Connecticut Charter Schools: The Unwritten Story of Greater Racial and Ethnic Isolation – Funded, in no small part, by Connecticut Taxpayers.

This blog post is intended to shed light and promote discussion and debate about a vital education policy issue facing public education.

Once considered outside of the mainstream, charter schools have become a major player in the national debate about education reform.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, has already donated more than $450 million to support charter schools around the country and Gates himself has called charter schools “the only schools that have the full opportunity to innovate”.

In 1992, Minnesota and California were the first states to pass charter school laws.  By 1995, 19 states had adopted laws allowing the creation of charter schools and by 2003 a total of 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia had all joined the effort to support the creation of charter schools

Connecticut, home of the largest achievement gap in the nation, has also witnessed the rise of charter schools as an appropriate educational model (along with magnet schools and “Open Choice programs” that allow some students to move within the public education system).

Connecticut joined the Charter School band-wagon in 1996 when legislation was adopted promoting the creation of charter schools.  According to a recent report from the State Department of Education, it was felt that “charter schools could serve as a catalyst for innovation in the state’s public schools. It was also anticipated that charters could serve as another effective vehicle to reduce the racial and economic isolation of Connecticut’s public school students.”

Backed by evidence that charter schools were successfully improving standardized test scores advocates were able to persuade Connecticut policy makers to dramatically increase state support for charter schools.  Through the state’s Charter School Grant, Connecticut has poured over $300 million into its emerging charter schools.  Over the past decade, direct state support for charters has skyrocketed from $14 million a year in 2001 to $53 million this year.

State Support for Charter Schools by Fiscal Year (in millions):

FY 00-01                                 $14

FY 01-02                                 $15

FY 02-03                                 $16

FY 03-04                                 $16

FY 04-05                                 $20

FY 05-06                                 $22

FY 06-07                                 $30

FY 07-08                                 $35

FY 08-09                                 $41

FY 09-10                                 $48

FY 10-11                                 $53

In addition to the belief that charter schools were generating better academic results, support for the charter school model grew because the schools and their proponents (including Achievement First, a major charter school operator in New York and Connecticut) repeatedly told state leaders that charter schools were a vital piece in the ongoing effort to address the racial and ethnic segregation that plagues the Connecticut’s public school system.

However, what has gone unreported is that a review of the data reveals that Connecticut’s charter schools are even more racially and ethnically isolated than the districts the schools are recruiting from.  In fact, faced with court rulings requiring Connecticut to confront its segregated schools systems, charter schools are taking Connecticut in exactly the wrong direction.

When the facts are examined, not only have charter schools failed in their promise to address segregation but as a result of the effective lobbying efforts of the charter schools, scarce public resources are now being used to undermine the state’s own policy goals on racial and ethnic isolation.

The data could not be clearer, Connecticut’s urban school systems are predominantly minority.

Bridgeport Public Schools: 

91.2% Minority                                

47.3% Latino

40.1% of the students come from non-English speaking homes


Hartford Public Schools:                             

93.3% Minority

52.3% Latino

43.5% of the students come from non-English speaking homes


New Haven Public Schools:

 87.7% Minority

36.6% Latino

28.9% of the students come from non-English speaking homes

Recognizing the reality of these extraordinary demographics, the state turned to charter schools and other alternative education models to create educational settings that were more diverse.

However, as noted, the State Department of Education’s School Profile Reports reveal that virtually all of Connecticut’s charter schools are providing an educational environment that is even more racially and ethnically isolated.

In Bridgeport, where 91.2% of the students are minority; the percentage of minority students in the city’s charter schools are actually higher than in the city as a whole.

School     (Percent Minority)

Achievement First – Bridgeport Academy’s     (98.7%)

The Bridge Academy     (99.5%)

New Beginnings     (98.3%)

Park City Prep     (98.2%)

The same situation is true in Hartford where 93.3% of the students are minority but the population of minority students in the city’s charter schools is 100%

School     (Percent Minority)

Achievement First – Harford     (100%)

Jumoke     (100%)

And in New Haven, where 87.7% of the students are minority only 1 out of the 4 area charter schools seem able to attract non-minority students.

