The Yale College Democrats discussed problems within New Haven Public Schools at the Board of Alders Education Committee meeting on Wednesday night.

The New Haven Education Equity Project began when the Dems reached out to Ward 8 Alder Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18, chairman of the Board of Alders Education Committee, in early September to ask how they could help the city. Greenberg commissioned the Dems to provide the committee with an in-depth look at the New Haven school system. The Dems interviewed various members of the education system, from students and teachers to administrators and government officials. Rather than providing a solution to the system’s problems, the Dems attempted to illuminate the most pressing concerns, allowing the education committee to see what issues most directly plague New Haven education.

“There’s a long history to the challenges around equitably funding all the school districts in Connecticut,” Greenberg said.

Josh Hochman ’18, the president of the Dems, told the News last week that the Dems created a new position this year called the city engagement coordinator, tasked with “find[ing] opportunities for Yalies to promote progressive policies in New Haven.”

The position is held by Elias Mastakouris ’20, who spearheaded the partnership with Greenberg and led a team whose goal is to “gain a sense of the tangible harms of inadequate education funding.”

“When the alders brief state legislators on the state of the education in New Haven, they will be better equipped to offer evidence of the need for equitable education funding with these stories in mind,” Hochman said.

At the meeting, the Dems noted that the uneven nature of funding in Connecticut, as well as limitations in the state’s budget, “hinder” New Haven public schools. In addition, teachers feel disconnected to students and administrators as a result of a high teacher turnover rate.

James Hillhouse High School uses an academy system, in which students have the opportunity to focus on a specific area of interest. According to one interview the Dems conducted with a teacher at the school, however, the policies related to this system — such as different grading procedures — lead to “infrugality and confusion.” The Dems said Hillhouse administrators could solve a variety of problems simply by focusing on better executing policies that seem to work in theory but have thus far failed in practice.

In addition, the New Haven Education Equity Project focused on the New Haven Promise Program, an organization founded in 2010 that grants full-tuition scholarships to Connecticut residents who meet certain requirements and plan to attend an in-state public college or university. In addition to funding scholarships, the program has partnered with various institutions such as Yale, Quinnipiac University and the Yale New Haven Hospital to create an internship program giving students the opportunity to get “real world experience,” the Dems said.

Greenberg said the Dems did a great job. Though he noted that he has not worked with student organizations in the past, the collaboration has inspired him to explore further ways to interact with student groups.

“I would really love to [work with them again],” he said. “It was such a great experience, and I know my colleagues were really impressed.”

The Dems are looking to expand their work to collaborate with other alders. After the Dems released their statement about Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19 last week, Hochman expressed a desire to work with the Ward 1 alder-elect.

Though the statement was critical and prompted a strong response from Catalbasoglu, he still expressed interest in working with the student group.

“I hope to work with the Dems, and any group on campus that wants to help better our city, in every capacity possible,” Catalbasoglu said last week.

Ashna Gupta |