Confronting the Scheme to Gamble With Connecticut Special Education Funds by Robert Cotto Jr.

In a MUST READ commentary piece published in the CTNewsjunkie, Robert Cotto Jr. reviews the flawed special education proposal submitted by The Connecticut School Finance Project, a corporate education reform group that has apparently violated state law by illegally engaging in lobbying activities with Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration. (See: In violation of state lobbying laws, corporate education reform group develops Malloy’s disastrous special education funding proposal.)

Cotto begins by explaining,

As the state considers the risk of adding a new casino, Connecticut must beware of another plan to gamble with funds for students with disabilities. Based on its flawed analysis of special education, the plan could be a jackpot for profiteers and charter school entrepreneurs. We must stop this scheme and consider better alternatives.

[…]

Initially proposed by the Connecticut School Finance Project to help districts face the “ups” and “downs” of special education costs, the governor’s administration, as well as other education reformers, have now endorsed the plan. Yet, as Deborah Richards from the Capitol Region Education Council stated, “the primary issue is cost” of special education, not volatility.

Cotto adds;

If this plan sounds like a scam to you, then you are not alone. Special education advocate Dianne Willcutts, stated that it, “does not ensure that Districts will be in compliance” with special education law. Attorney Andrew Feinstein warned“this bill (SB 542) does nothing to help children with disabilities” and voiced concern that it would “actually harm children with disabilities.”

Even potential supporters were unsure. The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education called for more details. Others called the plan “unclear.” Two parents claimed this offers more equity, but shared only personal anecdotes.

So who benefits?

The State: By moving money around and adding some dollars in the first year, the administration will claim in public and court that it has an “innovative” method of funding special education.

Profiteers: The plan creates a “captive insurance company” to insure the state against future special education costs (e.g. Step 3). The fund would pay salaries and fees to manage the plan. Because captive insurance companies are often misused, the American Bar Association and U.S. Department of the Treasury have raised concerns and the FBI includes “captives” on the “Dirty Dozen” tax scam list.

Charter school entrepreneurs: One of the barriers to a school voucher system, supported by charter lobbyists, is that public districts must pay for all students, including those with disabilities. Per-pupil vouchers do not cover all costs.

With local and state funds, public-school districts pay special education costs for their own districts and at charter schools. This cost-sharing system makes it difficult to implement vouchers or similar plans (e.g. money follows child, weighted student funding, student-based budgeting).

You can read and comment on this vitally important article via – http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_confronting_the_scheme_to_gamble_with_connecticut_special_education_f/

In violation of state lobbying laws, corporate education reform group develops Malloy’s disastrous special education funding proposal

Among the many bad budget recommendations included in Governor Dannel Malloy state spending plan is a proposal that would leave Connecticut’s cities and towns without the resources they need to properly fund mandated programs for students who require special education services.

Now, according to documents acquired through a Freedom of Information request, Malloy’s absurd proposal, which undermines Connecticut’s special education program, was actually developed by a corporate education reform group. This in spite of the fact that the group failed to report that it had engaged in any administrative lobbying activities.

The entity in question is an off-shoot of the Connecticut Council on Education Reform (CCER), a corporate funded lobbying group that has been trying to divert scarce public resources to Connecticut’s charter schools, while lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s massive Common Core SBAC standardized testing debacle and his other corporate education reforms.

Last year, staff from CCER formed The Connecticut School Finance Project.

Following Governor Malloy’s recent proposal to create a Connecticut Special Education Cost Cooperative, a new bureaucratic structure designed to inappropriately control special education funding and services, The Connecticut School Finance Project prepared an “independent analysis examining these proposed changes and how they align with six key principles and practices all special education finance systems should follow.”

However, neither the Governor nor the lobbying group revealed that the proposal was actually developed by the Connecticut School Finance Project after months of close communication with the Malloy administration and their “independent analysis” was of a plan they actually wrote.

Worse, in an outright lie and in apparent violation of state law, the Connecticut School Finance Project reported to the State Ethics Commission that it didn’t spend any time or money engaged in communications with the Governor or his staff.