School (Percent Minority)

Achievement First – Amistad     (98.1%)

Achievement First – Elm City College Prep     (99.0%)

Common Ground School     (83.2%)

Highville Charter     (98.3%)

When it comes to serving Latino students, the failure of Connecticut’s charter schools is even more appalling.

Although 47.3% of Bridgeport students are Latino,  the percentage of Latino students in Achievement First’s Bridgeport Academy is Charter Schools is 38.8% Latino, The Bridge Academy has a Latino population of 29.4% , New Beginnings Latino percent is 13.7% and Park City Prep’s Latino population is 31.1%

An even more stark situation exists in Hartford where 52.3% of the students are Latino, but only 10.7% of the students at Achievement First – Hartford are Latino while Jumoke Charter’s Latino population is only 3.2%

New Haven’s charter schools have done a bit better serving the Latino community, but the charter schools there are still falling short.  With a Latino student population of 36.6% in New Haven’s public schools, Achievement First – Amistad has a Latino population of 31.5% , Achievement First – Elm City has 20.2% Latino students, the Common Ground School is 30.7% Latino and  Highville Charter has a Latino Population of 7%.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is the fact that despite Connecticut’s urban areas having significant numbers of students coming from non-English speaking homes, charter schools have somehow managed to create learning environments in which virtually NONE OF THE STUDENTS who come from non-English speaking households end up in their schools.

As educators and policy makers know, one of the most significant challenges to educational achievement is language barriers particularly a problem when students take their homework (which is written in English) home to non-English speaking households.  Greater parental engagement in their children’s education is hard enough, but when the students are learning in a language that is not spoken at home it makes it virtually impossible to generate significant parental involvement.

In Bridgeport 40% of the students go home to a non-English speaking home.  That percentage increases to 44.7% in Hartford and in New Haven the percent of students coming from non-English speaking homes is 28.6%

In Connecticut, charter schools are required to ensure equal access to their schools.  Efforts must be made to recruit students from all racial and ethnic backgrounds and admission tests can’t be used.  In fact, entrance decisions must include a blind lottery system.  So that said, compare the percentage of students from non-English speaking homes with the numbers the charter school have reported to the State Department of Education:

School     (% students from non-English speaking homes)

Bridgeport Public Schools     (40%)

Achievement First – Bridgeport Academy     (0.6%)

The Bridge Academy     (14.9%)

New Beginnings     (0%)

Park City Prep     (0%)

HartfordPublic Schools     (44.7% )

Achievement First – Hartford     (0%)

Jumoke     (0%)

New HavenPublic Schools     (28.6%)

Achievement First – Amistad     (0%)

Achievement First – Elm City Prep     (0%)

Common Ground School     (4.6%)

Highville Charter     (0%)

The data is certainly unsettling.  If Connecticut’s publically funded charter schools are supposed to be equally accessible to all and up to 4 in 10 students from those areas come from non-English speaking households then it is pretty unbelievable and completely unconscionable that almost no charter school students come from non-English speaking households.

There is no question that the concept of charter schools is politically very attractive, but the data raises very serious questions about Connecticut’s charter schools and Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly would do well to call a “time out” when it comes to on-going support for these schools and determine how to proceed considering these schools are creating greater racial isolation while failing to service the breadth of our city’s ethnic communities.

Gas Prices in Connecticut – A Classic Wait, What? Moment:

As Connecticut’s political and business leaders renew their call for dramatic action to rebuild and enhance the state’s economic and job situation, state law continues to promote an exponential growth in gas prices – a situation that disproportionately hurts middle class families while increasing the cost of energy – a major cost factor limiting business and job growth in the state.

Connecticut’s growth in gas prices are a direct result of two factors – the manipulation of supply and demand by big oil and the oil-producing nations and the impact of Connecticut’s ill-conceived gas tax policies. 

As we know, the net result is that consumers are standing at the pump watching in disbelief as their vehicles swallow up more and more of their limited incomes. 

What they may not appreciate is that Connecticut gasoline tax policy is actually designed to promote an increase in gas prices. 

