Editorial: A CT success story in getting kids back to school

The school bus yard on Riverdale Avenue in Shelton, Conn. on Thursday, January 12, 2023.

The school bus yard on Riverdale Avenue in Shelton, Conn. on Thursday, January 12, 2023.

Hearst Connecticut Media

THUMBS UP to success in cutting student absenteeism. Students not appearing in class was a major problem early in the pandemic, as nearly everyone knew it would be, what with remote schooling and uneven schedules for months. But the use of COVID relief funds in a number of districts to pay for at-home visits to absent students helped turn that trend around, a new report shows. The findings showed that attendance increased immediately following home visits, and improvement continued as time went on, with an increase of nearly 15 percentage points in some cases. Such interventions aren’t cheap, but the payoff is well worth the cost.

THUMBS UP to early voting. With the approval by voters of a constitutional change last year that would allow voting to be held on days other than Election Day, the debate now moves to the General Assembly to determine exactly what that will mean. Since nearly every other state has some version of early voting, this isn’t exactly untrod ground. Still, Connecticut has to decide what makes sense here. Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas, who was elected to office in November, has proposed 10 days of early voting, which is a good start to the discussion. There’s much that must be determined, including how municipalities will be helped in accommodating the change and how to make the physical space for voting available. What’s important is that the talking can finally begin.

THUMBS UP to Connecticut’s paid leave program. A report on the system’s first year in operation shows some 56,000 claims were awarded amounting to $249 million in benefits paid out. That’s thousands of people who were able to take advantage of paid time off in the instance of sickness, pregnancy, to care for a family member or other serious need. It’s not as if anyone can get the leave for any reason — the report shows tens of thousands of denials, often over documentation. But for people who have the need, the program has been invaluable. The program is funded with a 0.5 percent payroll deduction, which is not insignificant. The payoff, however, is worthwhile. Everyone deserves to be part of a program like this one.

THUMBS UP to boys’ basketball games in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference going into overtime. The 35 games played between Jan. 6-17 included eight that were forced into OT. That’s not just fun for the players and the crowd, it shows a high level of parity between the teams. It’s not easy for any game to finish regulation play in a tie, but we’ll take it over any contest that ends in a rout. Even Danbury, which has an undefeated 10-0 record, has had to survive two double-overtime games. And there’s plenty of games left in the season for more.

THUMBS DOWN to some high school sports officials and referees not getting paid for the entire season. A glitch in processing payments would always be a problem, but this comes at a time when it’s been a challenge to find game officials because of low pay and harassment from fans. Most of the current problems have been related to technical schools, which are managed by the state rather than local districts. Referees endure a lot, but this should have been resolved long before the calendar flipped to a new year.

THUMBS UP to the state packing even more money into its coffers. Gov. Ned Lamont’s office is boasting that tax receipts have pushed the fiscal year’s surplus past the $3 billion mark. Of course, an additional $600 million comes with a lot of pressure to use the money wisely. In addition to the ever-looming pension liability, there are requests from nonprofit agencies and a push to reduce taxes for some residents. Lamont still has a few weeks to try to figure it all out before presenting his budget to state lawmakers on Feb. 8.