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: an update on the Dalio public-private education initiative, a decrease in CT’s school immunizations, and Senator Warren’s plan for K-12 education.
First Meeting of the Dalio-funded Partnership
On Friday, the Partnership for Connecticut held its first meeting. The public-private education initiative totals $300 million over five years, funded in equal parts through a private investment from the Dalio family, public funds, and a third private source--not yet raised. When the Partnership was created, the General Assembly approved its exemption from FOIA laws. Although the first hour of last week’s meeting was public, most of the time was spent behind closed doors. We are encouraged that this project--which has been introduced as an effort to help at-risk students improve graduation rates and receive job training--is moving forward for the benefit of Connecticut kids. As education advocates who work with state leaders on policy solutions, we’re paying close attention to where these dollars get spent geographically and what types of programming will be funded with state money. Transparency is critical on those issues most of all.
A Less Immunized CT?
On Monday, the Department of Public Health (DPH) released school-level immunization data for the 2018-2019 school year. DPH Commissioner Coleman-Mitchell said she was “very concerned” that the number of schools failing to meet the federally recommended immunization threshold is on the rise. At the same time, the number of families claiming religious exemptions to vaccination requirements has also increased. Governor Lamont and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff both issued press statements reiterating a need to repeal non-medical exemptions in the interest of public health. DFER CT has been a vocal proponent of releasing this data and repealing non-medical exemptions because we believe parents have a right to know their children are enrolled in safe and healthy schools. Accordingly, DFER CT State Director Amy Dowell released a statement applauding the Governor for making this data public and for affirming his support for the repeal of religious exemptions from school immunization requirements.
From the administration (Gov. Lamont Press Statement | DPH Commissioner Coleman-Mitchell Press Statement)
Senator Warren’s Plan for Public Education
Also on Monday, presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plans for K-12 education, which include banning for-profit charters and ending federal funding for new charter schools. Public charter advocates have responded that Warren's plan is out-of-touch with Democratic voters, who want more options for students, not fewer. DFER National President Shavar Jeffries has called the plan’s position on charters a break with the Obama legacy, insisting that "limiting high-quality options that have been proven to increase equity within the public school system is the wrong plan for Democrats." Among other ideas, Senator Warren’s K-12 plans also call for:
Quadrupling federal spending to support public schools serving low-income students, state/district special education costs, and an "Excellence in Education" grant;
Pursuing desegregation of schools (through integration efforts, magnet schools, and taking on exclusionary/restrictive zoning laws); and
Ending “high stakes” testing.