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Court OKs Removal of Religious Exemptions to Vax, Report on Teacher Diversity, CT Free School Meals

Court Upholds CT Removal of Religious Exemptions to School Vax Requirements

On Friday, the Hartford Courant reported that a federal appeals court had upheld Connecticut legislation eliminating religious exemptions to school vaccination requirements. That 2021 law was the result of a pre-pandemic advocacy effort beginning in 2019, during an interstate measles outbreak. ERN CT, a vocal proponent of the bill, argued that school vaccination policy was a matter of civil rights—since families whose children attend public school are entitled to healthy classrooms as a precondition of learning.

In a press statement regarding the court's decision to uphold the legislation, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong responded that, "The legislature acted responsibly and well within its authority to protect the health of Connecticut families and stop the spread of preventable disease."

NCTQ Report Compares Teacher Diversity Efforts Among States

A year ago, our affiliate, ERN CT, explored what it termed Connecticut’s "Diversity Gap"—a metric indicating the demographic imbalances between the percentages of students and teachers of color across the state. That Diversity Gap is growing steadily, not improving, in spite of significant efforts.

This week, a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) takes the issue on in a similar fashion, using a metric called the “relative gap,” which essentially compares the diversity gap in each state to the size of its student of color population.

NCTQ’s report finds that Connecticut has a relative gap of 79%—the 16th widest in the country—but it also highlights that Connecticut is one of only seven states to currently have a public, numeric goal to diversify the teacher workforce. (See their image on right.)

Connecticut Expands Free School Meals

On Monday, Governor Lamont and Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker announced that Connecticut is investing $16 million of federal funding through the American Rescue Plan into an expansion of the free school meals program. Since the pandemic began, Connecticut schools have used federal relief resources to fund universal free breakfast, and when those funds lapsed, the legislature passed an emergency measure extending that program through the end of the 2022-23 school year. Anti-hunger advocates have pushed for a permanent policy of universal school meals, but that proposal did not advance through this past legislative session.

Instead, as CT Insider’s Ken Dixon explains, under the new plan announced this week, 114 school districts serving over 177,000 students who previously paid reduced prices for breakfast will now get that meal for free. Moreover, 128 districts serving 13,197 students eligible for reduced cost lunch will now get those meals for free as well. Jessika Harkay from the CT Mirror observes that in the last school year, 42.4% of Connecticut students were eligible for free or reduced-price meals. This effort will help them to start their school day off right with nutrition to fuel their learning and growth.

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