On March 13th, UCONN student Thomas Willmington testified in a committee room at the Connecticut State Capitol:
“I never saw myself making it [to college] because I never saw anyone that looked like me make it to where I am today. I only saw drug dealers or God-given athleticism that I never possessed. Implementation of minority teacher recruitment and retention will help our young leaders, and show their creativity, leadership skills, analytic skills, comprehension and preparedness for college.”
Thomas’ words are among the many reasons ConnCAN played a leading role developing, advancing and passing SB 1022 An Act Concerning Minority Teacher Recruitment And Retention. The bill is historic as Connecticut becomes one of the first states in the country to enact a comprehensive set of policies aimed directly at increasing the diversity of its educator workforce.
ConnCAN’s commitment to education equity
Studies show that all students respond positively, academically and socially, when exposed to a diverse teaching corps. Research by Johns Hopkins University also shows that students of color, taught by teachers of color, perform better on a variety of academic outcomes, including: school attendance, retention, standardized test scores, advanced-level course enrollment, discipline rates, high school graduation and college enrollment.
This new law can serve as a model for other states to follow. SB 1022, which passed unanimously in the State Senate (35-0) and House of Representatives (150-0), aims to fill teacher shortage areas, expand mortgage incentives and define new guidelines for retired teachers who wish to teach again.
Our team worked closely with the CT Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and the office of Governor Ned Lamont to help craft the bill. ConnCAN also worked in partnership with Education committee chairs and ranking members to ensure the bill was acceptable to all stakeholders, including Connecticut’s teacher unions.
Recruiting high-demand, high-quality teachers of color to Connecticut
As the U.S. faces a growing shortage of teachers from diverse backgrounds, Connecticut is proactively recruiting high-quality candidates. While nearly half of the state’s public school students are children of color, fewer than one in ten teachers are — this bill is another step in the right direction and ConnCAN will continue to support minority teacher recruitment efforts going forward.
SB 1022 makes an impact, today, and gives Connecticut more opportunities to fill currently available teaching positions. The legislation sets yearly targets for net increases of minority teachers and administrators: 250 per year of which 30% are men. Additionally, the bill:
- re-examines certification reciprocity agreements with all 50 states and simplifies credit requirements for teacher candidates in shortage areas (STEM, ELL, Special Education);
- allows teachers with lapsed licenses to re-enter the workforce through a more streamlined recertification process;
- provides mortgage assistance for teachers who graduated from colleges and universities that traditionally serve minority students (eligibility will be expanded for a current mortgage assistance program under the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA); and
- expands allowance for retired teachers to be re-employed for up to a year in (1) a school located in a priority school district or (2) a teacher shortage subject area.
Connecticut’s biennial budget includes funding for a minority teacher loan forgiveness program within the Office of Higher Education; the budget also includes funding in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 for a minority teacher incentive program.
Throughout the session, legislators overwhelmingly supported SB 1022 and praised ConnCAN for their efforts on this important education equity issue and others.
Governor Lamont enthusiastically signed the bill into law on July 1, 2019, the same day the law takes effect. A full analysis of the bill can be found here.
Additional progress made in the 2019 legislative session
- HB 7082 An Act Concerning The Inclusion Of Black And Latino Studies In The Public School Curriculum;
- SB 1020 An Act Concerning The Inclusion Of Instruction In Culturally Responsive Pedagogy And Practice In The Preservice Training, Professional Development And In-service Training Provided To Teachers; and
- SB 957 An Act Concerning Computer Science Instruction In Public Schools.
Looking ahead to 2020: the need for greater data transparency and collection
After significant progress in 2019, ConnCAN seeks to build upon its accomplishments in 2020.
Better data transparency and collection methods would help identify disparities that still exist in Connecticut. Access to education data is necessary for policymakers to understand and equitably serve all of the students in Connecticut, regardless of zip code.
Connecticut continues to not track or report post-secondary data, including remediation, industry certification and career entry rates. ConnCAN will work with the State Department of Education and legislators to address the benefits of data collection and reporting for families and the community.
Families, armed with accessible data, are able to make more well-informed decisions about the educational path of their child. Until we know how well schools prepare our young people for college and career, we will fall short of finding solutions for closing the opportunity gap.