West Hartford residents, teachers, parents, and taxpayers David Dippolino, Ted Goerner, and David Simon told state lawmakers that they and many of their colleagues have been hit hard by the state’s broken Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula.
“As a resident and teacher, I am being affected multiple times due to the state’s shortfall,” said Dippolino. “My work life is directly affected because my district’s ability to maintain its excellence is at risk due to repeated budget problems that affect supplies, programming, capital improvements, class size, salary, and benefits. My home life is affected because I am being asked to make up for the state’s shortcomings by paying increased property taxes.”
At a hearing this week on the Governor’s Proposed Budget Affecting Education, the teachers told the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee that West Hartford, like other towns, has been significantly underfunded by the state’s ECS formula, and that “the time to fix the broken system is now.”
Governor Malloy’s proposed budget for the next two years calls for no increased funding for local neighborhood schools, but charter and magnet schools would receive more than $57 million in additional funding. The state currently underfunds Connecticut public schools by more than $600 million—meaning local property taxpayers end up shouldering the bulk of education costs. The governor’s proposal fails to help decrease that shortfall owed to the cities and towns in accordance with the state’s ECS Formula.
West Hartford is the fourth most underfunded of the state’s 169 cities and towns. This year, it will receive $38 million less from the state than it should receive under the ECS formula — a gap of $3,015 per student. Over the course of the last 19 years, West Hartford has missed out on more than $300 million.
Goerner said that loss of funding means more of his local property taxes are directed toward education, his son’s schools could have been better, his salary and benefits as a teacher have slipped in comparison to those of neighboring towns, and his state tax dollars have “gone into the pockets of dishonest charter school operators” instead of neighborhood public schools.
According to the formula, the state should pay for 35 percent of West Hartford’s school budget, but currently only covers 12 percent.
“West Hartford taxpayers are picking up the additional cost, which amounts to approximately $1,500 more in local property taxes per homeowner,” said Simon.
The teachers said the governor’s proposed budget is squeezing the middle class.
“As a taxpayer, teacher, and parent of a former West Hartford student, this is an undue burden that is being placed on all of us,” said David Dippolino.
The teachers urged legislators to fully fund ECS statewide.
“The residents of the state expect you to meet your constitutional obligation of providing a free and appropriate public education to Connecticut children,” said Dippolino.
“Systems that are chronically underfunded will eventually break down,” said Goerner. “This is my fear. I urge you not to let this happen. Invest in our public neighborhood school system and fully fund the ECS formula.”