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: school immunizations, national and state efforts to open district borders, and ECS data on low-income students.
Amending Immunization Policy
Last week, our Wednesday Weekly included the news that over 100 schools were failing to meet the minimum required vaccination levels recommended by the CDC. This week, the CT Department of Public Health released updated facts and figures, indicating that while CT kindergarten vaccination rates have dropped, medical exemptions have remained unchanged and religious exemptions have increased. (You can learn about it in our helpful one-pager bulleted below.) On Monday, the Legislative Office Building hosted a public forum on immunizations, and today Amy Dowell’s op-ed on the topic explains why keeping children safe is the priority.
Murphy Pushes for Diversity
Senator Chris Murphy introduced legislation this week, along with several co-sponsors, to promote diversity in schools. The “Strength in Diversity Act” would establish federal grants to support districts voluntarily seeking to increase racial and socio-economic diversity. Included among the potential efforts these grants might fund is the idea of "establishing public school choice zones and revising school boundaries."
Here in Connecticut, we’ve been advocating for expansion of the state’s existing Open Choice program--allowing students to attend school in any participating district within the region in which they reside. The program has three benefits: giving parents the power to select the school that best serves the needs of their individual child, potentially addressing declining enrollment in districts with empty classroom seats, and alleviating overcrowding in our state’s largest districts. Both Senator Murphy’s bill and an expanded Open Choice program in CT would have the potential to create more inclusive and fair education opportunities for students.
Implementing ECS, The Data Matters
This year, Connecticut began implementing a new Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula to distribute the about $2 billion in education funding the state provides each year. The new ECS formula contains three different weights for student needs--English Learners, students living in poverty, and communities with concentrated poverty. The new formula also makes the distribution of education dollars more equitable and transparent. However, Katie Roy, head of the Connecticut School Finance Project, this week penned an opinion piece criticizing the manner in which the Appropriations Committee counts low-income student populations in their budget. Currently, the Committee continues to rely on a Free and Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL) count as a proxy for poverty. Roy points out that FRPL counts are believed to be inaccurate, advocating instead for the use of direct certification, a more accurate and inclusive method of capturing the data. Governor Lamont's proposed budget and the State Department of Education both support this recommendation.