Yet documents that were recently turned over by the Office of Policy and Management tell a very different story and confirm that the Connecticut School Finance Project has been working directly with the Malloy administration on the proposal since the fall of 2016.

Connecticut School Finance Project even hired a former OPM staff person to help develop the plan, a proposal that undermines local control and sets up the new apparatus that would dramatically reduce the amount of money many towns receive for providing special education services to the children in their communities.

The newly released documents highlight a variety of communications and meetings between the Connecticut School Finance Project and Malloy officials including the activities of a School Finance Project staffer who isn’t even registered to lobby.

In November 2016, the Connecticut School Finance Project’s Senior Policy Analyst wrote to Malloy’s Undersecretary for Legal Affairs stating,

“I want to reach out to make sure that you are updated on the progress related to the SPED Co-op funding system.  Kate [Connecticut School Finance Project’s Executive Director] indicated that your expertise was volunteered during a meeting with Secretary Barnes.”

The corporate education reform group’s staff person then explains,

“We are likely to set up the co-op as a sponsored captive insurance group…” 

And then adds

“I am going to be following up to schedule a meeting to begin working on policy development and statutory drafting.”

Since the lobbying group’s staff person was not registered to lobby, such communication violates state law.

At another point the Connecticut School Finance Project’s Executive Director, a person who is registered to lobby, but failed to report their activities as required by law, wrote to Malloy’s budget chief saying,

“Also, maybe we could quickly talk by phone so I can tell you what we have and you can let me know if its what you need.” 

And in another instance, the corporate education reform lobbyist wrote,

“I wonder if you’d like to get a status update on the calendar…we’ll have some new stuff for you…”

According to sworn statements filed with the State Ethics Commission, The Connecticut School Finance Project claimed it had no communication with anyone in the administrative branch of government during this entire time period.

Which, of course, is untrue.

Meanwhile, the proposal itself remains on the General Assembly’s legislative agenda.

Special education expert and advocate Andrew Feinstein focused on the problems with the proposal in testimony before the Insurance and Real Estate Committee saying,

“The promotional material by the Connecticut School Finance Project is flashy and appealing, but fails to answer some serious questions…let’s understand that the bill does nothing to help children with disabilities.”

And John Bestor, a retired school psychologist added,

“An Act Establishing the Connecticut Special Education Cost Cooperative represents a serious threat to over forty years of special education programming decisions which are – by law – supposed to be determined through a planning & Placement Team process that includes both parents and teachers who know the student’s educational needs best.”

The plan would be bad for Connecticut’s students, schools and taxpayers.

Furthermore, it is yet another reminder of the control the corporate education reform groups have on Malloy and his policies.

And worst of all, this group is deeply involved in developing Malloy’s agenda, all in violation of state law.

Connecticut’s ECS school funding formula should not be at the whim of the governor by Wendy Lecker

In a recent commentary piece first published in the Stamford Advocate, education funding expert Wendy Lecker laid out the problems with Governor Dannel Malloy’s recently proposed school funding system.  Wendy Lecker writes.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy spouts rhetoric about the “urgency” to make progress in finding a “fair” system for funding Connecticut’s schools. Unfortunately, his 2018-19 school funding proposals will take Connecticut backward in its struggle to adequately and equitably fund education.

A brief refresher on Connecticut’s funding formula, the Education Cost Sharing Formula (“ECS”): ECS is a foundation formula similar to that of many other states. It establishes a foundation amount, the amount of money necessary to educate a child with no special needs, then adjusts for poverty by adding a certain weight to that amount, and adjusts for the number of students in a district. It then uses a measure of town wealth to determine the state and local shares of the amount for each district. While a foundation formula is inherently sound, ECS has numerous flaws. The foundation amount was never based on the actual cost of educating a child, nor does the poverty weight reflect the true added cost of educating students living in poverty. Connecticut removed the weight for English Language Learners from the formula in 2013, though there is a recognized additional cost to educate these students. There was never a weight in the formula to account for the additional cost of educating students with disabilities.

The measurement of town wealth is also skewed.

