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Governor’s Race Heats Up, Federal Threats to Charters, Connecticut Children Facing Food Insecurity

What We Are Watching: Governor’s Race Heats Up Yesterday's CTNewsJunkie and CT Post both looked at the first quarter fundraising for Connecticut's gubernatorial race. Notably, each of the candidates is the biggest donor to his own respective campaign so far. Incumbent Gov. Ned Lamont has written two checks totaling $1.15M to his reelection campaign, while Republican challenger Bob Stefanowski has loaned $10M to his campaign.

Stefanowski has raised an additional $608K from individuals to Lamont's $14K, and independent expenditure committees—which are prohibited from coordinating with the candidates—are also weighing in to support the Republican candidate. Yesterday's CT Mirror covers the "Parents Against Stupid Stuff PAC," which has promised to spend more than $1M in opposition to Gov. Lamont, largely tapping into issues like critical race theory and transgender rights in schools. “CT Truth” PAC has also raised $1M in support of Stefanowski. In March, the Hartford Courant covered "Moms for Bob," a group of suburban women that the Stefanowski campaign has organized. Motivated by concerns over issues like "mask choice," pandemic policy, zoning, and crime, they're trying to emulate the efforts of frustrated parents who helped propel Republican Glenn Youngkin into the governor's office in Virginia last year.

One of the only early polls tracking the CT governor’s race was commissioned by our affiliate ERNA CT back in October, and its findings looked very uphill for Stefanowski, as well as wedge issues like critical race theory and curriculum meddling. For DFER CT’s part, we are looking forward to supporting Democrats with a message to parents and voters across the state about what we are FOR: inclusive and high achieving public education for all.

ACTION ITEM: Federal Threats to Charters

Our national affiliate, Education Reform Now, is leading a campaign to counter newly proposed federal rules that threaten public charter schools. The proposals, made under the Biden administration last month, create significant barriers for prospective applicants to the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP), including:

  1. Asking applicants to demonstrate “unmet demand” for a new school, citing data about over-enrollment. This builds a narrative that public charters only exist to serve students when districts are overcrowded, rather than that they empower family choice.

  2. Having new charters detail how they will create racially and socioeconomically diverse populations of students and staff. This ignores pervasive issues of housing segregation and dismisses the value of culturally affirming schools.

  3. Unilaterally requiring charters to partner with public school districts, without a reciprocal expectation. This gives discretion over cooperation entirely to traditional public school districts.

Connecticut Children Facing Food Insecurity A startling CT Mirror story on Monday covered a report conducted by Connecticut United Way and United for ALICE—which found that about 125,000 Connecticut children didn't have enough to eat in the fall of 2021. The report looks at families that earn enough to be above the federal poverty level—meaning they don't qualify for assistance—but that still don't make ends meet. While the federal poverty level for a family of four was $25,750 in 2019, the bare minimum cost for a family to live in Connecticut was over $90,000. That means a large percentage of families that fall in between those benchmarks aren't getting the services they need.

Concurrently, pandemic expansions to the National School Lunch program that had made meals free for every child are scheduled to expire this summer. The Hartford Courant has a story on how US lawmakers failed to include an extension in their recently passed federal spending bill, even though this critical program has provided such an important buffer to working families. In response, Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy have joined others in cosponsoring the "Support Kids Not Red Tape" bill—which would extend the meal waivers through September 2023. But according to CTNewsJunkie, Connecticut leaders are calling for supplemental funding to ensure free meals are available even if the federal bill doesn't pass. According to the School Nutrition Association of Connecticut (SNACT), it would cost the state $53-57M to provide meals at no cost through the end of the next school year—less than 0.25% of the overall proposed state budget.

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