The Newly Confirmed Secretary Cardona, Rep. Miller Wins a Special Election, + College Affordability


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: Lots of Good News! The Newly Confirmed Secretary Cardona, Rep. Miller Wins a Special Election, and College Affordability


The Newly Confirmed Secretary Cardona’s Plan to Reopen

Monday saw the long-awaited confirmation of Dr. Miguel Cardona as Education Secretary for the Biden Administration. In their notes of congratulations, ERN President Shavar Jeffries emphasized Cardona’s history of prioritizing equity, while DFER CT State Director Amy Dowell also urged accountability for education systems, including assessing the impacts of the pandemic on students on a statewide basis. For his part, Secretary Cardona published an OpEd with USA Today last evening, outlining his plan to get students back on track. "We must continue to reopen America's schools for in-person learning as quickly and safely as possible," he wrote. Beyond an enormous infusion of federal resources, the article outlines the steps that the US Department of Education will take under Cardona’s leadership: (1) hosting a national summit on safe school reopening; (2) sharing best practices and solutions-oriented innovation; (3) publishing a COVID-19 Handbook with research-based strategies for reopening; and (4) administering a national survey to collect information about the reopening status of schools and students. Secretary Cardona is expected to accompany First Lady Jill Biden on a visit to Meriden today.


Senator Miller Will Put Dems Back at 24

Polls closed yesterday for a special election in the 27th Senate District, leaving Representative Patricia Billie Miller (D) victorious against Joshua Esses (R) and Brian Merlen (I). The seat, covering Stamford and Darien, was left vacant after then-Senator Carlo Leone resigned to become an adviser to the state’s Transportation Commissioner, leaving the Senate with a 23/12 Democratic majority. A voice for the vulnerable, Representative Miller has been a long-time and influential member of the Education Committee of the General Assembly, among other key assignments. She introduced a literacy bill, H.B. 5794 - An Act Concerning a Right to Read, in collaboration with ERN CT this year. (Learn more about that effort here.) We are so excited to see her voice elevated in the State Senate in the coming years. Congratulations, Senator Miller!


College Wealth and Affordability

Last month, James Murphy from ERN’s national policy office, put out a piece about the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) 2020 report on university endowments. He noted that, of the institutions with the 100 largest endowments, only 6 of them enrolled students with Pell Grants at a rate over 30%. In other words, the "richest schools often do the poorest job when it comes to recruiting low-income students." His research was mentioned in Town and Country Magazine last week, in an article covering the tendency of elite universities to recruit wealthy students.


Here in Connecticut, ERN CT released a report in 2019, which identified that too many Connecticut programs of higher education have low graduation rates, too many have high costs relative to peer schools in other states, and some even have both. Thankfully, as a matter of equity and to ensure the state’s economic future, this session Connecticut is seeking to improve college affordability and access. Among notable proposals, Governor Lamont and legislative leaders like Senator Will Haskell are calling for making the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) a high school graduation requirement, and creating an automatic admission to the Connecticut State Universities for high-achieving students. Both ideas were on the agenda for the Higher Education Committee’s public hearing yesterday. You can read ERN CT’s testimony in support here.

Tweet of the Week















ICYMI: Part 2 of the Right to Read Literacy Series

Connecticut's Homegrown Literacy Solution

Last week, we heard practitioners discuss a literacy intervention that was built and piloted in CT, CK3LI, and how it can be used to provide a strong foundation for all future learning. The event featured:

  • HILL for Literacy

  • Literacy How

  • The UConn Neag School of Education

  • Middletown Public Schools

  • Stamford Public Schools

  • The State Department of Education

Watch Last Week's Forum


Learn more about next week’s forum, March 11th at 5pm—“Why Are So Many Districts Not Following the Research?”—here.