The 2017 session of the Connecticut General Assembly opens tomorrow and, in addition to a variety of other issues on their plates, lawmakers will have to confront a projected budget deficit of over $1.4 billion for the 2017-18 fiscal year.
That reality will require lawmakers to make some hard decisions over the next five months.
Schools and districts have already felt the crunch of hard fiscal times with cuts of $84 million to education funding in the current year’s budget, plus $20 million in mid-year cuts announced last week by the Office of Policy and Management.
Education funding is particularly on the minds of legislators in the wake of the CCJEF ruling. Though the decision is being appealed, the case has drawn attention to disparities in funding that exist between Connecticut schools.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff told the Norwalk Hour that the state’s education funding formula is an issue that has plagued the legislature for decades.
“It’s not like there is extra money to shift around for the districts. The pot of money, at best, is going to stay the same. The current funding formula is broken,” Duff said.
Lawmakers will also need to come up with new strategies for reaching agreement as, for the first time in 128 years, the state senate is evenly split, with 18 Republicans and 18 Democrats. In the case of a deadlock in the chamber, the state Constitution empowers Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman to break the tie—a situation that could tip the balance on a number of key votes.
“It is ever-important for CEA members to engage with their legislators,” CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said. “Most lawmakers have little or no firsthand knowledge about the day-to-day challenges a teacher faces or what it takes to help every child succeed. Hearing from experienced teachers about how legislation helps or hinders teachers’ ability to do their jobs effectively can influence the conversation lawmakers have with their peers and how they vote.”
BlogCEA will keep you posted on developments at the state capitol over the coming weeks and months that could have an impact on classrooms, working conditions, student achievement, and teacher evaluation. If you’re not already subscribed for updates from BlogCEA, click here.
CEA leaders will continue monitoring the issues and working to protect teachers’ rights.