With only three months remaining before it’s due to issue a final report, the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) Task Force met yesterday to discuss recommendations from its subcommittee examining new funding formulas.
The formula subcommittee is currently collecting data on different formula variations and is developing a set of objectives to assess the formulas. The subcommittee plans to present a few of the best options to the entire task force in the coming weeks.
The ECS Task Force is charged with developing recommendations for ways to change how state funding is divided up by school district. “We need to intentionally prepare for some of the concerns that might arise from the legislature,” said Task Force Co-Chair and Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management Ben Barnes.
“We want to make things fair, but there may well be examples of individual communities who don’t feel treated fairly,” Barnes said.
He added that the task force has to consider how it will manage towns’ transition from what they’re getting now to what they will be getting under a new formula.
Meriden Superintendent Mark Benigni pointed out that, despite the politically delicate nature of education funding, there weren’t a lot of arguments in the legislature about the towns selected to be Alliance Districts and receive additional state funding. “We know where the twelve poorest communities in the state are,” he said. “If those communities aren’t at the forefront of our new formula, something’s wrong.”
Former Commissioner of Education Ted Sergi said he thinks the state should consider folding categorical grants, like those to Priority School Districts representing the poorest communities in the state, into ECS using the conditional funding model.
Sergi said that, in his role as a consultant for the State Department of Education, the hardest part about reviewing Alliance Districts’ applications for additional state funding was wanting to know how the districts spend the additional millions in state aid they receive.
Senator Andrea Stillman, co-chair of the task force, reminded the task force that there will be fiscal constraints they have to consider.
Barnes said, “I hope we can structure the formula so that we have 50 to 100 million additional dollars a year to put in. I hope we have a formula that, under those constraints, can be phased in.”
Stillman said that if the legislature has education as a priority, “We’re going to make an effort to find the resources.”
At its next meeting on October 15, the task force will hear from additional subcommittees, including the special education subcommittee looking into ways to more equitably fund special education programs in Connecticut’s schools.