A CT School Adequacy Study will inform a rational and constitutional education finance program

The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education (CCJEF) explains why the Connecticut General Assembly should approve legislation requiring a CT School Adequacy Study rather than adopt a faulty school funding formula that fails to adequately fund Connecticut’s public schools and diverts even more scarce resources to Connecticut’s unaccountable charter school industry.

Q & A:  THE NEED FOR AN ADEQUACY COST STUDY TO INFORM RATIONAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL EDUCATION FINANCE REFORM

  1.  What is the difference between the proposal supported by CCJEF (Subst. H.B. 7270, File 511) and the Sen. Duff proposal (to be amended to S.B. 2)?

CCJEF proposes an adequacy cost study, which has been done in over 30 other states, to help determine the amount of funding needed to educate different groups of students depending on their needs. S.B. 2 proposes a dramatic revision of the entire funding system which shifts funds away from traditional public neighborhood schools, reduces the “foundation” amount now allocated for each student and makes unsupported guesses at funding levels for poverty students, ELL students and others without first knowing the extent of student needs and how much is required to meet them across districts. S.B. 2 may include some improvements over the status quo but this radical change in education funding was drafted in the dark and has never been subjected to the light of a public hearing or given sufficient scrutiny.

2. Does the Duff proposal responds to the inadequacies defined by the CCJEF court?

No. Because the proposal is not based on empirical data on how much it actually costs to adequately and equitably educate students across Connecticut, the proposal is irrational. The trial court held that “Connecticut is defaulting on its constitutional duty to provide adequate public school opportunities because it has no rational, substantial and verifiable plan to distribute money for education aid and school construction.” The judge said, “[i]f the legislature can skip around changing [education funding] formulas every year, it invites a new lawsuit every year.” S.B. 2 repeats the mistakes of the past. It is another formula patched together for political and budgetary reasons without sufficient research about the diversity of student needs and the actual costs of an adequate education.

  1. How would S.B. 2 impact students attending magnet schools in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and Norwalk?

    S.B. 2 would decimate magnet schools across Connecticut because it would reduce magnet school funding by approximately $3,500 per student (based on a recent circulated version of the bill) while shifting those funds to increase payments to charter schools. Magnet schools would be unable to afford their supplemental features, such as classroom aides or special academic themes, which make them attractive options for voluntary desegregation initiatives in Connecticut. Under the proposal, students who leave for magnet schools would take funding away from the “sender” traditional neighborhood schools. At the same time, the network of regional magnet schools would lose approximately $3,569 per student.

    4. Does S.B. 2 shift taxpayer funds from traditional neighborhood schools to charter schools?

    Yes. Without the benefit of any public hearing, S.B. 2 would overturn decades of giving priority to funding of neighborhood public schools by adopting the “money follows the child” concept which shifts taxpayer money away from traditional public schools to charter schools without requiring these charter schools to meet the same accountability standards as other public schools. The inevitable long-term result may well be the slow defunding of many public school districts.

    5. Is a cost study as proposed by CCJEF a well-recognized tool used nationally in cases involving education adequacy brought before courts?

    Yes. Cost studies are not a new idea. In fact they are the gold standard prerequisite in education finance reform efforts. They have been performed in more than 30 states to effectuate education reforms with great success. For instance, the Maryland legislature enacted a bipartisan education funding system based on data and recommendations provided by a cost study. Additional funding was phased in over six years and aimed at closing the achievement gap. In the years that followed, Maryland’s high-need children performed significantly better on all metrics of evaluation than they had in the past. Likewise, in Massachusetts, a 1991 study ultimately formed the groundwork for the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993. This act brought nationally-recognized reforms that catapulted Massachusetts’ student achievement to first in the nation.

    6. What is the budgetary cost of an adequacy cost study?

    The adequacy cost study is estimated to cost $250,000, less than one-in-ten-thousandths of what our state currently spends on primary and secondary education each year. It is a small price to pay to get the real-world data needed by policymakers to develop a rational education funding formula that ensures adequate and equitable educational opportunities for all public school students.

    7. How long would a cost study take?

    A cost study would take about 12 months or less to complete. Under Subst. H.B. 7270, the Department of Education would issue a request for proposals 30 days after passage of the act. The selected entity conducting the cost study would then file an interim report not later than December 14, 2017 and a final report not later than February 14, 2018.

    8. Could the CCJEF proposal be incorporated into the Duff proposal?

    Yes. Elements of S.B. 2, such as the shift in measuring local ability to pay equally between property wealth and income wealth as well as changes in student need factors, could be adopted as the beginning of a transitional financing system while the adequacy cost study is being performed.

    9. Has anyone proposed conducting a cost study in the past?

    Yes. Back in 2013, Gov. Malloy’s Task Force to Study State Education Funding recommended that “a comprehensive cost study regarding the demographic, economic and education cost factors … should be considered in determining an appropriate foundation level for the cost of education.”  Indeed, portioning out funding for each district without this knowledge is fiscally irresponsible and puts our children at risk.

  2. Has the General Assembly taken any action on developing a cost study?

    Yes. The Education Committee reported out Subst. H.B. 7270, File 511 which proposes a comprehensive “adequacy study of public school funding” to be completed in the next 12 months. This adequacy cost study is desperately needed to provide the hard, real-world data necessary to get education finance reform done right in Connecticut.