Below are key education proposals put forth by the General Assembly in 2022 and ConnCAN’s testimony in support of bills addressing student-centered funding, establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday, minority teacher recruitment retention, expanded child care opportunities, teacher certification and affordable housing (updated 3/24/2022 @ 2:15 p.m.)
Watch our 2022 halftime report
February 17, 2022
Testimony on the Governor’s Proposed FY23 Budget Adjustments: Education
Co-Chairs Senator Osten and Representative Walker, and other distinguished members of the Appropriations Committee, my name is Subira Gordon and I am Executive Director of ConnCAN. Thank you for all the work you do on behalf of Connecticut students. Under your leadership, we’ve had engaging and meaningful conversations about how to fund students based on their needs, how to reduce the racial and economic disparity gaps, how to develop a diverse educator workforce, and how to create innovative schools that fill critical needs in our urban centers.
Often, we hear that education is the great equalizer. It has the potential to break cycles of generational poverty, provide social mobility, and help individuals achieve their full potential. Education is a prerequisite to achieve the American dream. It is the backbone of our future.
Yet, in Connecticut, it feels like we’re living in a paradox. We are highly ranked in education, yet we have the largest opportunity gaps in the country. We provide some of our children with limitless opportunities, while other students do not have the resources they need to read on grade level. As our student population has rapidly diversified, we have continued to struggle diversifying our educator workforce. We celebrate innovation, but we have yet to fund an innovative charter school in Danbury; one that has received significant local support.
We are at a crossroads, and this budget guides which direction we choose. We can either continue the status quo, which is what this proposed budget adjustment represents, or choose a new path. A path that:
- Funds all public school students based on their individual needs, as outlined by last year’s SB948;
- Make substantial investments in scholarships, rental assistance, loan forgiveness, signing bonuses for teacher candidates of color to join the educator workforce; and
- Fund the Danbury charter school to increase innovation, reduce overcrowding, and provide an option for families.
This path is in the direction of justice, equity and opportunity. We know that investments in education yield better student outcomes, especially when paired with strong school and district improvement supports. So, let’s take the new path.
Our kids, educators, families and state will thank us for being bold.
We stand with you to make these key investments, and look forward to seeing real action this year and in subsequent years. Thank you.
Read more about student-centered funding here: https://linktr.ee/studentcenteredfunding
To study and evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of existing minority teacher recruitment and retention programs and policies and other issues relating to minority teacher recruitment and retention in the state.
March 21, 2022
Testimony in Support of Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 274, with recommendations The State of Connecticut has made significant progress in building a supportive environment for diversifying the educator workforce. We have achieved the 10% teachers of color target set three years ago, but we know more must be done. Our student population is rapidly diversifying, and our educator workforce must follow suit.
This year, ConnCAN is committed to building flexibility, filling key shortage areas that disproportionately impact students of color, and modernizing the educator workforce to reflect future talent needs.
Currently, the State Department of Education has taken the lead to build flexible certification pathways for out-of-state educators. In the coming days, they plan to implement an automatic certification transfer program, also referred to as reciprocity, with thirteen states and territories, including all states from Virginia to Maine, and Puerto Rico. This is an incredibly important step for Connecticut and will help us recruit directly from post-secondary institutions in our neighboring states. ConnCAN looks forward to the implementation of this program, and for the expansion of applicable states over time.
Senate Bill 1 makes key investments in postsecondary education program scholarships for students from Priority School Districts, whose student population is 83.1% students of color, on average. The scholarship program supports students up to $20,000 a year for their education. This is life-changing. We hope there are opportunities to expand the available fund for this.
Senate Bill 274 contains important mechanisms for studying and evaluating the quality of our collective efforts on diversifying the educator workforce. ConnCAN believes that measurement and evaluation are essential for high-quality programming, and for strategic planning.
However, we are at a crossroads for diversifying the educator workforce. We must do more to ensure that our student and teacher populations match one another. Only then, can we be assured that our education system is adequately preparing all students for the diversity of the real world. ConnCAN strongly recommends adding the following priorities to Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 274:
- Organize to Transform: Reconstitute the Minority Teacher Task Force to develop long-term targets and goals and rename it The Taskforce to Diversify the Educator Workforce;
- Align Skills and Assessments for High-Quality Teaching: We must reduce certification hurdles and costs to make sure that no student fails to become an educator because they cannot afford to pay for testing.
- Retain our Best and Brightest: We must invest in educators already working in our Alliance districts by offering a master’s degree scholarship fund. That way, educators can grow in the field and commit to remaining in our neediest districts.
- Incentivize what we Need: We must provide signing bonuses for educators working in shortage areas like ELL, Special education and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). More money should go to educators who begin working in our neediest districts. We recommend a $30,000 bonus spread out over three years for Alliance Districts, with a smaller bonus structure available for high-achieving districts.
- Cooperate to Increase Educational Access for College and Career Coursework: We must find flexible ways to address educator shortages, like interdistrict educator sharing. This allows numerous districts to offer college and career courses in partnership with neighboring districts. It reduces costs, expands access and encourages innovation.
