Derek Slap


Derek Slap



January 31, 2023

Senate Democrats Announce Agenda to Strengthen Education and Our Workforce

HARTFORD, CT — Today, the Senate Democratic Majority of the Connecticut General Assembly unveiled more of its legislative priorities for the 2023 session, focusing on strengthening Connecticut’s education and workforce by addressing issues of college affordability, lowering barriers to job training, increasing clarity and transparency in how K through 12 schools report their spending, expanding paid sick leave, and implementing predictable work scheduling for Connecticut’s workers.

Today’s announcement marks the second of four successive days of public policy statements from Senate Democrats on a wide variety of issues confronting Connecticut and its residents: improving personal safety, strengthening education and Connecticut’s workforce, improving mental and physical health, and lowering costs for consumers.

“Once again, we will advance an agenda that supports the education, health, and dignity of this generation and the next generation of Connecticut workers,” said Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “People have historically been attracted to Connecticut because of our high-quality public education system and the strong workforce protections that we have. People deserve a state government that is supportive of their efforts to balance work and family, while pursuing their goals in life. We hear them and will fight for a Connecticut that works for them.”

“One of Connecticut’s greatest strengths is its workforce. This year, Senate Democrats will make a historic investment in the future of our state’s residents by expanding the successful debt-free community college program and lowering the cost to attend college,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “We also must keep our promise to Connecticut’s workers, many of whom were on the frontlines of the pandemic, by upholding the dignity of work. We will expand paid sick leave and finally pass a predictable scheduling law. It’s about giving stability and economic security to some of the state’s hardest workers.”

Today’s announcement focuses on specific public policy areas, including:


SB 1: AN ACT CONCERNING TRANSPARENCY IN EDUCATION, to provide equal and comprehensive access to education and academic opportunities for all children in Connecticut.

Every year, school districts in Connecticut spend billions of dollars and are required to report financial data on certain expenditures to the Connecticut Department of Education. However, the nine categories to report data on are overly broad and vague. These categories include “Support Services – school based administration” (supplies), “Support Services – students” (employee benefits), “central and other support services” (property), and “Enterprise operations.”

The lack of detailed reporting requirements makes it difficult to compare the spending practices of school districts, even if they are similarly sized. Additionally, the general reporting categories allow school districts to have different interpretations of what information is expected of them to be shared.

In fiscal year 2021, municipalities in Connecticut spent about $9.3 billion on education, not including school construction expenses paid for by the State of Connecticut. With more information on how these billions of dollars are spent, we can better target that funding to areas with the greatest need and that will have the greatest impact.

In response, Senate Bill 1 will:

  • Create stronger oversight and uniformity in reporting on how school districts are spending funds to support students and schools
  • Increase state supports and resources for children’s mental and behavioral health in schools
  • •Address increasing class sizes
  • •Address teacher shortages
  • •Ensure effective and quality teacher evaluations
  • •Ensure money is being spent on our students in the classroom

“All of our children should receive a high-quality education that prepares them for success in a 21st century economy. Just as important, we have to better equip educators with the tools they need to instruct and care for Connecticut’s young leaders – a heightened priority as schools struggle with teacher shortages and burnout,” said state Senator Doug McCrory (D-Hartford), Co-Chair of the Education Committee. “We can’t fully address these priorities and other pressing issues in education without stronger information sharing on how school districts spend funding.”

Higher Education

SB 8: AN ACT CONCERNING HIGHER EDUCATION AFFORDABILITY, GRADUATE RETENTION AND STUDENT HEALTH, to provide increased financial support for our state colleges and universities to enhance ongoing services on campus for all students, and to improve the state’s efforts in the retention of graduates from the state’s institutions of higher education.

Connecticut’s colleges and universities offer academic programs for numerous in-demand job fields, including nursing and computer and information technology. These professions are in need of skilled workers either due to a prolonged shortage or are expected to have above-average job growth for the next several years.

However, the demand for skilled workers has run up against student enrollment concerns in Connecticut’s institutions of higher education since 2010. More specifically, enrollment in the state’s universities dropped by 8.1 percent in the last two years – a troubling trend, especially for state residents most likely to benefit from attaining a college degree. Data from the state Department of Education found that college enrollment among low-income students has dropped from 58 percent in 2018-19 to 51 percent in 2021-22.

To lower barriers to job training and address enrollment problems, Senate Democrats will:

Expand Connecticut’s Debt-Free Community College Program

In 2019, Senate Democrats passed debt-free community college in Connecticut for first-time students – also known as PACT: Pledge to Advance CT – who are attending community college full-time. In 2021, the PACT program was expanded to include part-time students.

