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The Connecticut State Community College; New NAEP Results; and SCOTUS on Charters as State Actors

Introducing… The Connecticut State Community College

Starting next week, Connecticut's twelve community colleges will merge into a single entity, Connecticut State Community College, with campuses across the state. John Maduko will serve as the President of the newly merged community college. The merger has been rolled out over the past six years—a solution designed to address declining enrollment and financial difficulties through administrative consolidation. In an NBC CT story, Maduko said that the merger will also allow students to take classes at any of the state's twelve campuses—facilitating "freedom of movement and choice to the student" and transferable credits.

More National Evidence of Pandemic Slide

One week ago today, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term trend (LTT) reading and mathematics results for 13-year-old students. While the main NAEP exam—sometimes called the "nation's report card"—is administered to students in grades 4, 8, and 12 every two years, the LTT is usually administered every four years to 9-year olds, 13-year olds, and 17-year olds. According to reporting by The New York Times (NYT), math performance was last this low for 13-year olds in 1990, and reading was last this low in 2004. NYT education reporter Dana Goldstein calls the results, "the federal government's final major release of data on pandemic learning loss"—observing that the 13-year olds who took this exam last fall were ten years old when the pandemic hit. The Washington Post's coverage reminds readers that 9-year olds also showed a historic backslide on the LTT last fall.

Charters as State Actors? SCOTUS Let’s It Stand

On Monday, the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) refrained from reviewing a case regarding the constitutional limits of public charter schools. North Carolina’s Charter Day is a publicly funded charter that requires girls to wear skirts based on the belief that each girl is a “fragile vessel.” A year ago, a federal court of appeals ruled in favor of the girls who brought the case, holding that the school was actually a “state actor” that violated the Equal Protection Clause by perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes through its dress code. SCOTUS' denial of an appeal will leave the lower court’s decision standing, The Hill explains.

"Girls at public charter schools have the same constitutional rights as their peers at other public schools," said the Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project in a press release.

But beyond the win for gender equality, we are also left wondering whether this outcome could have implications for another impending charter school case. Earlier this month, Oklahoma approved a religious charter school, a taxpayer funded institution that teaches Catholic principles. In response, DFER CEO Jorge Elorza urged Democrats, “to stand against public dollars being used to support religious instruction, and to also continue protecting and expanding high quality public charter schools that are providing an excellent education to students across our nation.”

If SCOTUS agrees that public charter schools are indeed state actors, then surely they will be subject to the constitutional establishment clause separating church and state. Politico and The 74 each have articles this week regarding the relationship between the two charter cases.

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