You’re Invited! "Who Benefits? How Teacher Pensions Impact Resource Equity"
At the end of 2021, the Equable Institute partnered with ERN CT to release a new report that takes an original look at teacher pensions through the lens of student equity. Although Connecticut teachers' salary levels are set by local districts, teacher retirement benefits—which are based on those salaries—are funded entirely at the state-level. By looking at these state costs on a per pupil basis in each district, Equable and ERN CT were able to uncover profound resource inequities.
The state's subsidy of local retirement benefits essentially reinforces a systemic disadvantage for the highest needs school districts, especially in terms of how they compensate their teaching workforce. Our April 1st panel discussion will seek to unpack the implications of this study on efforts to address teacher quality, recruitment, and retention in Connecticut and other states.
Madeline Will, Education Week Reporter
CT House Majority Leader Jason Rojas
Sandi Jacobs, Consultant, Formerly with EducationCounsel and USEd
Anthony Randazzo, Executive Director of the Equable Institute
Amy Dowell, State Director of ERN CT
Biden’s Spending Bill Compromises on Ed
On Friday, President Biden signed into law a spending bill for FY 22, with several major education spending proposals left out. According to The 74's reporting, that’s leading some education advocates to shift their attention to next year. The spending bill does include new funding for students' mental health, after school services, and school nutrition. It also includes a $1 billion increase to Title I funding, but that falls significantly short of the $20 billion equity grant program that Biden had initially proposed. Such an effort would have helped to close funding gaps between rich and poor districts. On the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), the bill provides $13.3 billion, a $406 million increase that is still $2.2 billion less than Biden requested—according to coverage by K-12 Dive. The budget also does not extend the child nutrition waivers that have given free meals to all students, regardless of income, throughout the pandemic. If schools have to cut these critical meal services, we could see increased hunger among school-aged children.
2022 Session Update: Equity Bills We Are Watching
Things move fast during the legislative session! But these are some of the latest and most notable efforts to improve educational equity:
College Access: Several bills this session seek to make college more accessible in Connecticut. One would ban legacy preferences in Connecticut’s public institutions of higher ed (learn more here), a form of discrimination during the admissions process. Another would end the "transcript trap," which withholds credentials from students with debts (more here). Also on the agenda for the Education Committee’s public hearing next week is legislation to make college more accessible and affordable by mandating FAFSA completion as a high school graduation requirement.
Teacher Diversity: This weekend, the Hartford Courant covered the ongoing minority teacher recruitment crisis—documenting it through the lens of a statewide teacher shortage. The percentage of educators of color in Connecticut has grown from 8.3% in 2015 to 10% in 2021. But the teacher workforce demographics still fail to meet the needs of a growing percentage of students of color (47% in 2019). The agenda for the Education Committee's upcoming public hearing also includes several bills related to minority teacher recruitment, teacher certification, and professional development.
Juvenile Justice: On Monday, the Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on a package of Republican bills that target juvenile crime (packed agenda here). CTNewsJunkie notes that the Chair of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparity responded with a "blistering statement," in which he argued that this is a response to a sensationalized narrative about a crime wave. The package of proposals threatens to “return the state to a 'tough on crime' mentality that is rooted in fear and bias and disproportionately impacts Black and brown members of our communities," he said. ERN CT submitted testimony at this hearing, supporting the work of the CT Justice Alliance and asking the legislature to raise the minimum age for justice involvement to 12. “We should be investing up front in student success, rather than acting punitively,” it said.
Public School Choice: Yesterday, the Connecticut State Department of Education published an RFP for the development of state and local charters. In a press statement, the Connecticut Charter Schools Association observed that, "This RFP is the first our state has seen since 2017 and answers the collective demand of our state's parents who have been advocating for additional public charter schools in our state for 5 long years, and never more than during the past two years of COVID." Meanwhile, the legislature is also considering a bill, currently before the Education Committee, that would rebalance the charter authorization process in the state. Currently, an abundance of red tape and politics make opening and funding new public charter schools far too difficult for the families wishing to apply. (More on that effort here.)