These flaws drove CCJEF, in 2005, to commission an education adequacy cost study to determine the true cost of education in Connecticut. Over the past 30 years, more than 50 cost studies have been conducted in 35 states. They have formed the basis for genuine school finance reform in many of these states. National studies show that school finance reform has had a significant positive effect on academic and life outcomes, especially for poor children.

Then-mayor Malloy was a founding member of CCJEF when it commissioned the cost study. In 2007, Malloy and the rest of the CCJEF steering committee presented their proposal for reforming Connecticut’s school finance system, based on that cost study.

What a difference 10 years and millions of dollars’ worth of donations from charter school lobbyists make. Now, Gov. Malloy rejects the notion of a cost study and instead proposes changes to ECS that not only are not supported by any evidence, but explicitly contradict reality.

According to Malloy’s OPM Secretary, Ben Barnes, cost studies are “spurious” and instead education funding should be determined by the “amount of support that the state would like to place in its K-12 system.”

In other words, education funding, according to Malloy, should be based on our leaders’ political whims rather than on what kids need.

Here are some examples of Malloy’s 2018 school funding whims, which, as CCJEF and others point out, will reduce overall k-12 funding in Connecticut.

Malloy proposes reducing the ECS foundation amount from $11,525 to $8,999 for 2018 and thereafter, while increasing per pupil funding for charter schools from $11,000 to $11,500. As CCJEF points out, in 2007-08, the ECS foundation amount was $9,687.

Since 2007-08, Connecticut has seen an increase in ELL students, students with disabilities and students living in poverty. In fact, the number of children who qualify for free (not reduced) lunch has grown 10 percentage points statewide. In some districts, the increase in need is startling. In Windham and New Britain, there was a more than 20 percent increase in students qualifying for free lunch. New mandates such as the Common Core and teacher evaluations further increase the cost of education. Yet Malloy proposes reducing foundation below the 2008 level.

Malloy proposes changing poverty measure from free and reduced priced lunch (“FRPL”) eligibility to Husky A eligibility. While FRPL is not an accurate measure of poverty, Husky A eligibility is just as bad. As CCJEF notes, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for HUSKY A, thus would not be counted. Connecticut Voices for Children calculated that 24 percent of children living in poverty do not receive HUSKY A and thus would also be excluded. Moreover, Malloy seeks to limit HUSKY A eligibility even further, purging more children from the ECS poverty measure. Worse still, Malloy proposes reducing ECS’ poverty weight from 30 percent to 20 percent, for apparently no reason at all.

These are only a few examples of the ways Gov. Malloy is seeking to restrict funding for Connecticut’s schools. To learn more, read CCJEF’s testimony at http://bit.ly/2mjdmKy and Connecticut Voices for Children’s analysis at http://bit.ly/2lHm9To.

Then call your legislators and demand that Connecticut conduct a new cost study to ensure that education funding is based on reality, not the governor’s whims.

Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center.  You can read and comment on the piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-ECS-formula-should-not-be-at-whim-10976010.php

ALERT – Legislation seeking to undo student privacy protections now before CT Legislature’s Education Committee

In this day and age of widespread data breaches, Governor Dannel Malloy, Attorney General George Jepsen and an overwhelming majority of Connecticut state legislators say they support privacy protections.  They’ve even passed laws that guarantee notification and required protection for those whose data has been breached.

But in an incredibly underhanded maneuver, a new bill is being considered by the Education Committee that would roll back critically important protections for parents and children if data collected at school is breached.

House Bill 7207 strips the protection that students currently have by repealing the existing requirement that parents be notified if their child’s information is released via a corporate breach.

One would think that elected officials would be outraged, but with industry lobbying seeking to turn back the clock on these important notification requirements there is only silence from Governor Dannel Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen — both of whom publicly bragged about their commitment to protecting Connecticut residents from data breaches.

In fact, just two years ago, Malloy and Jepsen pushed for legislative action requiring companies to notify and protect residents in the case of a breach and last year Malloy signed the new education law (Public Act 16-189) which targeted companies that do business with public schools.

But now with the new push to undo those protections, Malloy and Jepsen are nowhere to be seen.

