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Dems on Teacher Shortages, Fairfield on Racial Imbalance, Blumenthal on Online Safety for Kids

Dems Lead National Efforts Targeting Teacher Shortages

Last week, US Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) announced that he and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) had reintroduced a bi-partisan bill to address educator shortages across the country and increase teacher diversity. The "Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals" (PREP) Act would establish a competitive grant to incentivize partnerships and “Grow Your Own” programs between high-need school districts, teacher preparation programs, and community stakeholders. The PREP Act would also require states to identify areas of shortage; set aside state funds to address shortages, preparation, and diversity; and invest in minority-serving institutions. In addition, the bill would establish greater accountability for teacher preparation programs by increasing their reporting requirements.

A separate bill introduced by Senator Kaine and Senator Jack Reed (RI-D)—the Supporting Teaching and Learning through Better Data Act—would analyze teacher shortages by identifying gaps in the collection of teacher workforce data.

In fact, teacher shortages seem to be top-of-mind for Democrats, with the Biden administration also taking action on the issue this week: The US Departments of Education and Labor announced that they will invest in a teacher apprenticeship strategy, which will provide a pathway into the profession that lets teachers “earn while they learn.” According to tweeted data visualizations, 21 states have registered teacher apprenticeship programs in 2023 (of which CT is not one).

Fairfield Struggles to Address Racial Imbalance

The Fairfield Public School District is again making headlines for the imbalanced racial demographics within its schools. The district is in violation of a statewide “racial imbalance rule,” which seeks to prevent districts from isolating students of color within a specific school by requiring each school to fall within 25 percentage points of the district’s overall racial makeup. To illustrate the disparity, we've done some back-of-the-envelope comparisons of the percentage of students of color within the district and at McKinley Elementary over the past ten years, based upon enrollment data. (See chart on right below.)

According to coverage by CT Insider, Fairfield’s board plans to undertake a redistricting process. However, Fairfield's board chair has expressed frustration, blaming racial disparities on segregated housing within the district, and is calling for assistance from the town and state. We think that many school district maps have boundaries that are gerrymandered similarly to electoral maps. Here’s a look at the boundaries of Fairfield’s current district map.

Blumenthal Touts Kids Online Safety Act

CT News Junkie reports that US Senator Richard Blumenthal was in Hartford this past week, stressing the importance of the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which he and Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) re-introduced this year. The bill would hold social media companies legally responsible for mitigating the impact of content that could be dangerous to young people, and allow parents to disable addictive features. In May of this year, the US Surgeon General issued a warning that social media might pose mental health risks to children and adolescents.

Last year, the bill failed, in part due to concerns that it might censor content that could help some young people. (Think: Blanket removal of information about LGBTQ rights, reproductive health, or suicide prevention.) But Connecticut Child Advocate Sarah Eagan spoke up in favor of the bill this week, and the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation advanced the legislation once again.

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