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EVENT: Resource Equity and the Teaching Workforce, Biden's Ed Agenda, and Implementing FAFSA Reqs

Friday’s Forum: Resource Equity and the Teaching Workforce

Recently, ERN CT and the Equable Institute released a report that created a new equity metric for the state of Connecticut: the Per Pupil Pension Subsidy. The research finds that the state is paying for retirement benefits at TWICE the rate for more affluent students as for their lower-income peers and TWICE the rate for white students as for students of color. This is putting districts with the greatest need at a structural and systemic disadvantage–impacting kids and teachers alike.

Join ERN this coming Friday, April 1st at 2pm as national experts unpack the implications of inequitable teacher pension financing and how we can change the system to serve all.

Our panel includes:

  • Moderator: Madeline Will from Education Week

  • Sandi Jacobs, Consultant, Formerly with EducationCounsel and the US Department of Education

  • Connecticut House Majority Leader Jason Rojas

  • Anthony Randazzo, Executive Director of Equable Institute

  • Amy Dowell, ERN CT Director

The Latest on President Biden’s Education Agenda

On Monday, US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona released a statement regarding President Biden's FY 2023 budget. According to coverage by the Washington Post, the budget proposal seeks to address deep educational inequities that have been intensified during the pandemic. Following on the heels of a spending package signed into law earlier this month, this proposal would increase the Education Department's budget by 16%. Among several notable investments, it would allow the Department to:

  • Invest $1 billion to increase the number of counselors, nurses, school psychologists and other health professionals in schools.

  • More than double Title I funding for schools serving low-income families.

  • Target $350M towards identifying and scaling models to improve educator recruitment and retention.

  • Increase the maximum Pell Grant by over $2,000.

But there's still plenty of room for improvement from the Biden administration in the area of public school choice. The spending bill passed at the beginning of the month continued level funding at $440M for the Charter Schools Program (CSP)–a decades-old effort that helps to seed new charter schools by funding expenses such as technology and staff. However, a new set of rules proposed by the Department of Education would make requirements for CSP start-up grants far more restricted. A Wall Street Journal board editorial on Sunday said these new rules are designed to deter potential charter applicants from applying at all. They would require, for example, that applicants demonstrate "unmet demand for the charter school," like over-enrollment. As the editorial points out, such a rule would make charters in big cities with shrinking enrollment likely to face rejection. Creating more public school choice is about finding the best high-quality option for each child, not merely counting open seats.

Questions About Implementing FAFSA Requirements

This year, ERN CT is supporting a piece of legislation that would make completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) a mandatory high school graduation requirement. Importantly, the bill also sets aside reasonable opt out and exemption measures to protect the interests of students and families who do not want to apply for aid. On Friday, the Education Committee advanced the bill to the Appropriations Committee with a 29-10 vote. However, a college adviser in Texas, one of the first states to pass such a law, warns this week that there could be unintended consequences unless such a requirement is accompanied by ample resources. "We're running a FAFSA mill," she says in a story by The Chronicle of Higher Education–referring to the time she and her team spend on helping families to complete the FAFSA. The responsibility can divert their attention away from other important tasks, such as providing student guidance and assisting with financial-aid processes. Like so many excellent ideas, it sounds like the merits of a FAFSA policy in Connecticut will depend on adequate funding for implementation.

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