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Voices Speaking

July 18, 2019

New Staff Join the Connecticut Voices Team!

In addition to our recently announced new Executive Director, Emily Byrne, Connecticut Voices for Children is pleased to welcome more new faces to our team. Tami Christopher will lead our education work, and Susana Barragan and Ryan Wilson are the newest participants in our two-year policy fellowship program, which offers full-time positions to exceptional recent college graduates with a strong interest in advancing public policy to benefit children and youth.

Tami Christopher has a dual role at Connecticut Voices for Children as Education Policy & Research Fellow and Associate Policy & Research Fellows (APRF) Program Director. In this capacity, she also serves as the Director for the Connecticut College and Career Readiness Alliance.

Her research and practice spans the K-20 educational space. After beginning in museum educational programming, she transitioned her career to higher education and held leadership roles at the University of Bridgeport, Post University, and Middlesex Community College. Her doctoral residency with Our Piece of the Pie in Hartford focused on strategic planning, college and career readiness, and leadership development. She has consulted for The Education Redesign Lab at Harvard, Jobs for the Future, COACHE, PDK International, and several school districts. She has also taught K-12, undergraduate, and graduate level students.

Tami earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and also holds an MA in American Studies from the University of Southern Maine and an MS in Education from the University of Bridgeport. She received a BA in English from Central Connecticut State University.

Susana Barragan is an Associate Policy & Research Fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children. Her issue areas of focus at Voices include fiscal policy and economic security. Her interests include international and local economic development, as well as public policy.

Susana is an Honors scholar graduate from the University of Connecticut, where she earned her B.A. in both Economics and Human Rights. As an undergraduate, she worked in Washington D.C., where she advocated for an economic advancement bill for the Latinx community. She was also an intern for the equitable development team at the Ford Foundation in New York City.

Ryan Wilson is an Associate Policy & Research Fellow for Advocacy at Connecticut Voices for Children. His issue areas of focus include advocacy and equity.  His interests include education and child welfare.

He joins Connecticut Voices after spending two years in Changsha, China working with high school students as a Yale-China Teaching Fellow. Ryan graduated from Yale University in 2017 with a B.A. in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration. Born and raised in West Philadelphia, Ryan strives to advocate for racial equity and justice in the systems that affect the development of Connecticut’s youth.

 

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Early Care, Education, Family Economic Security
July 8, 2019

Connecticut Voices Hires Emily Byrne as Executive Director

Emily ByrneFollowing an extensive search, Connecticut Voices for Children is pleased to announce that we have chosen a new Executive Director with wide-ranging experience and a record of leadership in government and nonprofit organizations. Emily Byrne has begun her work as leader of the organization this week.

“Emily brings a wealth of management experience and a lifelong commitment to improving opportunities for Connecticut’s children and families. With Emily at the helm, I am confident that Connecticut Voices will continue to build on its successes and its reputation for effective, research-based advocacy,” said David Nee, Chairperson of Connecticut Voices’ Board of Directors.

Byrne, a long-time Connecticut resident, has extensive experience in developing education, housing, economic development and anti-poverty policies and programs. She has organized and led advocacy campaigns on local, state and federal legislation affecting children and families. A public servant by training, she started her career as a policy analyst for the City of New Haven, where she helped design the nation’s first municipal identification card for all residents, regardless of their immigration status. Since then she has held various governmental leadership positions at the state and local levels, including roles as Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Connecticut State Department of Education and Director of Strategy and Innovation at the New Haven Housing Authority. Most notably, she was the founding Executive Director of New Haven Promise.

“Connecticut Voices for Children has been a provenance of progressive policies, rooted in research, that support the state’s most vulnerable children and families for nearly twenty-five years. Together—with communities and partners—we endeavor to build upon past efforts in service of equitable, inclusive change and justice,” said Byrne. “I am honored and humbled to lead the organization into the next quarter century of its work so that all children in Connecticut have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Early Care, Education, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice
May 21, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: State budget, minimum wage, early childhood day at the Capitol

Legislative Update

There are only two weeks left before the state legislative session ends on June 5, and policymakers are making critical decisions now about funding priorities for children and families and on the revenues to support them. Here are a few updates on recent developments.

State budget: action needed. Smart state fiscal policies can play a critical role in building a strong, equitable state economy. It is time we fix our tax laws to give working people and children a fair shot to get ahead by pursuing the twin goals of assuring adequate revenues to support the programs and services vital to the well-being of our children and families, and enhancing the fairness of our tax system.

