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Public Hearings on Vaccine Exemptions and Affordable Housing, and Our Upcoming Forum on Literacy

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: Public Hearings on Vaccine Exemptions and Affordable Housing, and Our Upcoming Forum on Literacy.

Time to End Non-Medical Vaccine Exemptions

Yesterday and into this morning, the Public Health Committee of the General Assembly held a marathon public hearing on the topic of eliminating religious exemptions to school vaccination requirements. Last year saw similarly high turnout on the topic, especially by those who oppose stricter vaccination requirements. But, as Public Health Committee Co-Chairs Senator Mary Abrams and Representative Jonathan Steinberg wrote in their joint opinion yesterday, “The right path isn’t always the path of least resistance.” We agree.

That’s why it’s so significant that Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff and House Speaker Matt Ritter have taken the lead on this important effort, even in the face of controversy. Over the past 24 hours, we’ve heard over-and-over from parents who testified that they have the right to decide what was best for their individual children. But their personal decisions have an impact on communal health. It is unfair and unreasonable to subject schools to individual beliefs that lead to the spread of communicable diseases that should be easily preventable with vaccination. In fact, we’ve been arguing for years that students and families actually have a right to safe and healthy classrooms that are protected from infectious diseases for which there are trusted vaccines. As ERN CT wrote in its testimony, “Like speed limits and bans on smoking in public places, this legislation will shield the general public from harm.”

Housing Opportunity Equals Education Opportunity

Another priority for us this session ties affordable housing and education resources together. Make sure you’re tuned in at 11am tomorrow for the Housing Committee’s public hearing which includes the MORE Act, our original concept linking education and housing needs. The idea was profiled last month in the CT Mirror. Connecticut communities are segregated along racial and economic lines, and because our school systems also rely heavily on local property taxes, the result is highly unequal and inequitable educational opportunities between towns. With the leadership of House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, this idea of using bonuses in school construction grants as a carrot for wealthy municipalities that take on meaningful affordable housing efforts has moved forward. Check out ERN CT’s testimony in support of the bill here.

Connecticut's Homegrown Literacy Solution

In January, the Right to Read CT Coalition launched a series of forums on literacy. Part two, scheduled for February 25th, covers the topic of “Connecticut’s Homegrown Literacy Solution.” Hosted by the Connecticut Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity (CWCSEO), the event will feature district leadership from Middletown and Stamford, the CT Department of Education, and literacy experts. The panel will unpack how successful literacy interventions, teacher preparation, and professional development can change outcomes for students. Part one, available for viewing here, explored the manner in which literacy impacts equity, and featured Representatives Jason Rojas, Pat Billie Miller, and Brandon McGee, as well as ERN National President Shavar Jeffries.

The word is spreading on how Connecticut can ensure every student has the right to read. Don’t miss Amy’s interview on this topic with WATR’s Talk of the Town.

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