As the parent run Connecticut Alliance for Student Privacy explains,

This year’s proposed bill (HB 7207) delays the effective date of the law passed last session from October 1, 2016 to July 1, 2018. 

The law, as passed last year, did not stop the collection of student data or its appropriate use for instructional purposes or to improve student outcomes. It simply provides greater notice and transparency for parents and delineates contract provisions and technical security safeguards, while seeking to address misuse and instances of breach.

The effort to undo Connecticut’s new law is even garnering national attention.  Fellow education advocate and blogger, Cheri Kiesecker, recently posted the following on her Missouri Education Watchdog blog.

Connecticut legislators don’t want to protect students after all. Attacking Student Data Privacy Law–AGAIN.

Connecticut passed a student data privacy and transparency bill, Public Act 189,  in 2016.

The bill adopted common sense policies associated with contracts between school districts and corporations that collect, maintain, and share student data.  The CT law does NOT limit data collection, does not require parental consent prior to collecting data, it only asks that NEW or renewed contracts and bids collecting student data must handle data appropriately. The law requires parents to be notified if their child’s data is breached. To their credit, the CT Commission on Educational Technology has done great work and is prepared and ready for this law to be implemented.  You can see their plan here: Operationalizing Public Act 189.

Why then, are some lawmakers in CT introducing bills to cripple this new law that protects student data privacy? Do they not think that keeping student data safe, notifying parents of a breach is important?

You may remember one Connecticut legislator introduced a bill in January to entirely repeal this new student privacy law.  As CT blogger and parent Jonathon Pelto wrote,

“…in an astonishing, baffling and extremely disturbing move, State Representative Stephen Harding (R-107th District) has introduced legislation (HB 5233) to repeal this important law (Public Act 16-189)

…It is not clear who would ask Representative Harding to propose such a bill or why the representative would seek to do such harm to Connecticut’s students, parents and public schools.”

Fortunately, Representative Harding withdrew the bill after receiving much pushback (understandably) from the parent community.

New bill “Revising” CT Student Privacy to be heard Monday, March 6

This past week a new bill, 7207 to “revise” the student data privacy law, was introduced, and will be heard by the CT Joint Education Committee this Monday, March 6.  This kind of a rush job could imply that they are hoping to pass this bill without giving parents time to react.  This new bill, 7207, wants to repeal the data privacy law and delay further implementation until July 1, 2018.   This would remove existing protection of school children for over a year.  WHY?

The Student Data Privacy Law has been in effect since Oct. 1, 2016; it only applies to NEW contracts, only asks for transparency, the CT Edtech Commission has already done the work to implement it. WHY, would Connecticut want to now repeal protection and transparency?

[…]

Is it asking too much that when a company contracts with a school and collects and uses and shares children’s data, that the data be kept safe and parents be able to see how that data is used, breached, and not sold?

By repealing or delaying this law, who are they protecting?

Connecticut parents and other citizens opposed to stripping children of the privacy protections contained in Public Act 189 should take immediate steps to notify their legislators that this unwarranted and inappropriate assault on protecting students and parents must be defeated.

For more about this legislative effort to undermine Public Act 189 go to the CT Alliance for Privacy in Education’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CTStudentDataPrivacy/posts/618261395030545

Bridgeport Board of Education Member Maria Pereira speaks out against Malloy Education Cuts

Maria Pereira is a public education advocate and member of the Bridgeport Board of Education.  She recently testified before the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee on Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposal to slash state support for Connecticut’s public schools. In her testimony Pereira highlights the devastating impact Malloy’s budget would have on Bridgeport.

Pereira explained;

I write to you today as a Bridgeport Public School (BPS) graduate, parent, Board of Education member (BOE), and staunch defender of true public education.

I and my five siblings were born and raised in Bridgeport and we all graduated from the Bridgeport Public Schools. When I look back on the education I received I often come to the conclusion that I received a good education administrated by amazing Bridgeport Public School Teachers.

I have been a staunch and vocal proponent of our true public schools since 2009, which is when I discovered my 12 year old daughter was on her 9th seventh grade math teacher as of March that school year. I often believe something good comes out of everything bad. My good was that this was my catalyst for becoming involved in the state of public education in the City that I love, Bridgeport.

