School Funding

Lamont and lawmakers negotiate over millions of dollars in education funding


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Connecticut’s poorest school districts are providing millions of dollars in additional public funds to create a more equitable school system. It is not known how long they will have to wait. But the answer depends in part on the outcome of budget negotiations between the governor and the legislature over the next ten days.

Gov. Ned Lamont has said he would like to freeze funding increases to struggling school districts for two years – funding that has already been negotiated – and use that money to balance the state budget. But legislative leaders say they want to continue funding the increases, at a cost of $ 33.1 million in 2022 and $ 64.7 million in 2023.

As the current cost-sharing formula has been drafted, each year by 2028, districts with greater needs will receive more funding from the state, and districts with fewer needs will gradually see more funding from the state. less.

But a bill that would have accelerated that timeline – respecting 2028 funding levels by 2022 – has instead been tabled in favor of a study to analyze the budgetary impact of the proposed change.

State Senator Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said the bill had been moved to a model study mainly because of the cost – $ 445 million over two years.

As part of the proposed study, the Office of Fiscal Analysis, which is responsible for reviewing and analyzing the fiscal costs of programs, will model the funding discussed in the original proposal and examine its effects on all parties involved – local governments, charter schools, magnet schools, vocational schools and regular district schools.

Osten said it was not unusual to take a few years to study a proposal of this magnitude.

“The worst thing to do would be to support a bill one year and not be able to support it in the future,” Osten said.

Cities respond

The legislature’s budget committee, of which Osten is co-chair, is trying to incorporate at least parts of this bill into its biannual budget. In addition to reversing the governor’s proposed freeze, the budget would increase the amount of money districts receive for non-English speakers and very poor students, at an additional cost of $ 4.7 million in FY 22 and $ 9.4 million in FY 23.

“We felt it had some validity,” said Osten. She added that they would also increase the amount of per student funding for charter schools.

Peter Nystrom, the mayor of Reublican in Norwich, congratulated Osten on his work. According to the Legislative Assembly proposal, Norwich will receive an additional $ 1.25 million next year over the governor’s proposal.

“I support all of his efforts,” he said. “ECS funding is really important. Our population is not decreasing… The cost of education continues to increase. ”

Michael Passero, the Democratic mayor of New London, said he was disappointed the districts did not meet 2028 funding levels next year.

“This bill would have had a huge impact on our ability to provide equal educational opportunities for children,” he said. “All of the marginalized populations this bill addresses are here in the city.”

The legislature’s proposal would increase New London’s funding by about $ 1.1 million next year over the governor’s budget. Had funding been accelerated to 2028 levels, New London would have received an additional $ 9.4 million next year.

Further study

Joe DeLong, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said while it would have been good to accelerate the funding, the important thing was for the state to meet its commitments to fund schools – without any delay.

“Most people… believe that the new formula created was reasonable, fair and equitable. Follow him now. Stop taking it and put it aside. I think that’s our position, ”he said.

But DeLong said he didn’t think a model study was necessarily a bad idea.

Katherine Ericson, executive director of LEARN, a regional education service center that operates four magnetic schools in Southeast Connecticut, believes further study is needed. According to Ericson, there are still flaws in the bill that need to be addressed, especially part of the bill that would have prevented magnetic schools from charging tuition fees to local districts. The change could remove significant funding from schools.

“I certainly had serious concerns about the viability of some of the provisions,” Ericson wrote in an email. “It is critically important that we get the details any time we seek to make fundamental changes to the way we fund our public education, so I welcome this issue to be explored in more detail.”

The state Senate on Wednesday approved the model study proposal. If approved by the House, the bureau will submit a report to the General Assembly by February 1, 2022.

Meanwhile, disadvantaged districts can expect an increase in funds next year if the legislature’s budget is passed. Osten said the governor had yet to give the green light to their education proposals, but was reasonably confident in his support.

“Education is important for the governor, fairness is important for the governor,” Osten said, adding that their proposal addresses both of these themes.

For her part, Osten said she was determined to get money for schools.

“These are very important policies,” she said.

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