image description

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
March 19, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Access to Health Care, Recent Successes

Improving Access to Health Care

The Connecticut General Assembly is well into the legislative session, and while public hearings continue, most legislative committees have passed their deadlines to introduce new bills. This week, Karen Siegel, Health Policy Fellow at Connecticut Voices, will submit testimony on health-related bills before the Human Services Committee, including the following proposals:

  • Expanding health coverage through a public option. House Bill 7339, An Act Concerning a Public Health Insurance Option, would establish a working group to make recommendations about the establishment of a public health insurance coverage option that would be funded by enrollee premiums and open to individuals ineligible for Medicaid. In our testimony, we make recommendations to amend the proposal to address who will benefit from public option and how it will be structured. Earlier this month, we testified about House Bill 7267, another public option bill.
  • Expanding Medicaid and HUSKY B coverage for children. We support Senate Bill 1053, which would cover all uninsured, income-eligible children, regardless of their immigration status. An estimated 17,000 of Connecticut’s uninsured children are undocumented.
  • Promoting two-generational family economic success. We support Senate Bill 1080, which would create a Two-Generational Family Economic Success Cabinet within the executive branch. The cabinet would facilitate interagency collaboration to support moving families towards economic security, workforce preparedness, and improved health, while promoting dignity and independence.
  • Expanding access to providers for pregnant Medicaid members. We will testify in support of Senate Bill 1078, which would provide state certification of doulas and Medicaid reimbursement for their services. It would also study the effects of doula services on health outcomes for pregnant Medicaid beneficiaries and their infants. 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. These disparities are tied to social as well as medical factors. Access to doula care through Medicaid may help to ensure that low-income women of color have the support and advocacy they need before, during, and after childbirth.

Recent Successes

In the last week, legislative committees approved bills that are supported by Connecticut Voices:

  • The Labor Committee took an important step toward ensuring that parents who work full-time can make ends meet by approving legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15. The Committee voted in favor of Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 5004, both of which were supported by Connecticut Voices.
  • The Committee on Children passed Senate Bill 452, which would establish a State Oversight Council on Children and Families. The Council provides a structure for various stakeholders to support the needs of children and families who could be at risk of entering the foster care system. As we described in our testimony, the Council could help the state to maintain and build upon important gains made under the Juan F. Consent Decree, even after we have exited from federal oversight.

Additional Recent Testimony

Connecticut Voices staff also submitted testimony on the following bills over the last week:

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

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Education, Family Economic Security, Health
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
February 27, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Disparity Data, Youth in Foster Care, Governor’s Budget

In today’s update:

  • Sign On Letter to Protect Access to Educational Disparity Data
  • Protecting Youth in Foster Care: House Bill 6403
  • Governor’s Budget Proposal
  • Our Recent Testimony

Sign On Letter to Protect Access to Educational Disparity Data

We need your help to ensure that Connecticut residents, advocates, and policymakers continue to have access to data that enable us to measure and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in education among our state’s children and youth. Senate Bill 851, which had a public hearing in the General Assembly’s Education Committee and could come up for a 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.

Please consider adding your organization’s name or your individual name to a sign on letter to the Education Committee calling on them to oppose S.B. 851. If you can sign on as an organization or individual, please complete our sign on form by the end of the day Thursday, February 28.  For more information, see our sign-on letter, fact sheet, and testimony on this issue.

Please sign on today!

Protecting Youth in Foster Care: House Bill 6403

During adolescence, youth should have experiences that contribute to their development into successful adults. These experiences can help them to develop and explore their identities. Some experiences in foster care – such as placement moves that result in changing schools – can disrupt a youth’s life and affect their sense of self. As part of our annual Youth at the Capitol Day research report and forum, Connecticut Voices heard from youth in foster care that they often feel disconnected from their schools and communities, valued the freedom to express their own identities, and need support in exploring their identities.

A new bill – House Bill 6403, An Act Concerning a Children in Care Bill of Rights and Expectations and the Sibling Bill of Rights – includes multiple provisions that directly address the concerns of these Connecticut youth. On Thursday, February 28, the General Assembly’s Committee on Children will hold a hearing on this bill, and Connecticut Voices will be testifying in support of this legislation. For more information, see our fact sheet on this bill.

Governor’s Budget Proposal

On February 20, Governor Lamont recently released his state budget proposal for the next two fiscal years (from July 2019 through June 2021). You can watch a video of the Governor’s budget address, read a transcript of his speech, and see the details of the budget on the Governor’s website.

You can provide your input on the Governor’s proposals at upcoming public hearings. Subcommittees of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee will hold hearings on the Governor’s budget bill (House Bill 7148) in the next week. The following are some key subcommittee hearings. The committees will hear testimony from the public at the times below and from state officials earlier in the day.

  • Health on Friday, March 1, 5:30 p.m.
  • Judicial and Corrections on Monday, March 4, 6:30 p.m.
  • Human Services on Tuesday, March 5, 4:30 p.m.
  • Elementary and Secondary Education on Wednesday, March 6, 4:00 p.m.
  • Higher Education on Thursday, March 7, 7:30 p.m.

For more details on the hearings and how to submit testimony, see the Appropriations Committee schedule.

Connecticut Voices is currently analyzing the impact of the Governor’s budget on children and families, and we’ll be sharing our summary in early March. Watch our website and email newsletter!

Our Recent Testimony

You can always find all of our legislative testimony on our website. We delivered the following testimony on bills in the last two weeks:

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Education
May 25, 2018

Introducing our new Education Disparities Dashboard

Today we are pleased to announce a new online data tool to help community leaders, policymakers, advocates and parents better understand the vast disparities in educational opportunity that exist across our state and come together to create solutions to redress them.

Connecticut Voices for Children believes that the future economic and social well-being of our state depends in part upon opening pathways to opportunity so that all of our children and youth can reach their full potential and leave high school prepared for success in college and career.  Much of our work involves research, data analysis and policy recommendations which we share in briefs, like this one, discussing differences in educational access and outcomes between White and Black students statewide.

After discussions with many thoughtful advocates, community members and educators we have learned that many seek access to data as a tool they can use to better understand and work to improve opportunity within their communities.  

To meet this need, today we are proud to release the Educational Disparities Data Dashboard, an interactive data repository for the whole state with district-by-district education data, disaggregated by race/ethnicity.

The dashboard covers enrollment, chronic absenteeism, per-pupil funding, teacher diversity, exclusionary discipline, and academic achievement, all broken down by race and ethnicity. The purpose of this tool is to provide a "one-stop" resource for advocates, community leaders, policymakers, and reporters where they can find up-to-date data on their communities clearly and accessibly: data which they can then use to help drive systemic change.

The Dashboard is ready and online our Tableau site, available here. Please feel free to look around the dashboard and explore what it has to offer! 

Want to learn more?

We will be hosting a Webinar, Wednesday, June 6th at 11 A.M, where we will explain how to use the dashboard and some of its features.

Please sign up for the webinar by following this link.

If you have any questions prior to the webinar about either the webinar or the dashboard itself, please feel free to reach out to Associate Policy Fellow, Camara Stokes Hudson ( or Communications Director, Roger Senserrich ( 



Issue Area:
Data, disparities, Education dashboard, Webinar