I have witnessed public education deteriorate in Bridgeport over the last three decades due in large measure to the severe underfunding of the BPS.  Governor Malloy’s own ECS Taskforce Report issued in January 2012 recommended using “Free and Reduced Price Lunch eligibility to determine student need”, yet the proposed budget rejects that recommendation by using Husky A enrollment as the measurement for poverty. This will allow thousands of students living in poverty NOT to be counted. Examples are many fathers are court ordered to provide health coverage through their employer, yet the child lives with mother and in poverty. Many non-citizens do not, and will not apply for Husky A, especially in today’s world of mass deportation.  They are frightened to give their personal information.

There is another $22,000,000 in Malloy’s proposed budget for charter school enrollment and new school expansion. How is this state facing approximately $3 billion in budget deficits over the next two years, yet the SDOE requested bids for more charter schools? Why is there is always more money for the most segregated schools with the highest suspension and expulsion rates in CT? These CMO’s are pocketing between 10% and 13% of every state dollar provided to them for “fees” instead of using these funds to educate their students.

Bridgeport has more charter schools than any other district in CT with six. Over 10% of our total student population is in charter schools while the state is at 3%. Our school district had over $6,000,000 dollars in ECS funds siphoned off to these charter schools last year alone because we must cover their bus transportation and special ed. costs which is absurd. Under state statute, charter school students are defined as students of the “state” not the local school district, yet we must redirect our limited resources to fund charter school costs.  Just ten social workers for these charter schools cost us $1,000,000 last year. This upcoming school year, it is projected that we will be paying for more school busses to charter schools than our own Bridgeport Public Schools.

If you want to see the results of under regulated and over expansion of charter schools in urban cities, and how it negatively impacts true public schools, neighborhoods, and communities; one only has to look at Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark, Detroit, etc. where the siphoning off of billions of dollars has caused such strain on impoverished urban communities that some are on the verge of collapse.

Bridgeport was heavily involved in the CCJEF lawsuit and has waited over 9 years to have the courts rule in favor of what so many of us that live in impoverished urban cities already know; our schools have been severely underfunded for decades.  The ECS Taskforce Report stated … “the state must make a long-term commitment to increasing its proportional share of total educational funding in the state. This commitment must be faithfully carried out in the biennial state budget through annual increases in total state funding for education including funding the ECS grants)…”

Governor Malloy’s Proposed Budget requires Alliance Districts to maintain the 2017 Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR); however it gives the Mayor the authority to appeal to the state Board of Education for a waiver of the MBR requirement. In essence, the MBR would be non-binding. And the icing on the cake is that although the state may well increase ECS funding to a district, the city/town is NOT required to use those funds for their public schools.

The ECS Taskforce Report calculations placed Bridgeport as the most underfunded school district in CT on a cash basis with a projection that we were underfunded by approximately $48,000,000 on an annual basis.  Bridgeport spends approximately $14,000 per pupil, New Haven is at approximately $17,000, and Hartford is at approximately $19,000.

This proposed budget would reduce Bridgeport’s ECS Allocation by $26,000,000, eliminate $ 5,000,000 in the Special Education Excess Cost Grant, and add $13,000,000 in Teacher Pension costs with a total reduction in our budget of $43,779,868. We would gain $39,151,000 in the new Special Education Grant which will give Bridgeport a net loss of $ 4,658,051.  Hartford will lose $4,841,869 and New Haven will lose $20,261,091. Teacher Pension costs are expected to balloon over the next 15 years.  What will happen to our cities/towns then?

Is this what our 21,000 Bridgeport Public School children waited for after 9 years of litigation in which we prevailed, but the end result is they are losing close to $5,000,000 in state funding? Is this really the comprehensive funding plan to close the achievement gap? I certainly hope not.

Please reject Governor Malloy’s proposed Education Budget.

BEWARE – Governor Dannel Malloy’s devastating cuts to public education

At a time when Connecticut’s students, parents and educators need and deserve adequate funding for the state’s public schools,  Governor Dannel Malloy has proposed the most drastic cuts to public education in Connecticut history.

