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Economic Reopening - But Not For Many Schools + Students; CT Higher Ed Running Low on Reserves

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: Economic Reopening in CT- But Not For Many Schools and Students, and CT Public Colleges and Universities Running Low on Reserves During Pandemic.

Economic Reopening for CT - But Not for Many Schools and Students

Tomorrow, Connecticut enters a new phase of reopening for restaurants and other businesses that will allow for 75% capacity for indoor dining and an increased capacity allowance for large events. Commissioner of Economic and Community Development David Lehman announced that, with these changes, 99% of the state’s economy will now be open.

Connecticut has taken a phased, statewide approach to get to this point with businesses. It leaves many wondering, therefore, why state leaders continue to use a very different looking and more patchwork approach to schools, one that leaves decisions to each town rather than regions they proposed, with 66% of all Connecticut public school students in either a hybrid or fully remote setting. COVID-19 infection data remains very low in most of the state by all standards, and early fears of significant in-school outbreaks where students attend full time have not materialized. Connecticut has been a national leader on fighting COVID. But it’s difficult to understand the logic of having 99% of the state’s economy reopen, when many students are left to attend only half or no in-person school each week.

These local decisions are exacerbating inequity and limiting access to learning from town to town. Thought leaders agree. According to a paper entitled Politics, Markets, and Pandemics: Public Education’s Response to COVID-19 released this week by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, “Contrary to the conventional understanding of school districts as localized and non-partisan actors, we find evidence that politics, far more than science, shaped school district decision-making. Mass partisanship and teacher union strength best explain how school boards approached reopening.” And for some, economic priorities have proven more urgent than addressing the disadvantages remote or hybrid learning pose for students. For that audience, the OECD released a report, The Economic Impacts of Learning Losses, that lays out the economic cost of these decisions as well. The data they report “suggests that the students in grades 1-12 affected by the closures might expect some 3 percent lower income over their entire lifetimes.”

CT Public Colleges and Universities Running Low on Reserves

Over the last two weeks, we have seen both UConn and the CSCUs make requests for tens of millions of state dollars to meet significant budget shortfalls exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. Factors like enrollment, collective bargaining compensation commitments, and the steep loss of revenue from on-campus housing and services like meals have greatly impacted the bottom lines of some of these institutions. In June, UConn’s governing board passed a budget that increases spending on it’s campuses an additional $61 million for the next fiscal year, including contractually obligated salary and fringe benefit increases for faculty totaling $45.2 million.

...And Tune in Tonight for This Trailblazer on the Debate Stage

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