Perhaps even more insulting, and even less understood is that the “extra” money raised from Connecticut’s gasoline taxes do not go to support transportation or mass transit but are instead dumped into the state’s General Fund where they are used to cover other government expenditures.

 How does the Connecticut Tax System Work? 

In addition to the basic 25 cents per gallon state gasoline tax that is posted at the gas pumps, state law levies a gross receipts tax on the wholesale price of gasoline sold in Connecticut.  This tax increases the cost of gasoline by about 7.5% or, at today’s prices, about 19 cents per gallon.  As wholesale prices go up, the wholesale tax increases the retail price of gasoline exponentially.  As a result, Connecticut consumers traditionally pay some of the highest gas prices in the country.

While gas taxes are not classically “regressive” in that the burden does not automatically fall heaviest on the poor (since many urban poor do not have cars or drive greater distances to get to work), the gas tax does fall disproportionately on the working and middle class, especially in a state like Connecticut with its limited mass transit system. 

According to the US Energy Information Agency, the financial burden of gasoline expenditures falls heaviest on those making between $25,000 and $75,000 and those households with children.

With all of that, the real “Wait, What? Moment” comes back to the fact that while the state’s 25 cents per gallon gas tax is dedicated to the state’s Transportation Fund, a majority of the funds raised by the 2nd gas tax (the ever-expanding gross receipts tax) does not go to help pay for transportation related expenses.

The history dates back five years when Governor Rell proposed an expanded transportation initiative.  Rell called for increasing the gas tax by 1 cent per year for a number of years to pay for the new program.  However, rather than add to the very public (and arguably unpopular gas tax), the Democrats decided to dramatically increase the gross receipts tax on gasoline.   This strategy not only provided a revenue stream for the Transportation Initiative but generated “excess” revenues that could be diverted to other expenses.

Since Fiscal Year 2006, Connecticut’s expanded gross receipts tax has brought in more than $1.7 billion dollars but only about $700 million or so has gone to help renew Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure or help support Connecticut’s mass transit programs.  The rest – about a billion dollars – was used to fund non-transportation programs.

During last year’s gubernatorial campaign Dan Malloy made it clear that while he supports gasoline taxes he believes the funds should be used to improve Connecticut’s out-dated transportation programs.  It will be interesting to see whether the Malloy Administration follows through on those comments and re-directs all of Connecticut’s gasoline related revenues so that they actually support transportation programs.   It would actually be a relatively easy task.  The new Administration could actually shift all transportation and transportation related public safety costs to the state’s Transportation Fund and then apply all gasoline revenue to those activities.  While it wouldn’t change the overall bottom line it would ensure that consumers knew that they gasoline related tax dollars were actually going for their intended purpose.  

Finally, it would be very refreshing if upcoming Malloy budget made middle-income families a priority by dropping the complex gross receipts tax on gasoline and instead bit the bullet and went with a simple expanded flat rate gasoline tax that raised the necessary revenues.  By taking such an action Malloy could ensure that programs were properly funded while ending the state’s role as a factor in promoting the further increase in gas prices.

Learning from Martin Lurther King Jr. on his birthday…

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death”.”


In honor of Martin Luther King’s birthday we do well to stop our frantic pace and look back on the words and teachings of this great American.  While King’s “I have a dream” speech will always be known as his greatest, A speech lesser know, but just as powerful and important speech was given one year to the day before his death at the Riverside Church in New York City.

Even as a life-time admirer of Martin Luther King (who remembers the moment in April 1968, when I was seven years old when the TV news broadcast that King had been shot), I did not fully understand the importance of his Beyond Vietnam speech until I listened to an episode of Democracy Now a few days ago.

Here is a link to that “Beyond Vietnam” speech that includes both an audio recording and the text.

As you listen to the speech and appreciate its incredible timeliness to the world in which we live today, it is important to understand that this speech – his condemnation of a senseless war and his call for the rise of true American Values – was so controversial that it lost King the support of many, including President Johnson who dis-invited King to the White House because of it.

It is said that following this speech King’s favorability among the American public dropped to only 25% and even a majority of African American’s had a negative opinion of him. 

