State must take serious look at school funding (according to Wendy Lecker)

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It is time for a real, serious and honest look at Connecticut’s school funding crisis, not the cop-out  version that has been recently proposed as part of Connecticut’s budget plan.

Fellow pro-public education blogger and commentator, Wendy Lecker, has another “MUST READ” column this week in the Stamford Advocate, CT Post and the other newspapers that are part of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.

You can find her full post here; Wendy Lecker: State must take serious look at school funding

As Lecker notes, ”Connecticut is a study in contrasts. We have pockets of incredible wealth, and areas struggling with entrenched poverty. We have school districts with few needy children, and those with high concentrations of children living in poverty, English language learners and students with disabilities. There are districts with gleaming labs, large marching bands, theater, and foreign language offered in kindergarten, while in other districts, children sit in overcrowded classrooms with inadequate libraries, no electives, insufficient books and not even enough paper. This resource disparity translates into a disparity of educational opportunity, with some districts sending scores of children to elite colleges while others have alarmingly low graduation rates.

Connecticut has allowed this chasm in educational opportunity to exist for years, in part because we have never taken an honest look at what it costs to educate all children no matter what their need.”

Lecker recognizes that the process must begin with an “educational adequacy cost study.”

As she explains, “In such a study, experts first identify the basic educational resources needed to meet state standards. Then, they “cost out” those resources, taking into account the factors that affect the cost, such as student need, geographic differences, and population density. Different levels of student need, such as poverty, limited English proficiency and disability, affect the cost of resources necessary. Moreover, the severity and/or concentration of poverty and the level of disability can add to educational cost. For over 20 years states and courts have used these studies to devise rational school finance systems with a transparent relationship between state aid, student need and a district’s ability to raise revenue.”

But despite an across the board recognition that a cost study is needed, Governor Malloy failed to propose one as part of his recent changes to the State’s Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula.

Instead, as Lecker points out, Malloy “ proposed inappropriate changes to our school finance system that will render even more children invisible in the eyes of the ECS formula.”

Furthermore, she writes, “The governor’s plan to completely remove English Language Learners from ECS is a step in exactly the wrong direction. Such a move would have devastating effect on many municipalities. In a state with a growing Latino population, and others from non-English-speaking homes, this proposal is ludicrous. Moreover, Malloy’s proposal reduces the weight for poverty, providing fewer funds to educate poor children. To make matters worse, the proposal once again fails to include a weight for special education.”

Although Governor Malloy has failed to take the necessary steps towards fiscal transparency and adequacy, Connecticut’s legislators can correct that mistake.  

You can find Lecker’s full commentary piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-State-must-take-serious-look-at-4301439.php#ixzz2LjtWjttN

  • msavage

    Brilliant column–and brilliant ideas. Now let’s force the governor to make it so.

  • Magister

    Quis costodiet ipsos costodes?

    • msavage

      We must. Thanks to Jonathan, Wendy and others, we KNOW what is going down. We have an obligation to do something about it.

  • brutus2011

    Just look at New Haven. Worst record in state for student expenditure to student achievement ratio according to the Center of American Progress. The district just announced a “working” budget of 396 million dollars. The current superintendent is retiring in a few months with an annual pension of $170,000 after earning $226,000 for the past several years. There are so many 6 figure admins not to mention expensive consultants and private firm contracts. And the district COO (yes, a COO) also said school supplies are being cut as well.

    You can’t make this stuff up–but its we teachers who are at fault!