In testimony last week before the Connecticut General Assembly, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding [CCJEF] identified the most serious problems with Malloy’s plan to slash funding for public schools in Connecticut.

As CCJEF explain, Malloy’s outrageous proposal,

Reduces overall state support for K-12 public education by at least $364 million

 

Zeroes out or reduces ECS funding to 131 municipalities/school districts.

 

The $428 million cut in ECS is justified by a fictional special education proxy that has no basis in per district special education student counts or expenses.

 

Lowers the ECS foundation amount from $11,525 to $8,999 for FY 18 and thereafter, but increases per pupil funding for charter schools from $11,000 to $11,500. [The ECS foundation amount in FY 08 was $9,687.]

 

Changes the student need factor in ECS from eligibility for Free and Reduced-Price Lunch to students eligible for HUSKY A medical benefits and lowers the student need multiplier in the formula from 30% to 20% in order to restrain district funding. [Note that undocumented immigrants are not eligible for HUSKY A medical benefits and that the Governor is also proposing to reduce eligibility for HUSKY A parents to 138% of poverty. About 9,500 parents will lose Medicaid under this proposal.] Student need should not be restricted to one proxy formula element but should represent the broad diversity of student needs in our state.

 

Zeroes out or reduces Special Education reimbursements to many municipalities/school districts and bases the 0 -54% reimbursement amount on a 5-year average of district Excess Cost reimbursements, not actual costs.

 

Imposes a new Teacher Retirement contribution mandate on all municipalities, regardless of wealth, equal to 1/3 of their teacher retirement costs. This new mandate is expected to cost municipalities $408 million in FY 18 and will increase every year thereafter. The Teachers’ Retirement System is a statutory construct outside of municipal/school district control. It is managed and controlled by the State.

 

The Governor’s education funding proposals will lower the State’s share of K-12 public education costs and increase the overreliance on the regressive local property tax to fund education.

Malloy’s proposal will lead to dramatic cuts in education programs and increased property taxes on the state’s middle income and working families – all while he continues his policy of coddling the rich.

The question now is whether the members of the Connecticut General Assembly will turn their backs on their constituents and do Malloy’s bidding or stand up to the bully and rewrite His proposed state budget.

Malloy eliminates all state funding for Connecticut’s Regional Educational Service Centers (RESCs)

At a time when school districts must be expanding their efforts to cooperate regionally, Governor Dannel Malloy’s new budget eliminates state funding for a vital and successful regionalization operation – the Regional Education Service Centers.

The six Regional Education Service Centers (RESCs) provide Connecticut communities and school districts with a wide variety of important cooperative services that save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. While most of the costs are picked up by the districts, the state of Connecticut provides about $600,000 a year to support these critically important networks.

The RESCs develop and manage a wide variety of cost-effective, high quality programs including efforts to regionalize special education services, professional development, minority teacher recruitment, English language learner efforts, transportation and a myriad of other programs.

To eliminate RESC’s would be disastrous for Connecticut’s schools, so it is important to see Malloy’s budget scam for what it is – simply dumping responsibility to fully fund the Regional Education Service Centers onto the backs of local taxpayers.

The situation leaves Connecticut students, parents, educators, school districts and taxpayers in a losing situation.

If Malloy’s proposal is adopted it will mean towns will have to pick up the tab for the RESCs translating into program cuts in the home districts or higher local property taxes.

As the RESC’s explain on their website;

Regional Educational Service Centers (RESCs) were created more than 30 years ago by legislative mandate to help districts communicate and collaborate. Some years later, a formal Alliance of Connecticut’s six RESCs was established. RESCs are public education agencies whose main purpose is to “furnish programs and services” to Connecticut’s public school districts. RESCs’ cost efficient, cooperative efforts have saved money for Connecticut school districts and have enabled schools to expand services beyond what they could have accomplished alone. Each RESC is:

  • Locally governed by member boards of education
  • Cost effective in delivering programs and services to school districts
  • Committed to helping local school districts improve teaching and learning
  • Responsive to local needs and interdistrict opportunities
  • Flexible in creating, adapting, or eliminating programs