The media also turned on him.  According to an NPR documentary 168 major newspapers denounced him.   Life magazine said the speech was “demagogic slander” and went on to suggest it sounded like a script put forward by the enemy.  The Washington Post said King has “diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.”

Here we are 44 year later and this extraordinary speech is powerful and true and accurate as the day he gave it.

Here is to the hope that someday this nation will truly open its ears and its heart to the words and teachings of Martin Luther King.

State Employee Pensions: A Pre Pre-View:

With everything “on the table” this year there will certainly be discussions about reforming Connecticut’s public employee pension system.  In the coming weeks we’ll tackle some of those issues here at Wait, What?

One important element is making sure we’re talking about reality and not rhetoric based on made up facts and figures.

First, of the 38,580 or so people who receive a “state pension”, 38% of them get less than $1,000 a month (after taxes).  That means more than nearly 15,000 retirees get take home checks of $12,000 a year or less. 

Second, another 8,600 retirees have after tax pensions of between $12,000 and $24,000 a year.

So, in total, 60% of all state retirees are getting an after tax check of less than $24,000.

That is not to say that there aren’t some retirees who are receiving incredible pensions, including some who managed to “game the system”.

The larger pensions are a result of the old Tier 1 state employee pension program which was, in fact, very generous if you retired with a high salary and a significant number or years of state service.

Although that pension system ended in 1984, a number of state employees, many of whom took one of the recent early retirement incentives, benefited or will benefit from that old pension system.

Since then the state of Connecticut adopted a much less generous Tier II pension program which we was then replaced with an even less generous Tier IIA system.  (More details will be posted about the present state employee retirement program but I think most residents will not think that the pension system for new state employees is overly generous).

However, when it comes to public opinion about state employee pensions, the problem is that the focus is almost exclusively on the small number of people who receive what can certainly be called excessive pensions.  There are about 176 or so retirees who – even after taxes are taken out – receive more than $100,000 a year from the state. 

Of those who take home more than $100,000 a number is medical doctors who retired with relatively high salaries and a significant number of years working in medicine for state agencies.  Of course, there are also a number of non-doctors who receive very high pensions.

In total, of the 176 retirees who’s take home is over $100,000; 35 are retired from the University of Connecticut, 18 from the UConn Health Center, 16 from the Connecticut State University, 13 from the Judicial Branch of government, 11 from the Department of Mental Health, and 10 each from the Department of Transportation and the Department of Corrections.  There are also 9 retirees from the State Police who’s after tax pension is over $100,000.

More to come on this important issue, but it is vital that public officials, the media and the public understand how the state employee pension system actually works before talking about specific reforms.

A Tax By Any Other Name is Still A Tax…

As the Great Storm of 2011 bore down on Hartford (not to mention the big  snow storm that hit on Wednesday night), Keith Phaneuf had a fantastic story in the ctmirror about the massive unemployment tax hike that will hit Connecticut businesses this year.

Full Story:

While some legislators and lobbyists for the business community are pointing to the issue as a reason for the state NOT TO ADOPT mandatory sick leave benefits that would impact a select number of Connecticut businesses, the mandatory increase in the unemployment tax is really a much more significant issue and should be considered as part of the overall tax debate in 2011.

Phaneuf’s article should be mandatory reading for every legislator.

The key facts are as follows:

Businesses pay a tax to the Connecticut Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund for every one of their employees.  The fund is used to pay benefits to any employee who is laid off or otherwise qualifies for unemployment benefits.

Since it is a mandated tax based on the employee’s salary, businesses appropriately consider this as part of the employee’s total wage and benefit package.

Due to the massive rate of unemployment, Connecticut’s Unemployment Trust Fund has been “insolvent” since October 2009.  When a state fund becomes insolvent it has to borrow money from the Federal Government.   

Connecticut has borrowed about $530 million to date to cover unemployment benefits for Connecticut residents. States are required to pay the Federal Government interest on any loans plus, over time,they must pay back the full loan.  In this case, due to the extent of the recession the Federal Government delayed the time period when states were required to start making interest payments on their loans.  The waiver period has ended and interest payments must begin this summer. 

