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Removing vaccine exemptions, absentee voting during the pandemic, + disbanding of Dalio partnership

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: growing support to remove non-medical vaccine exemptions, absentee voting during the pandemic, and the disbanding of the Dalio Partnership for CT.

Bi-Partisan Leaders Join ERN CT’s Call for Vaccine Legislation

On Friday, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Brendan Sharkey (D) and former Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R) published a joint OpEd in the Hartford Courant, arguing that legislators considering a special session must work towards ending non-medical vaccine exemptions for preventable diseases. Reviewing how the controversial issue unfolded last year, these veterans of the General Assembly respectfully disagree with opponents of vaccines—observing that the country's hope for a COVID-19 vaccine exposes just how important immunizations are to our society, and to our economy. We applaud their bi-partisan effort and couldn't agree more! Throwbacks to our positions on the issue below—in particular, Amy's CT Mirror Op Ed, which identified that, at the school-level, this is a matter of equity.

Absentee Voting During the Pandemic

The Governor signed an important Executive Order last Wednesday, adding a new criterion for eligibility for absentee voting in the August 11, 2020 primary election: the lack of a federally approved or widely available vaccine for COVID-19. “Nobody should need to make a decision between their health and their right to vote,” Lamont explained. Accordingly, Secretary of State Denise Merrill intends to mail an application for an absentee ballot to every Connecticut voter. Nevertheless, a CT Mirror article this weekend pointed out that this temporarily broadened eligibility for absentee voting expires before the General Elections in November. That’s because Governor Lamont's executive authority in response to the pandemic runs through September 9th. To extend this convenience for the 2020 presidential election (and/or beyond), the legislature would need to vote on the matter. Earlier this month, we hosted a phone forum featuring Secretary of State Denise Merrill and Senator Will Haskell on this very issue. You can hear an audio recording of their discussion below.

With Dalio Partnership Ending, State Ed Dollars Should Stay the Course

Last week, Governor Lamont announced the disbanding of the Partnership for Connecticut—a public-private education funding agreement between the State and the Dalio Family Foundation. The State's arrangement with The Partnership was based upon a matched education investment of $100M over five years between taxpayers and the Dalio family. It is anticipated that unexpended state dollars will now be returned to the general fund at a time when schools are in desperate need of additional funding. (It would require a vote in the legislature to keep those resources directed towards education; and $20M is currently set aside for this work in 2021.) Although this unique initiative has been rife with challenges since its inception, it did focus on an area of critical need: disengaged students in the lowest-performing districts who are at risk of failing to graduate high school. For our part, we hope that the Governor’s office will retain its energetic focus on this important mission on behalf of the state’s underserved students.

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