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State Makes Investments in Literacy, Segregation in CT Schools, Ed on the Ballot for Parents

State Department of Ed Makes Investments in Early Literacy

(From left to right) Desi Nesmith, Irene Parisi, Senator Patricia Billie Miller, Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker, Joanne White, Amy Dowell, Melissa Hickey, and Fran Rabinowitz at CB Jennings Elementary School in New London on Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Yesterday, the Connecticut State Department of Education announced that 11 districts will be participating in the first cohort of a new Science of Reading (SOR) Masterclass—a $4.5M investment of funding from the American Rescue Plan. Senator Patricia Billie Miller referenced the strategic connection between this professional development opportunity and the state’s newly passed Right to Read legislation. That legislation calls for a statewide response to early literacy, overseen by a new Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success, including requiring all districts to implement state-approved curricula aligned to the science of reading by the fall of 2023. “Rolling out this new masterclass is the first step in producing a reading curriculum across the state that focuses on the science of reading," she said. Through the SOR Masterclass, district leadership teams will participate in a series of events led by national reading experts, and will receive individualized coaching to develop a districtwide plan for improvement aligned to the Science of Reading. It’s an exciting step in Connecticut’s implementation of a new systematic approach to early literacy, one that showcases the state’s genuine commitment to the effort. Kudos!

Segregation in Fairfield and Greenwich Schools

Over the weekend, the CT Post homed in on a critical story about segregation in Connecticut schools. The state’s “racial imbalance law” requires each school within a public school district to fall within 25 percentage points of the district's overall racial makeup. It's a rule designed to prevent districts from isolating students of color within specific schools. But McKinley Elementary School, featured in the story, has been out of compliance with the racial imbalance law 15 times over the last 16 years; its student body is 56% minority, even though the district of Fairfield in which it is located is nearly three quarters white. To help paint a picture of just how out-of-proportion these figures are, we’ve pulled the enrollment demographics for Fairfield’s elementary schools to determine the percentage of students of color at each.

Sure enough, McKinley Elementary is conspicuous for its disproportionately diverse student population, as compared to other schools within the same district. The article says that in 2022, there are three schools out of compliance with the racial imbalance law: this one in Fairfield, and two more in Greenwich.

Education on the Ballot for Parents

A new Harris Poll released yesterday shows that, for parents, the issue of education ranks second in state and local elections, and fourth in federal elections. The findings mirror a recent Quinnipiac Poll from the beginning of the month, in which participants ranked education 4th among issues of importance--behind only the economy, taxes, and abortion. But, as The 74 reports, the Harris Poll also adds a new piece of information to the conversation: of more than 5,000 parents surveyed, 82% said they would cross party lines for a candidate with an education agenda that matched their own. Indeed, in a press release regarding the poll, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools observed that education voters may be "the new 'swing' voters.”

Headed into state elections, it will be important for Democrats to tap into these interested parties. Just this week, a New York Times podcast titled “First Person” covers the growth of the "parental rights" movement. The episode describes how the movement has been primarily used to amass power on the right. But that doesn’t have to be the case! Democratic candidates can and should be ready to speak to parents’ priorities, and how they intend to meet their needs.

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