The Connecticut Department of Labor has informed business that a new assessment (tax) will be implemented on August 1, 2011 to raise the funds necessary to start paying the Federal Government the interest Connecticut owes on the funds it has borrowed to date.  The new tax is expected to equal to about $40 per worker. 

As Phaneuf notes the new tax “which doesn’t even reduce the $530 million debt principal, is equal to roughly $53 million when projected over nine months. That’s about $12 million greater than the last tax hike the business community faced, a 10 percent surcharge on the corporation tax first imposed in 2009 and set to expire in 2012.” 

Making matters worse, the story goes on to report “State labor officials estimate the unemployment trust fund will need roughly $500 million more in loans over the next 12 months, despite two existing assessments on business that normally provide enough revenue to fund jobless benefits.”  This means the interest assessment will need to be increased at a later date, not to a significantly higher tax in the future to bring in the funds needed to pay the Federal Government back the $1 billion dollars Connecticut will have borrowed to pay unemployment benefits during this recession. 

Finally, in response to these issues, Phaneuf reports that Governor Malloy has said that he hopes Congress will extend the “interest waiver” since 40 other states are facing this problem.  An extension would allow Connecticut to postpone having to address this problem for year or more but the interest and loan will still need to be paid in the relatively near future.

 The bottom line is that an increase in the unemployment tax is needed – sooner or later – and elected officials, the business community and everyone involved in the budget making process must recognize that the upcoming unemployment tax surcharges are, in fact, very real tax increases and must be part of the overall tax plan to get Connecticut out of this fiscal crisis.

State Government – The Challenge of Facing Reality in These Economic Times…

Christine Stuart has an article today in ctnewjunkie that indirectly highlights the challenge that faces Connecticut.

Yesterday, as California’s new governor announced what could only be described as draconian cuts (along with a plan to raise taxes), Connecticut’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee announced that it will raise a bill to un-due a portion of last year’s budget that undermined Connecticut’s efforts to promote energy efficiency.  The bill would seek to re-allocate funds for an important state program.

As Stuart writes, “Environmentalists and small businesses are hopeful that since the state doesn’t have to borrow as much money as it initially expected when it passed the budget last year that it will restore some of the $28.5 million it planned on taking annually from the Energy Conservation and Load Management Fund.”

The full story can be found using the following link:

Legislators and advocates point out that this program was important because “The fund helps pay contractors to visit homes and businesses to conduct energy audits then figure out how to make the structures more energy efficient. It also helps residents receive rebates for purchases of energy efficient appliances.”

There is no question that is program is a prime example of how government can successfully play a role in helping to overcome the challenges that threaten our society, our state and its citizens.  Through programs like this, we can become more energy efficient, become more energy self-sufficient and do more to protect the environment and deal with the growing crisis associated with global warming and climate change.

It is a program that deserves support.

Yet at the same time, Connecticut, like so many other states is moving closer and closer to the proverbial cliff face as our state government races toward fiscal catastrophe.

One need only look to California to see what can occur (while Connecticut’s economic position is not as bad as California’s, the two state’s are facing similar situations). 

In California, despite having a new Democratic progressive governor, the proposed state budget there includes a $1.5 billion cut to welfare programs, a $1.7 billion cut to the state’s health care Medicaid programs, a reduction of $750 million to programs for the developmentally disabled and a half a billion dollar cut to the University of California system even though their public higher education system is already in deficit.  Brown’s budget also CUTS state employee take home pay by 8-10%.

This is not to say that the Finance Committee should not discuss re-funding the State’s important energy efficiency programs, but it is to highlight the challenge the Malloy Administration and the Legislature faces over the next few months.

Will forcing Connecticut’s wealthy to pay their fair share persuade them to leave Connecticut?


It’s an argument we’ve heard in Connecticut a number of times.


Just last year, State Representative Lile Gibbons, the Greenwich Republican whose district includes the Greenwich homes with waterfront views, warned that if the legislature increased the estate tax “People just aren’t going to stay” in Connecticut.  Over the years many other Republican elected officials, including Jodi Rell, and business organizations have said the same thing.

