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Start of the legislative session, FAFSA reform, school accountability, and new members of SBOE

Legislative Session Opening Day Edition!

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: Start of the 2020 legislative session, a FAFSA reform policy idea, school accountability in CT, and new members to the State Board of Ed.

Start of Legislative Session

Today marked the start of the 2020 Legislative Session, and Governor Ned Lamont gave his State of the State Address, as well as releasing his proposed FY 2021 budget adjustments. In a press release today, Amy applauded several education concepts in the proposal, but also called on the legislature to go further to improve equity and protect the interests of the state's most vulnerable students.

Undertaking FAFSA Reform in CT

Senator Will Haskell and CT Senate Democrats released their 2020 agenda last month, A Smart and Responsible Connecticut, which includes requiring high school students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Since students may not always know they’re eligible for federal aid, requiring completion of the FAFSA may increase their opportunities for higher education. State-by-state data from the National College Access Network shows Connecticut ranking 9th for FAFSA completion, with a 68.8% completion rate, as of August 2019. Texas and Illinois (ranking 27th and 11th, respectively), each undertook FAFSA reform this past summer—following the big successes that Louisiana saw when it became the first state to implement the policy (moving from 56% to 82.6% since 2015). Importantly, Louisiana's efforts also included several noteworthy implementation strategies and investments. If Connecticut were to follow suit, it would require a similar strategy to cover implementation costs and support school counselors.

State Grades CT Schools

Last week, CT's State Department of Education (SDE) scored every public school and district on a 0-100 scale, based on over a dozen measures. Called the Next Generation Accountability System, it’s been used since 2015-16. The combined grade for the state's schools is up since that first year, but down since last year. Although the results aren't where they need to be, especially for high-need student populations, we applaud the SDE for being transparent and proactive about the work ahead.

Welcome to the State Board of Ed!

Yesterday, Governor Lamont announced the appointment of four new members to the State Board of Education. Filling these openings is an important opportunity for him to reshape the SBE and expand the voices at the table on state education policy. Notably, all four appointments are women.

  • Bonnie Burr, from UConn’s School of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, will fill the required role of a voting member with agricultural experience;

  • Martha Paluch Prou, director of administration and compliance with Phoenix; Manufacturing, Inc., will fill the required role of having manufacturing experience.

  • Also appointed is Karen DuBois-Walton, the Executive Director of the Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of the City of New Haven; and

  • Awilda Reasco, Director of Pre-Collegiate and Access Services at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU).

We welcome these new members and are excited to see what their vast experience in college and career readiness will bring to state policy.


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