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New recommendation for Ed Commissioner, how student debt impacts diversity, and Dem primary update

Updated: Nov 6, 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: the State Board of Ed switches its recommendation for Education Commissioner, the impact of student debt on minority teacher recruitment, and an update on the Democratic primaries.

Commissioner Watch

Last week, we highlighted the designation of an Interim Commissioner of Education, Desi Nesmith, and the anticipated recommendation of Bloomfield Superintendent James Thompson to the permanent role. But the CT Mirror broke the news last night of a "dramatic reversal" in which Miguel Cardona, assistant superintendent of Meriden, would be chosen instead as the state’s top education chief. Reportedly, the position was originally offered to Dr. Thompson, but the agreement fell apart in conversations around roles, responsibilities, and salary. Cardona is a long-time educator, and a former principal of the year.

How Student Debt Impacts Minority Teacher Recruitment

The Center for American Progress just released a report finding that disproportionate student loan debt burden could be deterring Black and Latinx teachers from entering our nation’s classrooms. The report describes a “pay penalty” in the teaching profession because teachers lack salaries commensurate with their levels of education. Since teacher candidates of color are more likely to graduate with student loan debt, the pay penalty is a barrier to minority teacher recruitment. For states seeking to diversify their educator workforce, the report recommends policies including: raising teachers' salaries and loan forgiveness. The analysis is timely on both a state and national level. Here in Connecticut, educator diversity remains a top priority--as the student population grows increasingly diverse and educator demographics remain largely white. Meanwhile, national policy conversations around student loan debt have been a notable issue among Democratic primary candidates.

Education, Funding, and The Primary Races

Although higher education policy has been highlighted (see above), serious discussions to improve K-12 education have not been a feature of the primary debates so far, with the exception of funding. Education expert Kalman Hettleman, in an interesting opinion piece this week, posits that this is due to a lack of Democratic party consensus about what reform should look like. (Recommending a “new education federalism,” Hettleman himself would target local control over standards, tests, funding, spending.)


Also notable for those interested in the Democratic primaries: second quarter fundraising totals were released this week. Buttigieg and Biden lead the pack (with $24.8M and $21.5M, respectively), followed by Warren, Sanders, and Harris.