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A vote advances immunization exemptions, phonics debates in CT, BPRC holds a hearing, and more

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 Health Committee advances an immunization exemption bill; debates on phonics reach CT; the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus’ hearing; and ongoing ed mentions on the presidential trail.

Vaccine Exemption Legislation Advances

Monday, the Public Health Committee of the General Assembly voted to advance H.B. 5044, a bill that would remove non-medical exemptions to school immunization requirements. Our affiliate, ERN CT, has actively advocated for stricter vaccination requirements to keep all students safe and healthy, a precondition of learning. There is clear medical consensus that vaccines prevent the spread of communicable diseases, and the bill moving forward is a positive step. This week the Hartford Courant also published a noteworthy OpEd with a legal and ethical analysis of the need to repeal non-medical exemptions.

Nevertheless, before passing the legislation out of Committee, a few legislators added substitute language that weakens the bill by "grandfathering" in all children from preschool to 12th grade who already have religious exemptions and including family history conditions. In a press statement, Amy called the move counterproductive, arguing that it opens the door to "both previously eliminated dangers like measles, and continuing threats for which there may be immunizations in the future, like coronavirus."

Questions on Literacy Curriculum Reach CT

In the face of lagging national (and state) test scores in reading, many are beginning to look to the science of reading, which emphasizes—among other skills—deliberate phonics instruction based on substantial research about how children learn to read and write. Next month, ReadyCT continues that discussion with Emily Hanford—an award winning journalist who has elevated the national question on literacy and phonics curriculum—at a reunion event for a cohort of CT school district leaders that’s been exploring the topic. Hanford’s podcasts (example below) describe the “reading wars” in clear, lay terms. Earlier this month, The New York Times also looked at the science of reading, observing that any jurisdiction to have increased reading scores on the most recent National Assessment for Education Progress have enacted reforms that require more phonics instruction. Here in CT, do you know what literacy curriculum your district is using and how it stacks up?

Public Hearing for the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus

Chaired by Reps. Brandon McGee (D-Windsor/Hartford) and Geraldo Reyes Jr. (D-Waterbury), the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus held a press conference and public hearing yesterday. At the press conference, Caucus leaders shared their goals for the 2020 legislative session—prioritizing affordable housing and strengthening education amidst other efforts designed to further equity and impact communities of color. In her testimony before the Caucus last evening,

Amy emphasized several of our policy priorities, which are designed to improve economic and racial fairness, and are widely supported by the Democratic electorate, based on recent polling. For example, you can learn about the MORE Act, our proposal to link affordable housing and educational access, below. (In the CT Mirror's "Steady Habits" podcast today, Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona also highlights the need for affordable housing incentives.)

Ongoing Ed Mentions on the Presidential Trail


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