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CONTROVERSY OVER CT’S NEW KINDERGARTEN ELIGIBILITY AGE, EDUCATION FUNDING BATTLE CONTINUES, PUBLIC COLLEGES SEEK STATE INVESTMENT

CONTROVERSY OVER CT’S NEW KINDERGARTEN ELIGIBILITY AGE 

Legislation passed in 2023 changed the kindergarten entrance age in Connecticut—shifting a requirement that a child turn 5 by January 1st to September 1st. According to a June, 2023 analysis by the Education Commission of the States, Connecticut and Vermont were (then) the only two states with a January 1 cut-off; all other states require incoming kindergarteners to turn five earlier in the school year, or leave entry age entirely to the discretion of the local school district. Connecticut’s new law is therefore in keeping with national trends, but the speedy timeline for implementation is creating controversy.


A weekend CT Mirror article explained that more than 9,000 children in Connecticut may be affected by the shift in eligibility age. The law allows districts to create their own waiver processes for 4-year-olds who might be ready for kindergarten—but that has prompted concerns about potential inequities across district lines. Moreover, for families with 4-year-olds who have suddenly lost access to kindergarten, the sudden change marks a serious financial burden. Last week, The Connecticut Project put out a report arguing that the legislature ought to allocate funding to help affected parents, as well as the early childhood education system.


EDUCATION FUNDING BATTLE CONTINUES

On Sunday, the Hartford Courant described battle lines being drawn over the $150M in K-12 education funding that was passed in last year's biennial budget; Governor Ned Lamont’s recent budget proposal would cut $48M of that promised $150M. The Governor is also calling for a major investment in early childhood education, but legislators and advocates alike have objected to the idea of pitting early childhood and K-12 funding against one another. 


CT Insider has a helpful recap of a press conference on Thursday, which featured Democratic and Republican lawmakers, students, educators, community leaders, and advocates—all of whom supported maintaining the legislature's commitment to funding K-12 education. 


"We know we have an academic and achievement gap problem in the state," said Education Co-Chair Sen. Doug McCrory. "And that problem will not be solved by taking the money away that these schools need to properly educate their children."


CT News Junkie reports that, following the event, the Governor's office released a press statement "in response"—again emphasizing the need for early childhood investments. The Education Committee is expected to hold a public hearing on this issue on February 28th. 


PUBLIC COLLEGES SEEK STATE INVESTMENT

Yesterday, the heads of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system and the University of Connecticut (UConn) told lawmakers at a legislative public hearing that they would have to make significant budget cuts unless they receive more state funding. The CSCUs are asking for $47.6M to balance their budget, while UConn is seeking a combined $64.2M for both the main university and the health center in Farmington. 


Lawmakers had questions regarding administrative positions and salaries, and the need for cost-saving measures in the face of declining enrollment. The institutions countered that students who cannot attend private universities deserve high-quality, affordable post-secondary experiences—and that when their COVID relief funds expire, both the CSCUs and UConn will be left in precarious positions. According to NBC Connecticut, CSCU Chancellor Terrence Cheng called this, "an absolute code red, DEFCON one situation." 


The CT Mirror has a helpful write-up regarding the ongoing pleas for appropriate funding, as well as excerpts from the testimony of hundreds of students. 


MUST READ: CT MIRROR STORY ON 4 2024 PROPOSALS TO WATCH

The committee expects to hear and act upon recommendations from a council they set up last year on streamlining the certification process from the current three-step process. Currently, a teacher must receive initial education, provincial educator, and professional educator certificates.”

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