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Racial Imbalance in Districts, Early Childhood Reading, and an Event on Educator Diversity

CT Considers Racial Imbalance Law

Yesterday, CT Insider's Alex Putterman covered a bill before the legislature that would task the State Department of Education with studying policies to address racial imbalances within school districts. The existing “racial balance law” in Connecticut requires each school’s demographics to fall within 25 percentage points of the broader district’s overall racial makeup. If a school is out of compliance, its district must implement a plan to solve the problem.

Dating back to 1969, the aim of the law is to prevent a district from isolating its students of color within one particular school. However, it has recently been challenged both because mitigation plans often involve moving students of color from their neighborhood schools, and because critics cite exclusionary zoning policies as a separate source of the problem.

Last year, five schools from four districts were out of balance—one in Fairfield, West Hartford, and Hamden, and two in Greenwich. The chart below reflects the extent of the problem in Fairfield, where data suggest students of color are being segregated. (Raw data is from EdSight.) If the bill currently being considered were to pass, it would pause enforcement for the districts that are out of compliance. 

These data points suggest less racial integration within the district than one might expect. Indeed, at a State Board of Education meeting last month, State board Chair Karen DuBois-Walton reiterated the intentions of the racial imbalance law, saying that the objective is, “to ensure that every student in Fairfield Public Schools [and all districts] has an opportunity to have an education that exposes them to diverse educators, diverse classmates, diverse curriculum in a comfortable and affirming setting."

Legislators Discuss Importance of Early Childhood Reading

At an event at the State Capitol yesterday, Representatives Johnson and Comey held a press conference, followed by a legislative round table, about the importance of early literacy efforts in Connecticut. The events focused upon the birth-to-three years, heavily featuring entities that do critical work to provide free books to families across the state—such as Reach Out and Read, Read to Grow, and Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Speakers (pictured at right) included:

  • Alex Chu from Reach Out and Read

  • Fatmata Williams from the Connecticut Department of Social Services

  • Representative Dominique Johnson

  • Beth Bye from the Office of Early Childhood

  • Deborah Schander from the Connecticut State Library

  • Representative Robin Comey

  • Dr. Paul Dworkin from Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health

  • Suzannah Holsenbeck from Read to Grow

  • Irene Bassock from United Way of Central and Northeastern CT

Dr. Dworkin’s presentation emphasized the profound impact that building literacy at an early age—simply by having parents regularly read to their children—can have on critical issues of the day, including behavioral health, social and emotional maladjustment, social isolation and loneliness, bullying and misinformation, academic failure, youth disengagement, and more. 

Suzannah Holsenback noted that, statewide, only 51% of families report that they read daily  to their children aged 0-3, and only 35% of 5 year olds are deemed to be ready for kindergarten. Programs that provide books to parents empower them with resources as well as information about the importance of reading to young children. 

Together, the groups called for a state-level commitment to universally providing books to families in Connecticut. Watch the event here.

Mark Your Calendars: April 23rd at 12:30pm


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