The legislature is considering a bill that takes a baby step toward fairly funding Connecticut schools, by requiring the state to provide at least 50 percent of mandated education funding to municipalities. Currently, 16 cities and towns receive less than 50 percent of the education funds owed to them by the state.
Senate Bill 816 An Act Establishing a Minimum Level of Funding Under the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula, would ensure that no town receives less than half of the funds that are owed to it by the state.
Connecticut underfunds public schools by more than $700 million. While the bill does not solve underfunding for all 119 towns that do not receive what’s owed to them as required by state law, CEA supports passage of this bill as a good first step.
East Hartford Education Association President Marcia Ferreira submitted testimony to members of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee about the need to pass this bill and to adequately fund the state’s public schools.
She explained how underfunding negatively impacts classrooms, from creating larger class sizes, to insufficient paraprofessional support, to building repairs that can’t be made.
“Teachers in our system reach into our pockets to pay for furniture, easels, and bookcases,” she said. “We buy paper, glue, crayons, books, and even subscriptions to digital resources to help our students. But it isn’t enough and it’s unfair to students, their families, and the educators who are working hard everyday to make a difference and make ends meet.”
West Hartford has one of the largest funding gaps. Under the current formula, West Hartford should receive 35% of its education budget from the state, but it only receives 12% — a loss of nearly $3,100 per student — leaving taxpayers to foot the bill.
West Hartford Education Association President David Dippolino told legislators that as a taxpayer, teacher, and parent the underfunding hits him and 250 of his colleagues who are both residents and teachers, extremely hard. He said that “the quality of our education system is in jeopardy,” and that teachers’ work life is directly affected by lack of supplies, programming cuts, and larger class sizes.
“The continuous budget problems put the district’s ability to maintain excellence at risk,” he said. “As taxpayers we are asked to pay more to make up for the state’s short comings.”
State Rep. Noreen Kokoruda agreed that the “ECS formula is unfair.” She said when her sons went to school the state paid 24 percent of education costs in her town, now her grandchildren are in the same school district and the state only pays 3 percent.
“We’re all being shortchanged by what’s going on here,” she added.