I hope this message finds you and yours well. It's a busy time of year at the legislature between committee meetings, session, and public hearings. I have a multitude of other tasks to accomplish in order to advance a series of bills.
I'm happy to highlight some of the work getting done and other resources for our community. Most importantly, see the exciting news below about increased education funding and free school meals that I fully supported this week in session.
If you have a question about where a bill is in the legislative process, please don't hesitate to reply to this email or reach out to me at Kara.Rochelle@cga.ct.gov.
HUGE INVESTMENTS FOR OUR SCHOOLS!
Yesterday we were in session, and I am proud to have voted yes to support our students in a big way. We guaranteed more than $27 million in special education funding that has been allocated to schools across the state, including $300,759 for Ansonia and $88,147 for Derby. These investments ensure that all committed funding increases are being provided to our communities.
Additionally, we also voted unanimously to fund free school lunch to the end of the school year. We chose to allocate federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act dollars to make this possible.
In these times when every family's budget is tighter, this is an important measure to make sure children have proper nutrition and families have one less item weighing on the weekly budget.
It's great to see the board lit up green to support our kids and ease the pressure on families.
After years of fiscal crisis, Connecticut is finally starting to get its fiscal house in order. It’s important that we continue to build upon the legislative initiatives that have created this success.
On Thursday, I voted to keep our fiscal guardrails in place, the bond covenants that have made it possible to pay down debt, cut taxes, invest in families, seniors, and the economy, and much more.
With discipline these guard rails, strategic initiatives, and smart budgeting have:
Cut over $650 million in taxes—from seniors to a child tax credit, and many in between
Paid off billions in pension debt
Invested in preschool education and children's mental health programs
Increased School Funding, Town Aid, nonprofit funding, healthcare funding, and much more
We accomplished this while maintaining record savings for our rainy-day fund to continue our efforts for a fiscally responsible future. This fiscal year, we will continue to cut taxes for working families, reduce debt levels, save for the future, and most importantly continue our commitment to invest in our communities.
FULL AND FAIR EDUCATION FUNDING
One of my major goals this legislative session is to achieve full and fair funding for our schools by investing $275 million in new education dollars across the state. I am a proud co-sponsor of H.B. 5003, joined by dozens of my colleagues in the State Legislature. This proposal underscores our mission to ensure each child has equal access to high-quality education regardless of their zip code.
Assigns districts extra funds to provide children with the services they deserve
Includes provisions for educators to provide the best learning environment
Provides funds to hire and retain high-quality teachers
Addresses the state’s severe workforce shortage in K-12 public education
Fully funds the state’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant to municipalities
Expands need-based funding to charter, magnet, and other public schools of choice.
A high quality education for our kids has been a top priority. It is exciting to see us getting closer to getting this critically important initiative across the finish line.
This specific proposal weighs English Language Learners more heavily and includes a weight based on the poverty-density of a municipality. The goal is to make the formula more student-centered and reflective of per-pupil student-based need. Ensuring every child graduates from high school prepared to succeed benefits us all.
Team Work! Derby Superintendent Dr. Matt Conway and Bishop Youngblood of the Abundant Life Fellowship Ministries in Ansonia joined me at the Capitol for a press conference and to testify in person for education funding.
I want to thank the nonprofits, faith leaders, local officials, superintendents, education advocacy organizations, parents, grandparents, and students across the state who are speaking up and offering support.
STATE BUDGET PROPOSAL
On Wednesday, the Governor presented his budget proposal to a joint session of the House and Senate. With any set of proposals, there are things we may like and things we want to change to make room in the budget for other initiatives.
Like with every year, this is the start of a months long legislative process where proposals from the Governor and Legislators are analyzed, and public hearings are held. Once the committees complete their work and we start honing in on which proposals will advance, leadership of the House, Senate, and Executive Branch negotiate before the House and Senate vote on a final budget. Once a matching budget is approved by both chambers, it can go to the Governor for his signature.
In the meantime, rest assured that I will be scrutinizing proposals, fighting for the resources and initiatives that will have the most impact for our district, and working hard for our middle and working class families, our schools, our seniors, and many other important issues for our community.
The Valley YMCA has been awarded state funds for free swimming lessons for children. The goal is to share the importance of swimming safety ahead of the warmer months.
The State Legislature authorized and assigned $1.5 million in federal funds to make this program a reality. I want to thank the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for launching and managing this initiative in collaboration with the YMCA.
Children 17 or under, living in Qualified Census Tracts and/or receiving SNAP benefits are eligible to register for the free swimming lessons. The program is expected to serve 3,000 children over the next three years. I hope you will spread the word, so that families will utilize this initiative, which teaches our kids how to swim and water safety practices.
Contact the Valley YMCA to register for the free swim lessons by calling (203) 732-5527.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH
The official recognition of Black History Month started with a proclamation from President Gerald Ford 47 years ago, to honor the many accomplishments and contributions Black Americans have made to American society. It's a time to rejoice, reflect, and remember. Black history is American history.
The theme of this year's Black History Month, "Black Resistance," explores how African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms.
"This country was established upon the profound but simple idea that all people are created equal and should be treated equally throughout their lives. It is an idea America has never fully lived up to, but it is an idea we have never fully walked away from either," said President Biden in his 2023 Black History Month Proclamation.
AMERICAN HEART MONTH
Griffin Hospital and its caregivers are showing their love for the American Heart Association's Wear Red Day. Griffin is a proud partner in helping raise awareness of heart health risks.
The month of February is also dedicated as American Heart Month, a month long awareness campaign in support of over 120 million Americans currently living with a cardiovascular condition, and to educate ourselves on ways we can prevent and reduce the risk of heart disease.
In the United States, heart disease contributes to 1 in 5 deaths, the leading cause of death amongst men and women.
Raising awareness of the risk factors attributed to cardiovascular conditions is an important part of the fight against heart disease and can save lives. You can find out more about risk factors here.
Understanding CPR could mean saving a life. Follow Damar Hamlin's #3forHeart CPR Challenge to learn how to perform hands-only CPR and to support the American Heart Association.
SPOTLIGHTING LOCAL EXCELLENCE
Recently students from Assumption School in Ansonia honored our first responders during National Catholic Schools Week by collecting bags and boxes of snacks and delivering them to the Ansonia Police and Fire Departments. Nicely done!
ESSAY CONTEST FOR DERBY HIGH SCHOOLERS!
Derby Public Library is offering $1,000 in an essay competition for its 2023 Annual Scholarship Prize. The library is accepting submissions through March 31. Here's what you applicants need to know:
Subject of essay is "The Role of Libraries In My Life"
Open to all high school seniors living in Derby
Library Board of Directors will award the winner in person in April
Name will be added to the Scholarship Prize Plaque
Rent assistance is available for qualifying applicants. Call the UniteCT Call Center at 1-844-864-8328 to find out if you are eligible. If you are eligible, you can get help from a local UniteCT Resource Center where they will complete your application.