June 21, 2022

A Year of Big Wins – E4E-CT

Daniel Pearson • Executive Director E4E-Connecticut

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This year, we have made incredible progress towards growing a powerful, teacher-led movement, achieving impactful policy victories, and positioning our team and network for success. We proved our impact during the 2022 legislative session with the passing of monumental legislation that will set the stage for equitable change in this upcoming academic year.

See below for an overview of some of E4E-Connecticut’s most significant areas of progress from this past year. Your support empowers impactful work across Connecticut to uplift educators and their students. We look forward to continuing this work and forging the pathway forward together. 

Policy Impact

As the COVID-19 pandemic and variants persisted over the past year, E4E-Connecticut continued to respond for educators. Virtual engagement – including training sessions on talking to the media, writing op-ed pieces, speaking with legislators, and tactics for community power building – became our most important tool for elevating teacher voice and pushing urgent policy priorities. Most notably, this legislative session, over 100 E4E-educators mobilized and organized to ensure their voices were heard on critical issues that impact them and their students. These teachers took on nearly 400 advocacy actions, including contacting legislators, attending legislative meetings, making public comments, and meeting with municipal officials (Board of Education members, mayors, superintendents, etc.).  

Altogether, our work alongside powerful E4E teachers, both as a group and in coalition with our key partners across the state, resulted in the following: 

Children’s Mental Health Bills: At a time when the mental health crisis has reached new heights for students across Connecticut, their teachers are the ones who continue to advocate on their behalf. E4E teachers were focused on the school-based components of these bills. They moved this body of work forward by meeting with numerous legislators and making it absolutely clear that preemptive and preventive measures begin with school-based mental health resources. We are excited to keep this momentum going. Ultimately, this legislative session, our team worked alongside hardworking teachers to take advocacy actions, leading to three major achievements:

Helped establish and expand a new grant that allows districts to hire mental health professionals. Originally, the funds were going to be used to hire only school social workers, however, it has been expanded to the hiring of school psychologists, counselors, nurses, and other mental health specialists.Secured an additional $10M for school- based mental health centers, which are present in all three of our districts (Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven). Hired five additional trauma coordinators at the State Department of Education in order to regionalize these crucial trainings, as opposed to having one designated coordinator for the entire state. These coordinators will be able to train others on the best practices of trauma-informed teaching, who will then go to various districts and scale these crucial trainings on their own. This effectively allows for more immersive professional development sessions for our teachers, as opposed to having a virtual webinar series. 

Teacher diversity: In a joint effort with other stakeholders, E4E members leveraged their own experiences to advocate for sustainable solutions to diversifying the teacher workforce. Elevating teacher voice resulted in an unprecedented $2M included in the state budget for BIPOC students coming from Title I districts to join Educator Preparation Providers and Programs. These funds will be utilized as scholarships for students who are pursuing teaching as a career. With equity gaps widened due to the pandemic, the correlation between a diverse teacher force and better outcomes for students is more important than ever.

Teacher certification: One source of teacher shortages is the rigid and deficient process for selecting and employing teachers. Teacher certification laws, intended to ensure good teachers lead our classrooms, instead, frequently keep highly qualified individuals out of the profession by requiring aspiring educators to navigate through a time-consuming, often complicated, certification process. 

In the long run, we believe there needs to be a major shift in teacher certification regulations. This critical effort requires a myriad of moving components to ensure that the solution is sustainable. In the meantime, with the urgency around teacher shortages, we have taken steps to meet the immediate needs of the profession. For instance, we have worked closely with the State Department of Education (SDE) and their Chief Talent Office, Dr. Shuana Tucker, to expand certification with states in the Northeast to help with the staffing shortages. In tandem with the hundreds of actions taken on  by E4E-members, the SDE was successful in opening certification opportunities to any licensed teacher from Virginia to Maine and Puerto Rico. These educators are now able to receive an equivalent teaching certification in Connecticut, which helps address the significant staffing shortages in the state. This has been an ongoing process and in the coming year, E4E-Connecticut is looking to make substantial progress in breaking down more barriers to entry and recruiting in order to improve student learning as well as retain high quality teachers and improve student learning.

Collectively, despite the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, E4E-Connecticut is proud of our work this year to respond to this unique moment and drive toward the long term, transformational change our system needs. Two years ago, we made tremendous progress on closing the racial funding gap. This year, despite it being a non-budget year, we were able to have a strong campaign to push the school funding bill as close to the finish line as possible. The gains we made this session have put us in a strong position to advocate to fully fund ECS before the expiration of ESSER funds in 2025. 

Daniel Pearson