On a national television show the other day, Governor Malloy called his “education reform” bill a massive investment of new funds for Connecticut’s schools.
Meanwhile, towns across Connecticut are laying off teachers and other key school personnel.
While additional funds are desperately needed and undoubtedly appreciated, the hyperbole surrounding the new “education reform” law’s “financial investment” leaves out the fact that the additional $98 million or so in education funding doesn’t begin to address the funding problems that are plaguing all but the wealthiest school districts in Connecticut.
In fact, the Governor and Legislature completely punted on the reality that Connecticut’s education funding formula (The ECS grant) is $800 million to $1.5 billion underfunded and that the formula itself has been modified (corrupted) to the point that wealthy towns are getting more than their fair share while the school districts that actually need the money the most, aren’t getting the funds they need to maintain let alone expand their education programs.
To be blunt, the $98 million doesn’t remotely cover the increasing inflationary costs that towns are dealing with and even with the “new” money local schools budgets are being cut dramatically, especially in Connecticut’s poorer school districts, and local property taxes are going up.
The new education reform bill allocates the funds in the following ways;
$6.8 million for 1,000 additional school readiness slots
$2.7 million for new standardized testing systems for children in kindergarten – 3rd grade
$3 million in additional support for Family Resources Centers and School Based Health Clinics
$7.5 million to fund Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s program to takeover over local schools (The Commissioner’s Network)
$8.1 million in additional funds for Charter Schools
$50 million increase in funds for the Education Cost Sharing Grant (but most of that money is conditional and will only be given if the local school districts adopt certain policies or fund certain programs that Commissioner Pryor will be mandating).
$2.5 million in additional funds for Magnet Schools
$2.2 million for the Edison Magnet School in Meriden. Edison is one of the public magnet schools run by ACES, the regional education service center.
$1.4 million more for the regional Vocational Agriculture Schools
$6 million to develop a new Early Childhood quality rating system
And $4 million to develop and support a new mandated “Chart of Accounts” system to standardize the way towns report how they spend their education resources.
There is no doubt that the additional funds are important, but it leaves 95% of the ECS problem unresolved and a sizeable amount of this money will go towards additional standardized tests and other activities that do little to help towns come up with the vital funds needed to run their schools.