    • msavage

      Hey, guess what we just found out in Hebron? The former superintendent (who just left for a position in Plymouth) was issued a credit card in Jan. of 2012 with a $50K limit. For district expenses. This is in addition to the $144,000 salary (for less than 1,000 students), the additional $18,000 annuity, and other allowances for travel, education, etc. And let’s not forget the primo health insurance. So this woman has accrued more than $15K worth of charges on this credit card that have been determined to be unauthorized, including clothing charges at Nordstroms, gardening supplies, groceries, etc. The Hebron BOE has reportedly decided that they would like to pursue the repayment of this money, but they would NOT like to pursue criminal charges against her. HELL NO! This woman needs to be prosecuted, and Plymouth needs to be made aware of what kind of person they are dealing with. There are those of us in town who have been speaking out against this woman for years now. But the useful idiots were so blinded by the “Blue Ribbon School” designation that all they could do was worship at her feet. This woman was being paid THREE TIMES what the average starting teacher makes in town. Yet it apparently wasn’t enough. Despite the fact that she oversaw less than 1,000 children in a town with very involved parents, she felt entitled to more and she just figured she’d help herself to it.

      • msavage

        Oh, and despite the fact that we were paying for her to get her PhD for the SEVEN YEARS she was here, when she left for Plymouth she still didn’t have the degree. I’m sorry–yes, the supt. deserves to be prosecuted. But there’s gotta be some culpability on the part of the BOE as well. WHO authorized the freaking credit card? Why was no one keeping track of it? Why did the “Blue Ribbon School” designation blind them so badly that they were unwilling to listen to the concerns of their neighbors? What has happened to this country? Is it stupidity? Is it moral immaturity? Something else? Are we doomed?

        • Apartheid First

          You are right to be outraged.
          This “Blue Ribbon School” thing is gag-worthy.
          Windham Center got it a few years ago–despite having very similar test scores to the rest of Windham, and even worse 2 years ago–all because someone in Windham Center had Washington connections (a congressperson or senator or something). You can bet Adamowski knows what “blue ribbon” means–that’s why he changed the “neighborhoods” and made Windham Center smaller and whiter again… and soon it will be a Montessori or something like that, while Sweeney will become a boot-camp Capital test prep charter.
          But the credit card, the phony degree, etc–Wow. The incessant ranking of schools, which has a detrimental effect on just about everyone–is proven once again–if your school is blue ribbon or better, you get lots of perks. If your school is low-achieving (and over 40% of CT schools are in that capacious category), you get several hours of unpaid work tacked onto your job each week, plus untold shaming rituals.

          • msavage

            I agree that the “Blue Ribbon School” thing is a load of hokum. Unfortunately, too many of the unthinking buy into it hook, line and sinker. We even had an “anonymous donor” in town purchase a permanent addition to the school sign, at a reported cost of $10,000. What a great use of money in this economy, eh?

  • Apartheid First

    The governor must be held accountable. It is time to stop Pryor and his Broad-funded, Gates-financed, Walmart-supported consultants from stealing money from the ed budget to pay for their drill-and-kill test regimes that can be delivered effortlessly by TFA recruits.
    It is criminal to consider special education students as “invisible.” I don’t see how this can be legal. And it is the state that should be financing every special education child at an appropriate, if not magnanimous, level.

    • msavage

      It is past time to stop them. They are destroying lives in the name of profit for their friends. Why are we allowing them to get away with this?

  • Apartheid First

    So, here’s my idea.
    Steven Adamowski, with the complicity of the State Department of Education and the Windham BoE, can’t wait to make the STEM magnet school as exclusive as possible–one open house for Windham parents (who are supposed to comprise 70% of the enrollment) and one open house for Mansfield parents–really??? Is there something wrong here?
    Anyway, I think it is time we ask Adamowski why he doesn’t put the special needs classrooms in the new magnet. No, not one or two special needs children, but the self-contained classrooms. We should be doing all we can to make sure students, especially those who face very great challenges (whether mobility-related, academically, or emotionally) have access to the best that CT has to offer, in as integrated an environment as possible.
    At the moment, Windham spends the minimum possible on special needs, especially those needs which are costliest. And because of Adamowski’s use of the much-derided “portable funding”/money follows the child, this means that any school that has children with high needs will end up spending ludicrously low amounts on the entire student body. Such a system is a disgrace to state and federal policies regarding special needs children, and an affront to the humanity of the children–all the children. It’s time to stop making compromises on the backs of children.