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: reopening schools and rebuilding trust; how to spend federal relief funds; and the Cardona Countdown.
An Absence of Trust: Disconnected Students and Safety Fears
According to state data, students who are learning entirely remotely are more likely to be absent from school than those who spend some time on in-person learning. Unfortunately, populations of students that were traditionally underserved before the pandemic (low-income, learning disabled, English Learners, etc.) are also more likely to be learning entirely remotely. It’s now well-established that in-person learning experiences are of better academic quality and are preferable for kids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also found very little evidence of COVID-19 spread within schools that take reasonable precautions, indicating, once again, that schools can and should safely reopen in-person. As a result, state leaders are looking to boost in-person learning opportunities. Last week, in the context of district applications for federal relief funds, the State Department of Education encouraged ideas such as high dosage tutoring and extra learning time through extended days and summer school. (Bravo!)
One critical piece of context on returning to in-person learning should not be overlooked. After generations of students of color have been subjected to institutional racism within the education system, some parents, understandably, don’t have enough trust that schools will keep their children safe. Don’t miss Monday’s important story in The New York Times about this “trust gap.”
How CT Should Spend Federal Education Relief Funds
Last week, the CT Mirror's Keith Phaneuf reported that $492M of Connecticut's new federal relief funding will be earmarked for elementary and secondary schools, and it remains unclear whether decisions on how these funds are used will be made by the Governor's administration, by the legislature or mostly at the discretion of local districts. According to the Courant, Hartford (slated to receive $46M from the stimulus package) and Bridgeport ($40.5M) are both being asked by state leaders to provide summer school experiences to make up for what students have missed. These final decisions will be left to districts where bargaining agreements and parameters will need to be hammered out. Critically, we want to ensure that these federal dollars are used strategically to benefit students, in a manner that both addresses immediate pandemic concerns and also has a lasting impact on our education infrastructure. That’s why our affiliate, Education Reform Now CT, released “4 Goals for Connecticut’s 2021 Federal Covid Relief Funds,” which outlines how the state can prioritize the funds to address both COVID and equity.
The Cardona Countdown
HAPPENING NOW: Dr. Miguel Cardona’s hearing before the Senate’s education committee on his nomination as President Biden’s next U.S. Education Secretary began at 10am today.