Their argument is that if Connecticut raises the income tax or the estate tax on the wealthy the result will be that many wealthy taxpayers will simply shift their tax homes to locations with lower taxes.

Connecticut Republicans are not alone in making these dire predictions.  Conservative commentators are constantly making similar claims.  At the end of December 2010, an editorial in the venerable Wall Street Journal once again opined that the direct result of higher taxes on the wealthy is that many of them decide to sell their homes, leave their communities and flee to lower tax jurisdictions.

The editors of the WSJ used a recent report in the state of Oregon to back their claim, In 2009 Oregon, with a majority vote of its state legislature and the approval of its voters in a state-wide referendum dramatically increased its state income tax.  The rate for those making more than $500,000 was raised to 11% and the rate on those making $250,000 to $500,000 increased to increase to 10.8%.

A year later, when a report was released that Oregon has collected less revenue than projected, the WSJ wrote that Oregon’s wealthy had “fled the state”. 

But wait, it turns out that nothing of the sort occurred.  Rather than a wholesale dash for the border, the number of tax returns filed in Oregon actually went up.  That said, as a result of the deep recession that is dragging down the country, it turns out that a number of Oregon’s wealthiest taxpayers where no longer as wealthy as they once were and thus fell below the new “soak the rich” income tax rates.  

The “if you tax them, they will flee” myth was further busted in 2010, when a major international financial firm that tracks the marketing behavior of millionaires released their most recent report.  According to Phoenix Affluent Market’s data, the overall number of households making more than a million dollars actually increased by about 8% to 5.6 million.

The report, which measures the number of millionaires per capita in every state, discovered that “two of the states with the “highest marginal income-tax rates” also had the highest number of millionaires per capita.” 

The author of “The Wealth Report”, Robert Frank, who writes for the news division of the Wall Street Journal (rather than the editorial department), wrote “Hawaii, with the greatest number of per capita millionaires levies an 11% tax rate on those earning $200,000 or more.  Maryland, the state with the 2nd greatest number of millionaires targets its wealthy with a special millionaire’s tax rate of 6.25% and New Jersey, the state with the 3rd largest number of millionaires has a rate of 10.75% on those households earning more than $1 million a year.

Frank went on to “This isn’t to say that taxes don’t matter to the wealthy. They do. A lot.” But he also noted that “some states with very low marginal income tax rates, such as Connecticut and Alaska, also ranked high on the density list.”

To explain the apparent paradox that many wealthy people live in higher tax jurisdictions, Frank’s piece quotes the Managing Director of the Phoenix based consulting firm that released that study.  According to them, “…Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, and Connecticut all share some important distinctions: they are small states with large concentrations of highly educated professionals and business owners, which are key ingredients to growing wealth…in general, most high-net-worth households don’t base their living decision on tax rates, but on things like quality of life, access to good education, infrastructure and culture.”

Connecticut’s wealthiest citizens presently pay a 6.5% income tax, far below what they would pay if they moved to New York or New Jersey (not to mention if they decided to live in New York City.  Even if Connecticut raised its income tax on those making more than a million dollars by a whopping 50%, the rate paid would increase to a point where it is on par with the other jurisdictions in the tri-state region.

To suggest that if we increase taxes on the wealthy they will flee is not only not true, but intellectually dishonest.  Even studies produced by our own state government reveal the truth.  In 2007 the Connecticut General Assembly examined out-migration.  While it found that the “largest number of individuals leaving Connecticut — 27,773 — moved to Florida” it also revealed that those who moved into Connecticut during the same period “had, on average, higher incomes” and “second-favorite destination for residents leaving the state was North Carolina, which has an estate tax and an income tax”  that is on par with Connecticut.

Oh and what are the state’s with the highest number of millionaires? Hawaii with 6.93%, Maryland 6.79%, New Jersey 6.69%, Connecticut 6.65%, Massachusetts 5.98%, Alaska 5.97%, Virginia 5.94%, New Hampshire 5.79%, California 5.66% and Washington, D.C. with 5.53%

For more information on this issue check out the following sources:

 Wall Street Journal:

WSJ’s Robert Frank;,

 Citizens for Tax Justice:


Grappling with Connecticut’s Budget Crisis – Part I: What about Education Funding?

