June 7, 2019

Educators for Excellence-Connecticut Reacts to Legislative Wins, Missed Opportunities

June 7 (New Haven) - Educators for Excellence-Connecticut (E4E-Connecticut), a teacher-led organization, responded to the successful passage of state legislation (SB 1022 and SB 1020) that would enhance efforts to recruit and retain teachers of color as encouraging but insufficient progress, and the failure of HB 7226 to be voted on in the Connecticut State Senate before the end of session.

Three bills were the result of E4E-Connecticut educators’ dedicated efforts before and throughout the legislative session.

Guided by their policy work around increasing the number of teachers of color in the state, educators were a frequent presence at the State Capitol, participating in the organization’s Advocacy Day in May, testifying on behalf of the proposed policies, and engaging their legislators through petitions and direct outreach. Those efforts resulted in the successful passage of both SB 1020 and SB 1022, both of which Governor Ned Lamont is expected to sign in the coming weeks. SB 1020 and SB 1022 would implement means to increase the number of educators of color and require culturally responsive pedagogy, respectively. Conversely, HB 7226, which would have incentivized municipalities to create affordable housing, passed overwhelmingly in the House but failed to be voted on by the Senate.

“While I certainly welcome and appreciate the passage of the minority teacher recruitment and culturally responsive pedagogy bills, as an educator, this bill could have had such a positive impact on students, educators and communities," said Syeita Rhey-Fisher, a fourth-grade teacher at Achievement First and E4E-Connecticut member. “Educators all over the country are grappling with finding affordable housing, not just Connecticut. Lawmakers had an opportunity to address that challenge, but the clock ran out on what should have been a priority.”

“We are grateful that legislators passed two key bills that strengthen Connecticut’s ability to provide quality education to underserved students by growing the number of educators of color and naming the relevance of culturally responsive pedagogy are promising wins,” said Andréa Comer, Executive Director of E4E-Connecticut. “At the same time, we are disheartened by the missed opportunity to create affordable housing for educators who want to live in the communities where they teach. HB 7226 would have enabled municipalities to use blighted properties and off-lined schools for educator housing, which could have gone a long way toward addressing the chasm between where teachers teach and where they can afford to live. We can develop and implement a host of strategies to recruit educators - particularly educators of color. But if they cannot afford to live here, they won’t come, and they certainly won’t stay.”

Many states throughout the country, like CaliforniaNew Jersey and Florida, have already implemented strategies to develop affordable housing for teachers.