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: Hot Off the Presses!! ERN CT Guide: Investing Connecticut’s Relief Funding, and a Mid Session Bill Tracker (Halfway There!)
ERN CT Guide: Investing Connecticut’s Relief Funding
Resources from the American Rescue Plan are finding their way into bank accounts all over the country. Here in Connecticut, state and local education agencies are in line to receive $1.1 billion for K-12 relief funds, and 90% of those dollars will go directly to districts. Planning how those dollars are directed, and making sure they have the most impact for children both in the near future and down the line, is no small task. So, you know, Connecticut set up a TASK FORCE!
As this planning is underway, our partner, ERN CT, has been culling through some of the strategies in other states, and drawing inspiration from experts to offer Investing Connecticut’s Relief Funding from the American Rescue Plan, which provides ideas that the state and districts can actually stand up and apply for true impact. This guide shares academic, social, and administrative strategies that are designated specifically for the state and local district leaders, and have taken into account the real context here in Connecticut. Lots of creative thinking has been offered already—but plans must be realistic, effective, and targeted, or this opportunity will be missed, wasting valuable time and resources. Most importantly, for students that have been shouldering a very heavy burden this past year, we owe them a clear and specific plan that puts their needs first.
Mid Session Bill Tracker (Halfway There!)
We hit the mid-way point of the session in March, and we are looking ahead to the end of this 2021 legislative convening on June 9th! Our affiliate, ERN CT, has been busy this year, and we are happy to report the legislative priorities we have worked on have continued to progress. Here is a quick update on where these key bills stand:
HB 6620: An Act Concerning the Right to Read and Addressing Opportunity Gaps and Equity in Public Schools
On Monday of this week, the Education Committee voted in a bi-partisan way 28-3 to advance this bill to the Appropriations Committee, where it will be considered for funding. With a focus on systematizing the long-established Science of Reading in every classroom in the state, we are hopeful and encouraged to see such buy-in from experts, educators and elected representatives. We are especially grateful for the leadership of Senator Patricia Billie Miller, who penned this op-ed in the Stamford Advocate last week on why every student in Connecticut should have the right to read, and what our state can do to make this plan a reality. We appreciate our co-sponsors and leaders as well—Education Chairs Doug McCrory and Bobby Sanchez, Reps. Jeff Currey and Bobby Gibson, and House Majority Leader Jason Rojas!
HB 5681: An Act Concerning Municipal Opportunity Reimbursement and Educational Equity
Appearing on the House Calendar for the first time this week, HB 5681, if passed, would offer communities in Connecticut a 10% bonus in school construction dollars if they are deemed “inclusive” by the Department of Housing. Criteria for municipalities meeting this benchmark include streamlined provisions to approve multi-family units, accessory dwellings, and raising the total stock of the town’s affordable units by 1%. This bill has been passed out of the Housing Committee and the Legislative Commissioners’ Office and will head to the chamber for a vote in the coming weeks. We have partnered with Majority Leader Jason Rojas and Housing Committee Chair Brandon McGee to develop this legislation, and we hope to see it become part of the many ways Connecticut can pursue a more fair and inclusive state for all.
SB 948: An Act Concerning Education Funding and Racial Equity
Another bill we are watching closely as it progresses to the Appropriations Committee for additional consideration is SB 948. We are proud to have worked closely with legislative leaders and education advocates in Connecticut to build on the progress of Fix the Formula CT, and the significant ECS revisions passed in the 2018-19 state budget. The proposed updates this session would include additional weights for both English Learners and students in poverty, as well as adding in magnet and charter schools, and a speeding up the phase-in of additional resources identified in 2017. This is the year to make these changes to the law!
Well, this one has had a lot of attention! Connecticut has been trying to eliminate the non-medical exemption to established vaccines like measles and rubella for a several years. In 2020, ironically, a pandemic stood in the way of voting on this legislative priority. This year, we expect one or both of these similar bills to move out of committee and have a full vote in the coming weeks thanks to the hard work of Majority Leader Bob Duff, House Speaker Matt Ritter and Public Health Chair Mary Daugherty Abrams, among others. A safe and healthy classroom is a precondition for learning, and this is a matter of civil rights for students with health vulnerabilities who are unable to tolerate vaccines. It's also a political winner- 95% of all Connecticut parents vaccinate their school aged children already!