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Confronting religious exemptions, a summary of Philos 2019, and over-enrollment in Danbury

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: confronting religious exemptions, over-enrollment in Danbury, and a summary of our national conference.

Confronting the Need to End Religious Exemptions

In recent weeks, Governor Lamont has publicly supported both transparency on school immunity levels and the repeal of religious exemptions, which are increasingly being used/abused to avoid vaccinating school children in the state. On Monday night, we hosted a forum on the topic--to support legislators allied with the Governor’s strong position and to provide a platform for medical professionals to explain the need for herd immunity in schools. This important conversation was nevertheless a heated one, with protestors staking out the position that their personal freedoms outweigh questions of broad public health. A hearty thanks to Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, Senator Will Haskell, Public Health Committee Chair Representative Jonathan Steinberg, Dr. Benjamin Doolittle of Yale, Dr. Leslie Miller of Fairfield County Medical Association, and Dr. Jody Terranova of the American College of Pediatrics for sharing their convictions and wisdom.

Over-enrollment In Danbury Schools

As many Connecticut public schools face declining enrollment, the city of Danbury has seen an unanticipated increase of over 600 new students this summer alone. Although the city has made an emergency request for state aid to address the surprise jump in enrollment, the State Department of Education says it must defer to the regular legislative process on matters of education aid. Two potential policy solutions at hand that can provide relief to the overburdened district:

(1) Expand the state’s Open Choice program, which allows students to attend school in any participating district within the region in which they reside. This state effort is voluntary, creates options for families, addresses declining enrollment in smaller host school districts, and provides assistance to over-enrolled sending districts.

(2) Fund the Danbury Prospect Charter School, which was approved to open in 2018 by the State Board of Education, but was excluded from the biennial budget in 2019. This school was slated to serve 110 students this year, and grow to 550 students over 5 years.

Philos Follow Up

Last week, the DFER CT team joined our state chapter counterparts, our national team, and distinguished thought leaders from across the country at an annual convention--hosted by our 501(c)(3) affiliate, Education Reform Now, in Washington, D.C. Among numerous interesting sessions, we heard from:

Former VT Governor Howard Dean on how he became a supporter of the charter movement;

  • Nationally recognized Democratic pollsters, strategists, and analysts on the state of the Democratic party; and

  • The Center for American Progress, The Education Trust, the National Urban League, and The Raben Group on racial equity and how to co-create change with the communities we are seeking to serve.

An evening award ceremony also honored the outstanding efforts of Former US Attorney Eric Holder, RI Governor Gina Raimondo, NJ State Senator Teresa Ruiz, and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Wow! We’re already excited for Philos 2020!


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