With a $19 billion dollar state budget, Connecticut spends about $2.5 billion dollars a year to support primary and secondary education (Pre-K through 12th grade) in the state’s 169 towns.

The bulk of those funds are distributed directly to towns/school districts through the ECS (Educational Cost Sharing) Formula which was designed to provide Connecticut’s poorer towns with extra funds since they didn’t have the tax base to fully fund their own school systems.

In order to fulfill Connecticut’s Constitutionally mandated requirement to provide all children with equal access to a quality education, Connecticut’s official policy goal for the past 25 years has been to have the state pay for 50% of the total costs associated with funding local schools leaving the cities and towns with the obligation for raising the other 50% through local property taxes.

Following the adoption of the income tax in 1991 the state reached a point in which it was paying about 43% of the total costs. Since then the state’s share has slipped lower and lower. Today the state only covers about 35% of the total cost associated with operating Connecticut’s public education system.  As a result of this underfunding, Connecticut’s level of state and local spending on education has means we’ve dropped to 39th in the country when it comes to our total outlay to help our state’s children acquire the knowledge and skills to succeed.

During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign Dan Malloy (and his Republican opponent) both promised not to make any cuts to the ECS formula. Neither campaign signaled whether the “no cut” pledge applied to the other $600 million the state spends on education costs.

That said, as Malloy Administration faces a nearly $4 billion dollar budget short-fall, it is unlikely that any real savings can be found in the education portion of the budget. For one thing, the new Governor is extremely committed to supporting education and secondly any cuts to state education funding would only translate into a greater burden on local communities and higher local property taxes.

The following highlights where the state’s education dollars are allocated;

  • Education Cost Sharing formula:     $1.9 Billion
  • Adult Education:     $21 Million
  • After School Programs:     $5 Million
  • Bilingual Education:     $2 Million
  • Excess Cost (Special Education):     $120 Million
  • Extended School Hours:     $3 Million
  • Private School Health Services for Pupils:     $5 Million
  • Inter-district Cooperation:     $14 Million
  • Magnet Schools:     $175 Million
  • Private School Transportation:     $4 Million
  • Open Choice Program:     $14 Million
  • Priority School Districts:     $117 Million
  • School Based Health Clinics:     $10 Million
  • School Breakfast Program:     $2 Million
  • Transportation of School Children:     $48 Million
  • Vocational Agriculture:     $5 Million
  • Youth Services Bureaus:     $3 Million

8:39 AM UPDATE —- Perhaps I spoke to soon – CT Mirror has a story today that suggets Malloy is backing off his pledge to not cut funding for local education.  Or perhaps it signals that while he will keep his promise not to cut the ECS forumla he may propose cuts to some of the other state grants to support primary and secondary education.  Here is a link to today’s CTMirror Story

After pledging during the campaign that he would maintain state funding for local education, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy backed off a bit Thursday, saying that is “a goal” that he will “try and accommodate.”

“That’s a goal that I have when preparing the budget,” he said during his first press conference after taking office. “There are many goals that I have. We are going to try and accommodate all of them,”

On the campaign trail he was much more definitive.


For Whom The Bell Tolls: The Challenge Ahead – Putting Connecticut Back On Track.

Pride, excitement and enthusiasm abound as the Malloy Administration settles into their first full day in office.  As the rightfully celebrate their historic inauguration, the task ahead becomes ever more clear.  The underlying challenge is sobering…

  • For the forty years leading up to 1990, Connecticut’s job growth was impressive — but since 1990 Connecticut has been DEAD LAST – 50th in job growth.


