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Municipal Elections Go Blue, USEd Takes on Antisemitism and Islamophobia, Right to Read Expands PD

Municipal Elections Go Blue Across the State

Nationwide, Democrats saw clear wins as votes were counted in last night's off-year election. According to the Hartford Courant, education was among the top issues motivating voters in Connecticut as they turned out at the polls—alongside topics like taxes and inflation. Alex Putterman for CT Insider has a good write-up of some of the key races across the state. In Bridgeport, where a judge ordered a re-do for the Democratic primary election (if you missed it, we had more on that story in last week's newsletter), incumbent Joe Ganim appears to have won the mayoral race. Due to the controversy over absentee ballots, which could potentially result in a primary rematch, the outcome of this race is "far from settled." Democrats were also victorious in key mayoral races, including New Haven (a third term for Mayor Justin Elicker), Danbury (Roberto Alves beats incumbent Dean Esposito), Hartford (a win for Arunan Arulampalam), and Waterbury (Paul Pernerewski overcomes Republican challenger). Putterman explains that Democrats also flipped races in some smaller towns, including Derby, Fairfield, and Brookfield.

USEd Takes Action on Antisemitism and Islamophobia

Last week, the New York Times chronicled an increased police and FBI presence at Cornell University, following online threats to shoot and kill Jewish students there. CBS covered a "standoff" between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protestors at Cooper Union in New York City, which resulted in the school library sheltering Jewish students while pro-Palestinian protestors banged on the glass walls. On Monday, the Washington Post reported on a hate-crime investigation at Stanford University, involving a hit-and-run that injured a Muslim student.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitic incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault have increased by 388 percent since the October 7th terror attack by Hamas on Israel a month ago. Likewise, the Council on American Islamic Relations has reported that it has seen the largest wave of complaints reporting bias incidents against Muslims since Donald Trump called for a Muslim ban while first running for office.

Yesterday, the US Department of Education (USEd) responded to these trends with a press statement reminding colleges, universities, and schools of their legal obligation to address discrimination—including antisemitism and Islamophobia. An accompanying "Dear Colleague" letter from USEd's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) urged schools to be vigilant in protecting students' rights to learn in schools free of discrimination, including “Jewish students, Israeli students, Muslim students, Arab students, Palestinian students, and all other students who reside within our school communities.”

NBC News says that the departments of Justice and Homeland Security are both partnering with campus law enforcement to monitor threats of hate. According to CNN, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has described an "uptick in complaints" filed with the OCR since October 7th.

It's a balancing act for schools, which must protect students against discrimination while also protecting the right of free speech. But for New York Governor Kathy Hochul, the bright line appears to be clear. According to Politico, she has said that, “When speech crosses over into hate speech and into hate crimes, that’s when we have to make sure that students know that we’ll step up and protect them.”

Right to Read Expands Professional Development for Districts

Last year, the Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success (the Center) launched an ARPA Right to Read Grant to support local districts financially as they establish evidence-based literacy teaching and learning in Grades K-3. Districts receiving these funds are required to complete their applications by December 29th of this year, and, according to the Center's website, are also required to:

  • Adopt state-approved universal screening assessments and core curricula for evidence-based early literacy in grades K-3, including associated programs of professional development; and

  • Establish district leadership literacy teams to attend ten days of professional learning about Connecticut’s model for the science of reading.

That ten day training is called the Right to Read Statewide Professional Learning Series, and it begins next week! Catering to six-member district leadership teams, the series will train educators in how to build a district-wide, multi-tiered model of instruction and assessment—as well as in the critical components of literacy instruction.

Nearly a hundred public school districts across the state have already signed up to participate. This is exactly the type of state-led infrastructure that will help to ensure successful implementation of Connecticut’s Right to Read law. Huge credit to the CSDE for its leadership!

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