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Juneteenth, New Haven budget crisis, and national movement on school immunization

Updated: Jun 26, 2019


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: Juneteenth, the New Haven budget crisis, and national movement on school immunization.


Juneteenth 

Today we celebrate Juneteenth, the anniversary of slaves in Texas being notified that they were free--two full years after the actual signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. As a nation, we still have a lot of work to do in pursuit of equality and justice for all. Fixing our public school system is a part of the solution, but as President Obama reminded us yesterday, it isn’t a cure-all. Education reform must go hand-in-hand with policies designed to address racial, social, and economic inequalities that are a deep-rooted part of our history. This is a must read.


New Haven Budget Deficit?

A few weeks ago, in the face of a $30M budget deficit, New Haven Superintendent Carol Birks decided to eliminate 53 teaching positions. Critics demonstrated, staged student walkouts, and spoke out at a school board meeting. Last Monday, the school board put a halt to the Superintendent's plan, instead tasking a new Budget Mitigation Committee with recommending a set of alternative cuts. Yesterday, the Committee expressed skepticism about the actual amount of deficit; apparently, the district staff had excluded Alliance District and other special grants from the calculations. Although the revelation makes the shortfall slightly smaller, difficult cuts will still be needed. Meanwhile, the chair of the board’s Finance & Operations Committee (which reviews grants and contracts for the district) has announced his resignation, effective Sept. 1.  


National Movement on School Immunizations

This year saw measles outbreaks in several states, and even cases reported here in Connecticut. Just as the 2019 legislative session was drawing to a close, the state released data revealing that many schools have vaccination rates too low to prevent the spreading of proven preventable diseases. Although Connecticut didn’t address the issue this year, we’re seeing a national policy trend to improve school immunization rates. Last Thursday, New York lawmakers ended the state's religious exemption from vaccination requirements in schools. California’s Assembly Health Committee will vote this week on a bill that would grant the Department of Public Health reviewing authority over medical exemptions at schools with low immunization rates. In Colorado, Governor Jared Polis (opting not to remove nonmedical exemptions) has instead signed an executive order directing the state's Department of Public Health to study the root causes of low immunization rates and educate people on vaccines. We hope to see the topic addressed in CT next session!