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DFER CT: 2019 Sine Die

Wednesday Weekly is a segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT that looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. In this Sine Die Edition, we’re focused on the top stories at the close of the legislative session. As you read this, the General Assembly is racing towards its constitutional adjournment at 12:00 AM. We expect dozens of laws to be passed in the final hours of the 2019 regular session through a mechanism called a “Consent Calendar”. If you want to tune in to the procedural excitement and bipartisan mayhem (which is an annual rite of passage, nothing new!) Connecticut Television Network will be covering the show. Otherwise, we will update you in the coming days on any education policy developments.

3 Resources to Understand the State Budget

After nearly 8 hours of debate last night, the House and Senate have adopted the biennial budget, which was originally released on Sunday night. Need help understanding the impact on education? We’ve got you covered: (1) The 5 Quick Takeaways we released on Monday cut through the 567 pages to provide a brief overview of the new education policies funded by the budget. (2) The Connecticut School Finance Project released an analysis last night, highlighting changes to state education grants--including funding levels for ECS and schools of choice. (3) The CT Mirror has published an interactive map that breaks down state aid for municipalities.

The Dalio Donation

Part of the biennial budget establishes the Partnership for Connecticut, Inc--to direct the $20M per year from the General Fund to a Philanthropic Match Account, as required by the state’s agreement with the Dalio family. (The Dalios donated $100 million in education aid that the state is matching with an additional $100M, as well as an expected philanthropic match of a further $100M, totaling $300M over five years.) This week, legislators debated the merits of exempting those overseeing the gift and matches from ethics and disclosure rules. Although the board of the Partnership for Connecticut will consist of some state officials and use state funds, it will not be considered a state agency, and will therefore not be subject to FOI laws. Today, the Hartford Courant editorialized about the need for transparency in this public-private partnership, primarily because of the match from taxpayers.

The programmatic details about how the funds will be spent are also still not clear. To help put this underlying $20 million annual contribution in context--keep in mind that the State of CT invests billions of dollars on CT’s more than 500,000 public school students every year. The ECS grant, the primary source of funding for public schools, is over $2 billion for FY20. The $120 million for charter schools supports approximately 10,000 students in FY20. The Open Choice program, which serves approximately 3,000 students, is funded at $26.8 million in FY20. Finally, the Department of Education’s talent development efforts for a workforce of approximately 35,000 teachers is $2.1 million in FY20.

Addressing MTR This Session

The need to recruit and retain more educators of color is an increasingly well-documented problem nationally and in Connecticut. While 46% of our state’s students are students of color, our educator workforce is composed of only 9% educators of color. Issuing a joint statement with partner organizations, we made this one of our key issues for session because we know how important it is for students of color to see more educators that look like them. The quest for solutions has gained a lot of traction, and we are grateful to the Governor and Education Committee for their leadership thus far, with both a budget investment and a critical piece of legislation passing the House and Senate. Importantly, the entire MTR package is funded at $570,134 per year for the biennium. Next year, we hope to see even more systematic change--with funding appropriated accordingly.


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