will incentivize municipal efforts to increase affordable and inclusive housing with bonuses in school construction grants (The MORE Act).
Students Prepared for the Future: Addressing some of the concerns raised by our report on higher education in CT (Less for More), we are focused on increased accountability and mentorship for low income students and students of color, and prioritizing affordability for all in the state.
Healthy Schools for All: We are also working to make schools safe for all students, removing all non-medical exemptions to school immunization requirements (1 pager here) and stabilizing Excess Costs for special education for every district.
Public School Choice: CT families need more education options for their children. We will continue to support a unified funding formula, seek a renewed RFP process for additional charter schools, and support the opening of Danbury Prospect Charter School, approved by the State Board of Education, that could significantly address over enrollment in the district.
We’ll be sending out a press release about our robust plans for the 2020 legislative session this week, but as a Wednesday Weekly reader, you get this first look!
Affordable Housing Conversation Gains Traction
Amidst a growing consensus that housing inequality—exacerbated by exclusive zoning requirements—has created a segregated Connecticut, state officials and legislators have been vowing to take on the issue. Governor Lamont has said that he will seek to tie transportation upgrades to increases in affordable housing in affluent communities. Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney also agreed that it's time to break up pockets of poverty and prevent systemic exclusion. On Monday, Senator Anwar and Representative Brandon McGee—co-chairs of the legislature's Housing Committee—held a press conference about needed housing reforms, calling it a "Right to Housing" agenda. (See our related effort, the MORE Act.) On Sunday, Hearst Connecticut Media editorialized in support of these efforts, calling affordable housing a fight that legislators need to wage, in the interest of equity.
On Monday, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark Ojakian proposed a plan that would keep community college costs flat, but increase tuition and fees at State Universities by 3-4 percent. This news was announced just months after the release of our report on higher education (Less for More), which—among other findings—identified both Southern Connecticut State University and Western Connecticut State University as standing out for poor graduation rates and high net prices for low-income students, each as compared to similar schools in other states serving similar student populations. (We’ve got a throwback to Amy’s Hartford Courant OpEd about the report’s findings below!)