CEA President Kate Dias at the state Capitol Credit: Courtesy of CEA

Connecticut’s two teacher unions said Wednesday that the state Education Department’s guidance on remote instruction “is inequitable, and jeopardizes the education of our most vulnerable students.”

They said not only does it harm education, but that it violates a law passed in the 2022 session prohibiting dual teaching – the practice of having one educator teach students in the classroom and online at the same time. 

The state Education Department issued the guidance on Tuesday and disagrees with the teachers’ assessment. 

The new guidance permits remote learning for students who are home due to COVID to have a window into the classroom. However, it doesn’t require the teacher to interact with them. 

“Virtual monitoring can only be used in situations of student illness, and there is no obligation for teachers to direct instruction to such students, answer their questions, or otherwise interact with them; rather, it is simply a pedagogical tool designed to help students maximize their learning,” the state Education Department said. 

Teachers disagree. 

“The new guidance blatantly defies the statutory ban on the inferior practice of dual teaching that was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor earlier this year to ensure students receive the best education possible,” Connecticut Education Association President Kate Dias said. “This guidance disrespects our legislators, teachers, and the families of our neediest students. It brings back one of the worst, most inequitable educational practices for our students.”

Dias explained, “During the pandemic, we experienced firsthand the disruptions and inequities of dual teaching. Reviving this flawed approach to instruction goes against everything we know about sound educational practice and everything we learned from the pandemic.”

Sen. Doug McCrory, who co-chairs the legislature’s Education Committee, said the new guidance doesn’t violate the law. 

“With the passing of Public Act 22-80, it was never the intent of the legislature to limit advanced and special education course opportunities for students who are racially isolated or who attend school districts with fewer resources,” McCrory said. “The legislation, crafted in partnership with community stakeholders, is always made in the interest of doing what’s best for our children, especially when it comes to in-person and remote learning. This guidance makes clear that these course-sharing programs can continue.”

He said it only benefits the students and administrators. 

“The SDE guidance on dual instruction is a significant step forward for all of our students in Connecticut,” CAPSS Executive Director Fran Rabinowitz said. “Students will now be able to stay current with their class during isolation due to illness or medical treatment.”

But the Connecticut Education Association and AFT-CT rallied outside the state Capitol to call on the Education Department to revoke the guidance. 

“This guidance is SDE’s opinion and lacks authority under both state and federal law,” CEA Executive Director Donald Williams said. “There is no research-based evidence, merit, or support for this guidance, and it is a major breach of the legislature’s statutory prohibition on dual instruction. The history, statutory construction, and legislative intent all confirm that dual teaching is banned in all forms, with no exceptions. Had the legislature intended to make carveout exemptions under the law, they would have done so in the legislation.”

The Education Department was not inclined to accept the demand to revoke it. 

“The guidance reiterates the prohibition of dual instruction as legislated while applying the knowledge we gained during the pandemic about remote learning to ensure opportunities remain for all our students,” Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker said. “We must continue to emphasize the importance of  in-person instruction while ensuring students farthest from educational opportunities are not left behind.”