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Cell Phone Use in Schools, and the Impending Fiscal Cliff for School Budgets

Connecticut Explores Cell Phone Use in Schools

On Thursday, Education Week covered the growing trend of states weighing in on students' use of cellphones in schools. Beyond being disruptive in the classroom, cell phones also provide students with ongoing exposure to social media, which has been shown to negatively impact their mental health. Florida and Indiana have each banned cells in classrooms entirely—while new legislation in Ohio requires all districts to create their own policies to minimize cell phone use by students. 

Here in Connecticut, the issue was also championed by Governor Ned Lamont just this year. Section 4 of a bill proposed by the Governor earlier in the legislative session would have tasked the State Board of Education with developing a model policy on the use of cellular mobile phones and electronic devices—with specific consideration for students' ages and grade-levels. However, that section of the bill was ultimately removed during the legislative process. 

In the meantime, Connecticut has also been nurturing a proof point for a cellphone policy. In March, the CT Mirror covered Manchester's Illing Middle School, where a new ban on the use of smartphones at school relies upon Yondr pouches. According to coverage by The Washington Post, the ban at Illing went into effect in December of 2023. Manchester Superintendent Matt Geary intends to evaluate this effort at the end of the school year. We’re looking forward to seeing the results!

National and Local Looks at the Impending Fiscal Cliff

This week, Chad Aldeman provides an analysis covering the impending fiscal cliff, for school budgets facing an end to federal recovery funds, to The 74. He explains that in the San Francisco Unified school district, an oversight panel has taken control of all budgetary decisions, following a slew of budgetary problems, including: paying for staff positions with one-time federal relief funds, failing to appropriately track student enrollment and attendance, and understaffing budget offices. In many ways, Aldeman warns, San Francisco could be a canary in the coal mine.

Indeed, here in Connecticut, both Bridgeport and New Haven have made headlines this week as they contended with the impending fiscal cliff. The CT Post covers how, following a request by district administrators for an additional $16.7M, the Bridgeport City Council voted to give the district only $3M extra for the next fiscal year. To plug that gap, the district plans to take $13M out of its savings—leaving only $4.5M in its reserves. 

Similarly, the New Haven Independent covered a rally attended by New Haven students and educators on Friday, who called for increased school funding from the city. The New Haven Public School District has requested a $220M budget, and the city has recommended $208M—$12M short of the district's request. According to the article, Mayor Justin Elicker agrees with the spirit of the district's request but believes the state's ECS grant should make up more of the difference. 

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