Please take a moment today to ask both the Governor and your state legislators to fix the state budget deficit and help pay for vital services for children and families by asking the wealthy to pay more!

Finance Committee proposal. The General Assembly’s Finance Committee has published an “implementer bill” that lays out the details of its revenue proposals. It includes a highly progressive, two percent surcharge on capital gains realized by taxpayers in the highest income tax bracket and non-residents with gains derived from Connecticut sources.

This bill also recommends that the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services produce a report by January 2020 on the potential impact of implementing a new payroll tax in Connecticut. This is a complex proposal that would largely replace our state personal income tax. There are many unanswered questions about its implementation; the impact on low-income families; and other important, unforeseen consequences.

For more information on revenue options that would provide more adequate funding for child and family services while improving fairness in our tax system, see our recent report and a presentation by Jamie Mills, Director of Fiscal Policy and Economic Inclusion at Voices.

Minimum wage. Connecticut families will soon get a raise! Legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 over the next four years was approved by the House and Senate, and Governor Lamont has indicated that he will sign the bill.

Doula certification. Legislation that would establish a workgroup concerning the core competencies for doulas to be licensed or certified to practice was approved unanimously by the Senate and awaits a vote in the House. The working group would be charged with evaluating public health and safety risks and benefits associated with doulas, and the minimum requirements needed for licensure or certification as a doula. Doulas provide physical, emotional, and informational support before, during and after the birth; they do not provide medical care. Evidence suggests that doula support is likely to reduce the dramatic racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date!


Early Childhood Day at the Capitol

Join us at the 2019 Day at the Capitol on Thursday morning to learn about the early childhood proposals before the state legislature. The event, sponsored by the Connecticut After School Network and the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, will take place on May 23 from 9 to 11 a.m. in Room 310 at the State Capitol. After the event, you are encouraged to meet with your legislators for some hands-on advocacy.  Participants are encouraged to wear yellow.

Please RSVP here.

Learn more

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Early Care, Family Economic Security, Health
March 28, 2019

Forum on Fixing the Child Care Crisis

A strong, affordable, high quality child care system is a key to a strong and productive economy. We invite you to join us at “Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis,” a forum co-sponsored by Connecticut Voices about how the lack of affordable child care affects both businesses and families.

Connecticut’s economic growth is one of the slowest in the country, and Governor Lamont has vowed to lead the state to an economic resurgence.  This will require public and private investment, leadership and—affordable, accessible, high quality child care.  A recently released national study points to $57 billion in lost earnings, productivity and revenue due to the lack of affordable, accessible child care.

Join us and our partners at this forum to learn about steps we can take to support parents, children, and businesses:

  • When: Tuesday, April 2, 2019, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Where: Legislative Office Building, Room 1D, 300 Capitol Ave, Hartford

Learn more about the forum

Issue Area:
Early Care
March 26, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Reforming the justice system, expanding early care and health care

Speaking Out on Juvenile Justice and Health Care

This week, Connecticut Voices staff are submitting testimony in support of legislation that would reform our justice system and improve health equity:

  • Improving transparency in the justice system. We support Senate Bill 880, which would require Connecticut’s Division of Criminal Justice to produce public reports on prosecutorial data, including defendant demographics, alleged offenses, sentencing decisions, diversionary offerings, and plea deal offerings. This will allow Connecticut to detect points of racial bias within our justice system, and transparent data reporting will strengthen the procedural justice of our system.
  • Promoting age-appropriate treatment of court-involved youth. We support House Bill 7387, which would offer youth the opportunity to participate in a court-ordered class or program and allow courts to favorably consider the successful completion of a program when determining whether the case should remain in juvenile court. It is inappropriate to incarcerate youth in adult prisons, and Connecticut should be working to ensure that fewer children are tried as adults.
  • Removing youth from adult correction facilities. We support sections of House Bill 7389 that would remove youth under the age of 18 from the jurisdiction of the Department of Correction, and implement recommendations of the Office of the Child Advocate pertaining to suicide, solitary confinement, behavioral health programming, family engagement, and use of force against youth in conditions of confinement.
  • Improving health equity through community health workers. We support Senate Bill 859, which would establish a community health worker certification process as a step towards health equity in Connecticut. Community health workers come from the communities where they work and address barriers to health care and unmet needs.  They can help to close the gap between a person’s life circumstances and the treatment available through traditional health systems.

You can find additional recent testimony on our website.

