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Appropriations Budget Education Cuts Show Need for Equitable School Finance System

School + State Finance Project

April 06, 2016 - 2 minutes

New Haven, Conn. – The proposed budget unveiled Wednesday by the Appropriations Committee includes cuts to education funding that not only have the potential to impact students, schools, and communities but also highlight the need for Connecticut to fix the arbitrary and inequitable way public schools are funded in the state.

“Education must be a top priority for Connecticut and our state must move away from funding its public schools with an arbitrary and illogical system,” said Katie Roy, director and founder of the Connecticut School Finance Project. “For Connecticut to prioritize education in this fiscal climate, the State must fundamentally change the way it funds its public schools.”

Currently, Connecticut uses 11 different formulas to fund public schools. However, none of the formulas truly take into consideration the learning needs of students or the schools that serve them. This is particularly apparent with the Education Cost Sharing formula, which, beginning with the 2013-14 school year, has not been faithfully used.

Rather than using the formula to distribute state education aid, Connecticut now makes block grants to each city and town to help fund public schools. As a result, the current system fails to take into consideration changes in enrollment, student needs, and community wealth. Instead, the block grants to cities and towns are primarily based on historical precedent (the amount of money the district received last year).

“Arbitrarily funding Connecticut’s public schools is not only a poor budgetary practice, it also results in an inequitable system,” Roy said. “Connecticut needs a fair school finance system that is based on the learning needs of students and the schools that serve them, and distributes education dollars in a way that is consistent, predictable, and transparent.”

Connecticut’s illogical school finance system also impacts the state’s schools of choice, where 10 different formulas (or statutory per pupil amounts) are used to fund school choice programs, including: magnet schools, the Connecticut Technical High School System, charter schools, and vocational agriculture programs. None of these formulas take students’ learning needs into account.

“Given the serious fiscal challenges that Connecticut is facing, difficult decisions will have to be made about our state’s top priorities and how to fund them in smarter ways. We should start with our school finance system,” Roy said.

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