Dems React to Sheff Settlement
Last month, Governor Lamont and Attorney General Tong had announced a new settlement in the Sheff v. O'Neill case. This decades-old litigation requires Connecticut to end the racial and economic segregation of students in Hartford and the surrounding suburban districts. Granted preliminary approval by a Hartford Superior Court judge, the settlement still needs legislative approval. But only a few weeks after the announcement, some Democratic lawmakers are already voicing concerns.
The Hartford Courant's coverage identifies questions raised by Senator Doug McCrory and Representative Jeff Currey during a budget presentation by the State Department of Education last week. Senator McCrory, who chairs the legislature’s Education Committee, said he is concerned that the settlement is a legal solution, instead of a genuine policy response to educational inequity. Representative Currey, also a member of the Education Committee, said the plan should coincide with a fix for the state's Education Cost Sharing formula. ERN CT State Director Amy Dowell voiced similar concerns in her original press statement responding to the settlement announcement last month. "We look forward to partnering with the Governor, the legislature, and families on a more comprehensive solution to meet the needs of all CT students," she concluded. We’ll be watching to see how this story unfolds.
Ed Equity Bills to Watch (So Far!)
The first month of the legislative session sure has been busy! On Thursday, the Higher Education Committee heard testimony on a bill to ban legacy preferences during the college admissions process. The debate received plenty of media attention—including by Erica Moser of The Day. Her story covers impressive testimony from Logan Roberts, a Yale junior who observes that he hasn't seen a substantive justification for the practice; as well as Richard Sugarman, president of Hartford Promise, who points out that the use of legacy admissions is discriminatory and runs counter to the ideal of college being a meritocracy. Learn about legacy preference in CT here.
That’s not the only exciting piece of legislation we’re watching, though. We’re also tracking several bills to address the mental and behavioral health of public school students, especially after the pandemic; to prohibit the use of transcript holds in college; to address special education funding; to create more school choice for parents; and more. Check out our tracker here.
Nationwide Reading Declines: Will CT Meet the Moment?
According to EdWeek, a new study finds that 1 in 3 children in grades K-3 nationwide are unlikely to read on grade-level by the end of this school year, barring significant interventions. Thankfully for Connecticut families, the legislature passed the timely Right to Read legislation last year, ending the stubborn and debunked use of balanced literacy in all public schools in the state. It requires the State Department of Education to establish a new Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success, in consultation with a Reading Leadership Implementation Council (already underway). By July of this year, the Center must approve at least 5 reading curriculum models, aligned to the science of reading, which all districts will be required to implement. (Learn more about the timeline here.)
Funded in part by investments through the American Rescue Plan, this is precisely the type of comprehensive, state-level leadership that can help students recover learning losses in this foundational subject area. In fact, on Thursday, EdSource mentioned the effort in a story about the importance of state-level leadership on literacy, especially to improve outcomes for historically underserved populations. The article explicitly highlights Senator Pat Billie Miller's work on this bill with the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.
Notably, Senator Miller made a powerful speech at the opening of the legislative session last week, in honor of Black History Month. Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff posted her moving remarks to Facebook - must watch!