 

Moving Forward on Early Education and Health Care Bills

Legislative committees recently gave children and families cause to celebrate. The Education Committee voted to approve two bills that would expand eligibility for the Care 4 Kids child care subsidy program – Senate Bills 933 and 934. These bills have been referred to the Appropriations Committee for a vote. For more on these proposals, see our testimony. The Committee also approved Senate Bill 936, which implements recommendations of the Office of Early Childhood.

Legislation that would provide Medicaid and HUSKY B coverage to all uninsured, income-eligible children, regardless of their immigration status, was approved by the Human Services Committee. See our testimony for our recommendations on Senate Bill 1053.

The Human Service and Insurance Committees have, respectively, approved two bills with a goal of establishing a public health insurance coverage option -- House Bills 7339 and 7267. To learn more about these bills and our recommendations, see our testimony on House Bill 7339, which would create a working group to make recommendations about the establishment of a public option and House Bill 7267, which would create a public option plan.

 

Issue Areas:
Early Care, Health, Juvenile Justice
March 14, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Legislative Highlights, Educational Disparity Data

March 14, 2019

Highlights of Our Work at the Capitol

The General Assembly continues to hold hearings in several key committees. Connecticut Voices for Children testified recently on a variety of bills affecting children and families. These are some highlights:

  • Speaking up for low wage working families. Jamie Mills testified in support of Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 5004, which would raise the state's minimum wage to $15. As Jamie explained in her testimony and in an op-ed published recently, we need to both pay workers a living wage and adjust our system of public supports to ensure that improved wages do not result in the loss of resources such as Medicaid and child care subsidies.
  • Protecting public investments in children and families. Subcommittees of the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee held public hearings on the Governor's budget proposal. Our staff submitted testimony on elements of his budget plan that affect children and families served by health programs, the Department of Children and Families, the Judicial Branch, and the State Department of Education and Office of Early Childhood.
  • Calling for equitable and expanded educational opportunities. Wendy Waithe Simmons testified on several bills that would bring us closer to establishing equitable education opportunities. These include bills that would expand eligibility for Care 4 Kids child care subsidies and improve on low compensation for early care and education providers. For more information on how we can improve access to Care 4 Kids, see our fact sheet.
  • Protecting youth in foster care. Jessica Nelson testified in support of House Bill 6403, "An Act Concerning a Children in Care Bill of Rights and Expectations and the Sibling Bill of Rights." This legislation directly addresses concerns expressed by youth in foster care about opportunities to connect to their schools and communities and express their identities. The bill was approved by the Committee on Children. For more information, see our fact sheet.
  • Ensuring age-appropriate treatment of court-involved youth. Adult courts are not equipped to provide children with therapeutic, developmentally-informed services to help them become productive adults, and Black and Brown children are disproportionately more likely to be transferred to adult prison than their white peers. Lauren Ruth testified in opposition to House Bill 7332, which would loosen the statutes defining when the court may choose to transfer youth from juvenile court to adult court.

Also, this Friday, March 15, the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 877, which would implement the Governor's revenue proposals. We will submit testimony on this legislation and will oppose House Bill 6031, which would phase out the estate tax.

Thank You for Signing On to Protect Access to Educational Disparity Data!

Connecticut Voices would like to express our gratitude to the 39 organizations and 81 individuals who signed onto our letter to the Education Committee calling on its members to oppose Senate Bill 851! Your support can help us to preserve access to vital data that enable us to measure and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in education among our state's children and youth. This legislation, which could come up for a committee vote soon, would limit the ability to examine education data by student ethnicity, making it difficult to detect ethnic disparities in access to high-quality education or to measure the impact of reforms on specific student populations. To learn more, see our sign-on letter, fact sheet, and testimony.

Our Latest State Budget Reports

If you missed them, be sure to download our latest reports on the state budget:

  • Impact of the Governor's FY 2020-2021 Budget on Children and Families. Governor Lamont's proposed state budget avoids additional major cuts to essential programs and services for children and families, though it is based on revenue proposals that fall most heavily on our lowest income taxpayers. It asks little of our highest income taxpayers.
    Download the report
  • Connecticut's Radical New Budget Rules: Locking in Decreased Investment in our State for the Next Decade. Connecticut's rigid fiscal rules will ensure that Connecticut remains in a permanent state of fiscal deprivation, starving our schools, health systems and infrastructure of crucial investments.
    Download the report and fact sheet

Additional Recent Testimony

In addition to the legislative testimony described above, we delivered the following testimony on bills in recent weeks:

You can always find all of our legislative testimony on our website.

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Early Care, Education, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice

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