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: New data show bias in police referrals at CT schools; Dems release national higher education proposals; and Biden calls for testing, masking, and vaccines in schools.
Connecticut Schools and Student Referrals to Police
Over the past week, CTNewsJunkie has been doing a deep dive into research recently released by the Center for Public Integrity—which explores the rates at which various subgroups of students are referred to the police across the nation. Mirroring an ongoing trend of opportunity gaps, Connecticut's data reveal that both Black students and students with disabilities are referred to the police at alarming rates. In total, 3.9 out of every 1,000 Connecticut students gets a referral. But for Black and disabled students, the rates are 7.8 and 8.9 per 1,000, respectively. As Sara Eagan, Connecticut's Child Advocate, has observed, over-reliance on police suggests both bias and programmatic deficiencies. Children need support from their schools and communities to get at the root causes of their behaviors, never a pathway to prison.
Dems Seek to Pair College Access with College Success
Last week, Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee released their higher education proposals, modeled on President Biden's American Families Plan. The package includes both a federal-state partnership that will make community college tuition-free and a competitive grant to improve college completion and retention. A new report from our national affiliate, Education Reform Now, observes that the proposals mark a paradigm shift for higher education policy: whereas federal efforts to date have largely been focused on college access and affordability, Democrats are now seeking to address the rates of college success in tandem. The report also provides recommendations to strengthen the plan, largely emphasizing a need to bridge the path between high school and higher education, and to establish greater accountability over the federal funds. The Democrats’ package is expected to be considered under reconciliation. It requires only a simple majority vote and could therefore pass even without any Republican support.
Biden's Call for Testing, Masking, and Vaccines in Schools
Monday's New York Times highlighted that only a minority of large school districts are meeting the Biden administration's expectations regarding vaccinations, regular testing for unvaccinated teachers and staff, and universal masking. On September 9th, the President said that, for schools to stay open and safe, they need to require all three—but so far, many districts are only succeeding at masking. The President’s COVID-19 action plan, "Path Out of the Pandemic,” says it will require all federally employed teachers to be vaccinated and calls on governors to adopt vaccine requirements for all school staff. It additionally tasks schools with setting up regular testing. For districts being penalized by states that ban mask mandates, the administration plans to provide extra financial support.
Here in Connecticut, Governor Lamont announced yesterday that he wants to extend the school mask mandate past September 30th, when his emergency powers expire. The Connecticut Education Association said it was supportive of continuing universal masking in schools. Lawmakers will convene in the last week of September to vote on a sixth extension of the Governor's pandemic-related powers.