As a result, over 10,000 students are now enrolled in the program. PACT has addressed head-on enrollment concerns at the state’s community colleges, but the need for skilled workers cannot be met by only students coming directly out of high school.

Senate Democrats will:

  • Build on the PACT’s success by expanding eligibility to include students returning to community college
  • Increase the current $250 per semester given to students under PACT to cover non-tuition expenses like buying textbooks

Put More Money into the Roberta Willis Scholarship Program

State budgets crafted and led by Senate Democrats the past two years have appropriated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to increase student aid for Connecticut’s students.

Senate Democrats will:

  • Target additional funds toward the underfunded Roberta Willis Scholarship Program. The expansion of the program would make it more affordable to attend the state’s four-year universities and earn a college degree – a key selling point in working to boost student enrollment as potential students compare attending a public or private institution of higher education.

“If we want to truly grow Connecticut’s economy, we must ensure that Connecticut has the best trained and educated workforce in the nation. Senate Bill 8 will help make this a reality by expanding access for students and aligning the needs of employers with the skills of graduates. I look forward to working with my colleagues in both chambers and both parties to make smart investments in higher education that will pay dividends for generations to come,” said State Senator Derek Slap (D-West Hartford), Co-Chair of the Higher Education & Employment Advancement Committee.


Connecticut has been a champion of worker’s rights and the ability for employees to care for their personal wellbeing and that of their families. In recent years, Senate Democrats have passed paid family and medical leave and raised the minimum wage, which will reach $15 in June 2023.

This legislative session, Senate Democrats will reaffirm its commitment to pro-worker policies that will make Connecticut an even more attractive place to work, build a life, and raise a family by prioritizing:

Expanding Paid Sick Leave

Connecticut was the first state to pass paid sick leave legislation over a decade ago. In the years since, other states have followed Connecticut’s lead and even surpassed in offering more encompassing paid sick leave policies for their states’ workers.

Under current law in Connecticut, only hourly employees working for an employer with more than 50 workers – with additional eligibility qualifications – are required to be given up to 40 hours of annual paid sick leave. These restrictive qualifications under current state law mean that an estimated only 11 percent of Connecticut employees are required to be provided paid sick leave, according to a study by the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Once at the forefront, Connecticut has fallen behind neighboring states – such as New York and Rhode Island – and states across the country – including Oregon, Arizona, and Colorado – in having paid sick leave laws that cover more workers. States like Arizona require all employers to offer paid sick leave with very limited exceptions.

In response, Senate Democrats will:

  • Expand its paid sick leave law to include all private sector workers. This expansion of paid sick leave empowers workers to be able to care for their health and wellness

Predictable Scheduling

Every day, thousands of Connecticut workers in hourly positions show up to their jobs ready to carry out their responsibilities and do a hard day’s work. However, their ability to show up to work revolves around unpredictable work schedules that can include “on-call” shifts with no guarantee of actual work and canceled shifts with little notice and no pay.

This indignity on workers hurts their ability to pay household bills, arrange medical appointments, secure child care, or financially plan for their families future. These tasks are already difficult considering these jobs – such as in retail and food establishments – pay minimum wage or less if a tipped position while providing few, if any, benefits.

To address this economic injustice, Senate Democrats will:

  • Pass a law requiring a predictable schedule for Connecticut’s service-sector workers.

Business industries, such as food establishments and hospitality, have struggled to hire workers the past couple of years. A more stable work schedule would incentivize residents to apply for and stay in these industries.

  • A predictable schedule would give workers with children a greater ability to be involved in their child’s upbringing and development
  • Over 250,000 of the state’s hourly workers have kids under 18 according to the Connecticut AFL-CIO and Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund
  • Connecticut would join states across the nation that have approved predictable scheduling laws including Oregon, Philadelphia, San Jose, New York City, and Chicago

“Time and time again we see what a difference having a skilled, well-paid, well-compensated workforce makes to our quality of life here in Connecticut, both to our residents and our businesses,” said state Senator Julie Kushner (D-Danbury), who is Senate Chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. “This year we plan to make life better for both workers and businesses by expanding paid sick leave and requiring predictable work scheduling. The past few years of the pandemic and its fallout have shown us that engines of our economy are employees, and we have to ensure that they have the opportunities and protections in place to make them as productive and successful as possible.”