Legislature Tackles Teacher Pension Financing
Today, at noon, the Education Committee has another public hearing, with eleven bills on the agenda. We're focused on an omnibus bill to address teaching conditions—HB 6884, An Act Concerning the Recruitment, Retention and Enhancement of the Teaching Profession. It tackles salaries, benefit enhancements, performance assessments for pre-service teachers, play-based learning, and more. But we have our eyes on Section 19 of the bill, which would create a task force to study the financing of the teachers' retirement system as it relates to resource equity.
This priority was borne out of research conducted jointly by our affiliate, ERN CT, an0d Equable Institute in 2021. The findings showed clearly that because Connecticut covers the entire cost of local teacher pension obligations, it subsidizes district teacher compensation packages in a deeply inequitable way. In fact, Connecticut pays much larger Per Pupil Pension Subsidies on behalf of high-performing districts, double the rate for more affluent students, and more than double the rate for white students than students of color. It’s a deeply problematic system that disadvantages the state’s highest-need districts when it comes to teacher compensation—affecting recruitment, retention, and experience in the classroom.
▶️ Click here to learn more about how a task force can begin to address this problem.
Notably, Connecticut’s annual teacher pension contributions account for over one quarter of all K-12 education spending. And that expense is growing. Equable Institute released a new report this month, indicating that between 2002-2020, Connecticut's teacher retirement spending as a share of state and local K-12 education budgets has increased by an unsustainable 230%.
As written, Section 19 of the bill is lacking—the Task Force needs a membership that is more about STUDENTS than the adults who benefit from this system. And we need resource equity and civil rights voices at the table, as well. It’s a strong step in the right direction for the state. Looking forward to seeing it advance with these changes.
You can read Amy’s written testimony here and watch the live hearing at 12pm here.
2021 Report: "Who Benefits? How Teacher Pension Financing Impacts Student Equity in Connecticut" (ERN)
Map of "Change in State & Local Hidden Education Funding Cut by Percentage Change" (Equable - Tweet)
Right to Read CT Keeps Rolling
In another marathon public hearing before the Education Committee this month, the dialogue focused largely on the topic of "Right to Read." Disappointingly, there were nine district leaders who testified against updating their literacy programming, but who also currently manage districts where over 40% of third graders are not meeting grade-level expectations in English Language Arts (ELA) on the state’s standardized assessment. They’re not alone. Statewide, only 46.7% of all third graders meet or exceed this benchmark, and the outcomes are even more stark when disaggregated by race.
That’s why it has become so important for Connecticut to lead a statewide strategy to address early literacy.
This week’s news roundup suggests that progress is moving quickly here in Connecticut, both in public sentiment and in classrooms statewide. On Friday, ERN CT published an opinion for Hearst CT Media that unpacked the hearing and some pieces of misinformation on "Right to Read,” as well as, the importance of district leadership. "Districts attempting to take the same old path will find themselves in the same old place,” the piece says.
For some national context on district leadership on literacy, check this piece out today from Superintendents from Baltimore, Cincinnati and Houston on leaving Lucy Calkins behind.
Then, over the weekend, The Day’s Erica Moser had a deep dive on why advocates of “Right to Read” defend the state's plans: because when we know what is effective, we should be doing it in every classroom. That same day, a must-read from the Washington Post editorial board also admonished, "Cut the politics. Phonics is the best way to teach reading... Kids should absolutely learn to love to read. First, though, they need to learn to read."
"'Right to Read' advocates defend curriculum mandates" (The Day)
"Opinion: Cut the politics. Phonics is the best way to teach reading." (Washington Post Editorial Board)
Opinion: "Reading reality in America’s classrooms" (K-12 Dive)
State Invests ARP Funds in Summer Enrichment
On Monday, Governor Lamont and Commissioner Russell-Tucker announced the release of $11.5M in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to continue the Summer Enrichment Program, which began in 2021, in both 2023 and 2024. The program aims to connect students impacted by the pandemic to high-quality enrichment opportunities while schools are out. According to a press release, it has funded more than 400 organizations that offer summer learning opportunities since its inception. It funds the most competitive summer programs, so that they can invest in expansion, scholarships, and transportation. Last year, an evaluation of the effort said that it served more than 108,000 students across 235 grant recipients that year in 2021 alone.
"Governor Lamont Announces $11.5 Million To Continue Connecticut’s Popular Summer Enrichment Program in 2023 and 2024" (Press Release)
"Evaluation of the State of Connecticut Summer Enrichment Grants" (Center for Education Policy Analysis, Research, and Evaluation - 2022)