The RESC Alliance works with the Departments of Children & Families, Corrections, Education, Mental Health & Addiction Services, Mental Retardation, Public Health, Social Services and Board of Education & Services for the Blind (BESB) and Workforce Investment Act (WIA) on statewide issues and projects such as Technology Training, Beginning Educator Support Training, and Early Reading Success. RESCs are also instrumental in obtaining federal grants and funding. As Connecticut’s “First Stop” in education, RESCs keep districts abreast of new mandates and best practices through:

Cost effective and competent management in a public context

High value programs for a reasonable public expenditure

Dependable delivery system

Strong communication network with local school systems and communities

Successful implementation of legislatively assigned tasks

Thirty years successfully developing vital services and Malloy simply eliminates the funding.

Malloy’s proposed state budget slashes aid to Connecticut’s public schools

Call it devastating, draconian or simply a vicious attack on Connecticut’s children, parents, educators and public schools, the governor who has consistently worked to undermine and privatize public education, since taking office in 2011, has now proposed a new state budget that destroys Connecticut’s already failing constitutional requirement to adequately fund its public schools.

In an effort to avoid raising state taxpayers and maintain the state’s system of coddling the rich from paying their fair share income taxes, Governor Dannel Malloy has called for shifting $407 million in teacher retirement payments to cities and towns in the first year of his proposed budget, an amount that would increase to $420.9 million in the second year of the biannual budget plan.

In addition, rather than appropriately fund Connecticut’s education grants, Malloy’s budget plan seeks to redirect existing state aid for public schools to Connecticut’s poorer towns by slashing grants to wealthier and middle income communities.

Overall, 31 Connecticut communities would see an increase in aid while 138 towns would get less state funds, with many towns getting significantly less state education funding.

Making the situation far worse, Malloy’s budget plan allows most towns to redirect what education aid they will receive away from their public schools.  Rather than requiring towns to maintain their school budgets, Connecticut communities could use what aid they receive to pay for non-education expenditures.

Together these two developments will produce devastating cuts to education programs across Connecticut.

In his effort to pinpoint which communities win and which lose, Malloy is also proposing a significant change to the way in which poverty is defined, a factor that drives how much money towns get under Connecticut’s education formulas.

Presently, poverty is based on the number of students who qualify for free or reduced-priced meals in each community.  But Malloy’s proposal would replace that system with the number of people who participate in the state’s health insurance plan for children, called Husky A.

The system appears to be designed to help Hartford and a handful of other towns, but raises significant equity issues.  Daniel Long, an expert with Connecticut Voices for children explained,

“The concern is that you would underestimate poverty.”

Speaking with Long, the CT Mirror added,

“Long said that in other states that have shifted to using Medicaid to measure poverty, ‘it was used as a tool to lower who is counted.’ By using the number who qualify for free or reduced-price meals, the state is ‘erring on the side of providing that additional aid.’”

When examining the list of “winners and losers” in Malloy’s plan, the governor’s strategy becomes evident.  The CT Mirror notes,

Hartford, which is facing the possibility of insolvency, is one of the biggest winners in the governor’s proposed budget. Hartford stands to gain $38.1 million in state aid next year, a 17 percent increase. Nearly $12.2 million of that would come from education grants, though it will be up to Bronin and his City Council to decide whether to send it to the struggling city schools. 

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, Malloy’s former legal counsel, was the Greenwich native who moved to Hartford and was elected to the city’s top executive position last year.

Meanwhile, opposition to Malloy’s plan was swift with many towns announcing that his proposal would lead to massive cuts to public schools and large property tax increases in the majority of Connecticut communities.

In addition, a spokesperson for The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education, the plaintiffs in the CCJEF V. Rell school funding lawsuit condemned Malloy’s plan for moving the state in exactly the wrong direction when it comes to properly funding Connecticut’s public schools.

 “These proposed new cuts in state educational support underscore the need for judicial action to ensure that state government meets and does not retreat from its state constitutional responsibilities,” said James J. Finley, principal consultant to CCJEF and an expert witness in the case.

