Public Policy Agenda 2023
Each year, the CAPSS Legislative Committee and Board of Directors review the current conditions and most pressing needs in public schools as well as the CAPSS Blueprint to Transform Connecticut’s Public Schools, released in early 2021. They then select several priorities for the next year’s Public Policy Agenda.
What follows is the CAPSS Public Policy Agenda 2023. While reflective of the Blueprint, this agenda focuses on the highest priorities to be addressed, including the allocation of greater and more equitable resources for public schools and the expectation of stronger student success.
CAPSS supports the work of the Connecticut School Finance Project but remains concerned about those towns slated to lose ECS funds and the use of ECS funds for local property tax relief as opposed to education.
Recommendation(s): The General Assembly and Governor should continue to refine the ECS formula to focus funds on the neediest districts while recognizing their education challenges and the local capacity to pay. The size of the pie and the State’s share must grow yearly with a more substantial long-term commitment. No town should lose funds from the 2020-2021 base year, and there should never be mid-year rescissions.
The Blueprint identifies a list of categorical grants requiring greater state funding and improved statutory language. However, the Special Education Excess Cost Grant is a critical priority and must be significantly addressed in 2023. After decades of promises to share the financial burden, the failure of both the federal and state government to do so places the financial burden in large part on local municipalities.
Recommendation(s): Fully fund the Excess Cost Grant in 2023 and each year thereafter with an equitable distribution among towns.
CAPSS has been a consistent voice on the need for statewide improvement in early reading and embraces the Science of Reading approach. CAPSS fully supports the 2021 Reading Legislation with the exception of mandated reading programs.
- There should not be a mandate for specific reading materials.
- School districts should embrace the Science of Reading and have a literacy curriculum built on phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
For 40 years, the CSDE has tried to provide guidance and support for local teacher evaluation programs. The most recent statutory requirements have been virtually abandoned in most states. The best solution would be a fresh start with minimal broad state guidance and local initiatives with annual attestation of continuous evaluation for all staff.
- Eliminate the current educator evaluation system. Provide opportunities for districts to develop innovative and creative evaluation systems that reflect new and effective instructional methodologies. This new system should be based on the Common Core of Teaching and be supported by practitioners serving as coaches.
CAPSS supports a significant decrease in requirements for all teacher/administrator certifications. The certification process should focus more on demonstrating “good teaching” through more and better student teaching and accepting prior successful experience as a part of the credential review.
- CAPSS looks forward to the recommendations in the State Department of Education’s Report on Certification due to the Legislature on January 1, 2023
CAPSS sees the value in high-quality Remote & Virtual Learning in meeting the multi-faceted learning needs of all students. The personalization efforts already underway statewide will be enhanced by greater access to remote learning and greater offerings in a virtual classroom.
- The State should provide local boards of education discretionary power to utilize up to 3 remote learning days per school for emergency closures. Any number of days beyond 3 days would need approval by the Commissioner of Education.
- The State should develop a regional concept for a model that includes virtual and in-person learning that opens learning to the same content areas for all students.
Federal ARP ESSER Funds
CAPSS supports changes to state and federal law that would allow the unique use of these funds and allow a longer period to complete the expenditure of these funds.
State law should be amended to allow for the local match of school construction to use either or both local educational and town AARP funds as the match. Federal law should be amended to allow for an additional three years (2027 in place of 2024) for the expenditure of all three rounds of ARP ESSER funding.
Pre-K and ESL Funding
CAPSS supports two items that should help restore and improve academic achievement:
- Additional funding for preschool;
- Additional funding for ESL and bilingual education;
- Add state funding to these accounts, amend state statutes as needed and require additional time and one-on-one tutoring, and other support, for the most challenged students.