  •  Over the last two decades, while “the rich got richer”, the rest of Connecticut fell more and more behind.  Not only did the income gap between Connecticut’s top and bottom wage earners grow more than any other state in the nation – BUT THE GAP BETWEEN CONNECTICUT’S TOP AND MIDDLE also grew more than any other state in the nation as well.
  • In recent years, middle-wage occupations in Connecticut have experienced the steepest job losses. Overall, middle-class job categories have lost 6.8% of their positions between 2006 and 2009. Average yearly earnings declined in Connecticut in both 2008 and 2009 after adjusting for inflation, totaling a 3.8% drop between 2007 and 2009. This occurred in spite of modest increases in hourly wages, and is likely a result of a decline in hours worked per week in Connecticut, which also declined in 2008 and 2009.
  • In addition, Connecticut was the ONLY STATE in which the real income of the poorest 20% of families actually declined significantly.  Low-income families (poorest quintile) lost, on average, -$4,437 of income, compared to a gain of $1,814 nationally for the poorest fifth of families.
  • When it comes to wages in Connecticut, as well as other employment measures, the levels of racial and ethnic disparities are much wider than disparities at the national level. Connecticut African Americans earn only 62 cents on the dollar compared to Whites.  (Compared to a national average of 78 cents on the dollar). Connecticut Hispanics do even worse, earning 60 cents on the dollar compared to White (Compared to a national average of 70 cents).
  • Meanwhile, the long-term unemployment rate in Connecticut — the share of unemployed workers seeking work who have been out of work for 6 months or more — is the fourth highest in the country at about 37%. The underemployment rate — which includes the unemployed, part-time workers who want to work full-time, and discouraged workers who have stopped looking for work — is at a historic high.
  • When it comes to the various job sectors of Connecticut’s economy, only the Health and Education job sector experienced substantial job growth since the beginning of the present recession.  Now, the state’s only successful job sector will be threatened by state and local budget cuts, since this sector is heavily dependent on public sector expenditures.

Yesterday was a great day for Governor Dan Malloy, Lieutenant Nancy Wyman and all those who worked so hard on their campaign.  Celebration was rightly the word of the day.

 And now, the work begins.








Note:  Special thanks to CT. Voices for Children who do such an incredible job tracking this type of important data and using it to educate the public and our elected officials.  For more on CT Voices go to

Governor M. Jodi Rell: A legacy of saying one thing, but doing another.


Rell and McMahon


As Governor Rell and her team leave the Capitol today, they leave with a virtually unbroken record of missed opportunities and lost potential.  Here are just a few of her more memorable comments over the last few years.

Note that in each case, her words preceded or followed her taking or allowing exactly the opposite to happen.

“The easy way out is to approve an early retirement plan one year but not pay out sick and vacation time to deserving employees until three years later. Unfortunately, later is now.”  (A plan she approved)

“This continuing spike in gas prices is bad for consumers, bad for our economy, and bad for all other businesses. It is hurting us and costing us jobs. ” (Rell having supported massive increases in the petroleum wholesale tax the skyrocketed as prices rose).

“We cannot put off the difficult decisions for another day, another generation.”  (This from the Governor who proposed and supported putting off the difficult decisions for another day, another generation).

“I have kept a steady focus on restoring public faith in our state government since taking office July 1. Now it is time to make even bigger and bolder gains through legislative action.”  (While Lisa Moody handed out donation envelopes on state time and the Governor’s Office used state funds to hire and conduct a political polling operation).

“I’m angry when we have to use state dollars to fill holes in our low-income heating assistance program because there isn’t enough support from Washington. “ (The Governor who used a billion dollars in Stimulus funds for on-going activities rather than one time costs that would create jobs and strengthen the economy).

“Our libraries are valuable centers of education, learning and enrichment for people of all ages. In recent years, libraries have taken on an increasingly important role. Today’s libraries are about much more than books.”  (Then proposed cutting libraries)

“The best math lesson we can teach college students this year is to subtract a tuition increase and benefit from the dividends of higher education. (Pushed for a “tuition freeze” after her trustees supported the skyrocketing tuitions, then cut the amount of state funds for higher education, leaving the students paying more and getting less).

“I can understand the confusion and questions that people have, so let me be quite clear: I do not and will not support cuts to the Metro-North branch lines…” (After her own budget officials proposed closing down the Metro-North branch line after spending tens of millions to upgrade that same line).

And the list goes on and on and one.

Twelve noon and the swearing-in of Governor Dan Malloy couldn’t come soon enough.


Congratulations to Dan Malloy and Nancy Wyman. 

The job they are taking on is daunting but if anyone can do it – they can.