Our educator workforce, like many in our state, is facing a retirement surge in the coming years. We have an obligation to modernize the recruitment and retention practices, aimed at hiring the best and brightest, diverse talent possible. If we succeed, we will be a national leader in this field, and will benefit from acting quickly and decisively.
Testimony in support of Senate Bill 350 An Act Establishing Juneteenth Independence Day As A Legal Holiday.
March 11, 2022
Good afternoon Co-Chairs Flexer and Fox, Ranking Members Sampson and Mastrofrancesco and honorable members of the Government Administration and Elections Committee.
My name is Subira Gordon and I am here to testify in support of Senate Bill 350 which would establish Juneteenth Independence Day as a legal holiday.
Thank you for putting this legislation forward and today’s public hearing. I enthusiastically urge a favorable vote as this bill’s importance cannot be overstated. Passage of SB 350 would be Connecticut’s recognition of a more complete version of American history. This legislature also has a chance to take a step toward repentance on behalf of our nation. And, you must.
According to a 2021 Gallup survey, more than 60 percent of Americans know “nothing at all” or only “a little bit” about Juneteenth. Interestingly, it is our young adults who are more likely to know a lot, some or a little bit about Juneteenth.
The oppression and dehumanization of people in America continued long after slavery was abolished. And, we continue to fight to bring truth to light including how segregation continues to permeate throughout American society. Connecticut has an opportunity to join a group of states that have recognized Juneteenth as an official state holiday including Texas (1980), Massachusetts (2007), New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania & Virginia (2020), and Washington & Oregon (2021).
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in America. Connecticut residents would benefit from an official recognition through education and time for reflection about where America has been, where we are and where we’re going. Thank you for your time and consideration. If you have any questions, please let me know. I can be reached at 207-689-6339 or Subira.Gordon@conncan.org.
HB 5204 An Act Concerning a Needs Assessment and Fair Share Plans for Municipalities to Increase Affordable Housing
March 10, 2022
Testimony in support of House Bill 5204 An Act Concerning a Needs Assessment and Fair Share Plans for Municipalities to Increase Affordable Housing.
Good afternoon Chairman Williams and Chairman Lopes, Ranking members Poletta and Cicarella and honorable members of the Housing Committee and to the folks on this call. My name is Luis Ortiz bilingual organizer with ConnCAN. I am here to support HB 5204, a bill that would create new housing units, bring jobs to our communities most in need, and generate billions of dollars in revenue for Connecticut over the next decade.
It is no secret that the cost of housing is crippling families. Over 100,000 people are struggling to secure a safe, affordable home in a thriving, supportive community. This leads to families having to share housing which has adverse effects on the educational outcomes of the students in those households. Studies have shown that children who live in a crowded household at any time before age 19 are less likely to graduate from high school and tend to have lower educational attainment at age 25.
However, we can fix this. We can improve the housing options available, expand opportunities across the state, and nurture our cities, building on features that are already there, to ensure that they are thriving, vibrant places to live for everyone, no matter their race or background.
As an education organization, we support housing choices, because we can further advance racial equity in the state of CT, by helping many moderate and lower-income students of color gain access to the opportunities all kids need to reach their true potential.
Let’s end the systems of exclusionary zoning and unjust housing developments that have divided our state making it one of the most segregated in the nation. Let’s empower our communities with housing choices and let’s allow students the opportunity to have an education that suits their needs and empowers their future. Let’s grab our eraser and erase those redlines. Together by passing HB 5204 we can flip the script on a new page in Connecticut’s history by turning it from one of the most segregated states into one of the most diverse and inclusive as we all know it can be.
I thank you for the opportunity to advocate and participate in democracy. I know you will do what’s right.
March 21, 2022
For years, Connecticut policymakers have discussed the complexity and incoherence of our teacher certification regulations. The State Department of Education has begun to look at overhauling the certification standards, and this bill provides an additional platform to focus on the issue. ConnCAN believes that by putting all the best minds on teacher certification together, we will be better situated to make the necessary changes. Also, we will be able to pressure test 3 ideas with individuals most impacted by the issue, namely teachers, principals, administrators, students and families.
House Bill 5465 An Act Increasing Early Childhood Educator Salaries and Expanding Child Care Opportunities for Families
March 21, 2022
The key to a high-quality education system is early support and intervention. We lean on our birth-five programs to prepare our littlest ones for a successful K-12 experience. However, even with the overwhelming evidence that early childhood programs yield long-lasting positive results for children, we have not made the necessary investments in human capital.
Education is people work, done through strong relationships, and done with consideration for both the children participating and the adults entrusted to carry out the work.
We are long overdue to a salary improvement for our early childhood educators. Without them, the entire system of childcare and early childhood education and development breaks down. This would be devastating to our families, especially those from low-income, black and brown communities.
Inflationary pressures have severely dented the purchasing power of early childhood educators. And, the amounts prior to inflation were improperly low. So we must make up for lost time, and stabilize the employment sector for early childhood. Now, more than ever, is the time to invest.