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Federal House Bill Threatens Charters + CT Back-to-School COVID Precautions Still a Work in Progress

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: Federal House Bill Threatens Charters, CT Back-to-School COVID Precautions Still a Work in Progress, and CSCU Forgives Some Debt for Students Who Can't Pay Due to Pandemic

Federal Bill on K12 Spending, a Threat to Charters?

On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee voted for a fiscal 2022 bill for the US Department of Education. The legislation would provide a $25 billion increase over current K-12 spending, including doubling aid for Title I and increases to special education. However, it would also cut funding for charter schools by $40 million. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the bill's current language additionally makes any charter that contracts with a business to provide students with supplies or services—like busing or food service companies—completely ineligible to receive federal funding. Specifically, the language says that the funds cannot be awarded to a charter school that "contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, oversee or manage the activities of the school." The language is sufficiently vague that it calls into question whether public charter schools contracting with outside service providers (much like traditional public schools do) will be barred from federal funding. It is still early days on this proposed language, so we are sure there will be more to come on this debate.

CT Back-to-School COVID Precautions Still a Work in Progress

With the Pfizer vaccine requiring a five-week minimum schedule (both shots and a two week period to build immunity) and students returning to school on August 30th—Connecticut is running out of time to vaccinate more eligible students. An article in Sunday's CT Insider explored disparities in vaccination rates of students in the 12-15 age group, across district lines. Towns like Greenwich, New Canaan, and Westport, for example, boast rates of about three-quarters of students who are at least partially immunized; while cities like Bridgeport, New Haven, Waterbury, and West Haven each show a partial vaccination rate of about a quarter or a third. (Click here to see the state's data on vaccine distribution.)

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance indicating that vaccinated students and school staff don't need to wear masks in school. The incentive has potential to motivate families that are hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine for their children. However, Connecticut has yet to adopt these guidelines, with Governor Lamont still weighing whether to lift the mask mandate. Meanwhile, Connecticut's "Unmask Our Kids" parent movement is growing, and local groups are appearing across the state. Within this anti-masking movement are both parents who are pro- and anti-vaccination, according to the Courant’s coverage. The state Departments of Education and Public Health have announced jointly that they should be releasing its recommendations, in light of the new CDC guidance, “in the coming days.”

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