While Malloy has claimed that his plan was designed to take from the rich and give to the poor, the state’s middle income communities are among the hardest hit by Malloy’s funding scheme.

For example, Groton would lose $14.1 million in state aid and Milford would lose $12.1 million.  Other towns hit hard by Malloy’s budget plan include Wallingford, Glastonbury and Fairfield, but dozens of towns would face cuts in state aid that were such that it would lead to massive cuts in local school programs and major property tax increases.

As the lobbyist for Connecticut’s small towns decried,

 “The governor’s proposed changes to ECS and special education funding, coupled with his proposal to require towns to pick up one-third of the cost of teacher pension costs, will make it impossible for small towns to fund education without staggering increases in local property taxes.”

Malloy’s disastrous education proposal includes more money for charter schools

While it remains unclear whether Governor Dannel Malloy’s new education funding scheme includes a “money follows the child formula” that would force local districts to use local tax dollars to subsidize the privately owned and operated charter schools in their communities, the Governor’s budget does shovel even more state taxpayer funds to the charter school industry.

In addition to providing more than $111 million a year to Connecticut’s charter schools, Malloy’s plan adds $11 million in state funds so that charter schools can expand enrollment and $10 million more to increase the per pupil amount charter schools collect from the state.

Malloy, like newly sworn-in Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, has been a consistent supporter of efforts to privatize public education by turning over scarce public resources to charter schools despite the fact that these schools discriminate against Latino students, students who need help learning the English language and students who require special education services.

With 137 of Connecticut’s school districts would be losing education aid under Malloy’s new funding proposal, and all towns would take a massive hit due to his effort to shift $400 million of teacher pension payments directly onto local taxpayers, it is especially galling to see Malloy’s plan pump’s even more money into the charter school industry.

Check back for more about the new funding formula as it becomes available

Breaking – Malloy proposes half-baked scheme to reform education funding

Rather than address the fact that the State of Connecticut underfunds it public schools by almost $2 billion a year and the state should dramatically increase its level of support for public schools in the state, Governor Dannel Malloy went to New Britain today to announce a sham proposal that will further exacerbate Connecticut’s failed school funding policies.

Malloy’s proposal does little more than redirect a relatively small amount of existing funds from wealthier and middle income towns to Connecticut’s poorest communities.  The amount of money won’t have a profound impact for poor towns, but it will certainly ensure major cuts to local schools in a large number of towns and lead to significantly higher property taxes in the majority of Connecticut’s communities.

At the same time, in a truly outrageous maneuver, Malloy is proposing allowing those towns that received a cut in aid to reduce their minimum expenditure requirements, thereby literally lowering education quality in the majority of Connecticut’s towns.

As the CT Mirror explains;

The new pool of money – for educating physically or developmentally disabled students – would be funded almost entirely by redirecting nearly one-quarter of the $2 billion in state dollars that currently go toward the ECS grant and all of the so-called Excess Cost grant, which helps school districts pay for services for severely disabled students.

The CT Mirror added;

To accomplish the goal of redirecting education dollars to the districts most in need, Malloy would change how the state measures poverty in schools

Malloy would replace it with the number of participants in Husky A, health care provided through Medicaid.

[…]

“The concern is that you would underestimate poverty,” Daniel Long, the research director for Connecticut Voices for Children.”

As one representative for communities told CT Newsjunkie;

“The governor’s proposed changes to ECS and special education funding, coupled with his proposal to require towns to pick up one-third of the cost of teacher pension costs, will make it impossible for small towns to fund education without staggering increases in local property taxes,” said Betsy Gara, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns. “This proposal will divert resources away from our smaller communities in a way that spells absolute disaster for our local property taxpayers.”

You can read more about this breaking story via the following links;

CT Mirror – Malloy proposes shaking up state education aid

CT Newjunkie – Malloy Will Pitch Changes To Education Formula

Governor Malloy’s Press Release on the issue can be found here  – Gov. Malloy’s Proposed Budget Provides a Fairer Distribution of Education Aid, Allocates Additional $10 Million for Special Education