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: Schools Face Specific Staffing Shortages, Pfizer Seeks Emergency Authorization for Ages 5+, Critical Race Theory - a Losing Political Strategy
Schools Face Specific Staffing Shortages
A 2019 Rockefeller Center study commissioned by the State Department of Education indicates that, broadly speaking, Connecticut does not have a teacher shortage—except by specific endorsement (ie. Special Education, Math, Science) or geographic location (ie. low-income and densely populated communities). However, as schools reopen this year, Connecticut is mirroring a nationwide trend of staffing shortages amidst the pandemic.
Forty eight states and the District of Columbia have reported teacher shortages in the area of special education this year—according to Friday’s New York Times article on the impact of the pandemic on students with disabilities. Likewise, Connecticut Public Radio detailed last Thursday that Bridgeport Public Schools still has 16 special education vacancies a month into the school year.
Monday’s EdWeek notes many other unfilled positions across the country, from cafeteria workers to social workers. Of particular note, however, is the bus driver shortage. In a survey by the National School Transportation Association, about half of responding school districts said their bus driver shortage was severe—leading to some extraordinary measures. The mayor of Chicago is asking Uber and Lyft to assist and offering cash to parents who transport their own children, and Massachusetts called in the National Guard for help. Here in Connecticut, some school bus companies kicked off the academic year by offering signing bonuses to new drivers. However, frustrated and stressed parents have described significant school busing delays in districts like Colchester, Stamford, Waterbury.
Pfizer Vaccine for Younger Kids Brings New Hope and Hesitancy
This week, Pfizer announced that its vaccine is safe and effective for children aged 5-11. But polling has shown that some parents have reservations, even if the vaccine gets approved by the FDA. The New York Times reports that parents' hesitancy appears to increase the younger the child in question—with 20% of parents not yet vaccinating their 12-17 year olds, 25% planning to refuse for 5-11 year olds, and 30% for children under 5. Scientists are studying a rare possible side effect of the vaccine in young people, myocarditis. However, a study in Israel finds that this inflammation of the heart is even more likely to be caused by COVID itself. The Connecticut Department of Public Health has issued a press release stating the Pfizer trial data has not yet been peer-reviewed or published, but nevertheless calling the news a step in the right direction. Pfizer will seek emergency authorization for ages 5 and up.
Critical Race Theory, A Divisive and Losing Political Strategy Long Term
The Hartford Courant's Sunday Editorial took a strong stance on Critical Race Theory—both arguing the wrongheadedness of the Republican position that the subject is detrimental, and acknowledging that it's still a winning political strategy across the country and in places in Connecticut. "Make white people afraid of losing their power, their privilege, their wealth and win an election," the piece offers. Earlier this month, we covered how this political strategy is putting school boards in the hot seat and playing out in towns like Guilford—where anti-Critical-Race-Theory candidates swept the GOP nominations for school board. But as the Connecticut Post points out, those candidates now face a general election in a town where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1. The DFER CT State Director is quoted as saying “This is going to end up being a bigger problem for Republicans that nominate more conservative, incendiary candidates. I don’t think this is a good setup for Republicans in the long term, particularly in Connecticut.”
DFER CT Mention: CRT Opponents Face Challenge for Wider Relevance (CT Post)