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CTLatinoNews: As School Districts Anticipate Cuts, Budget Stabilization Bill Passes

Belén Dumont, CTLatinoNews

May 15, 2024 - 2 minutes

Superintendents across the state are concerned about intensifying learning gaps and their ability to address the unique needs of their diverse districts as COVID-era relief funding expires.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted districts across the state, data shows that the pandemic has also fueled achievement gaps for the state’s growing student-of-color and English Language Learner (ELL) populations.

As the pandemic disrupted students’ daily lives, Connecticut schools received a total of $1.7 billion in federal relief funding to cope with the ramifications. After three rounds of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding, granted in 2020 and 2021, districts must use the remaining funds by September 30, 2024.

However, the incoming loss of ESSER funds was met with the passing of H.B. 5523 on Tuesday, May 7. The budget stabilization bill maintains last year’s promise of adding $150 million to K-12 education for fiscal year 2025. The bill also incorporates a student-centered funding formula that prioritizes students’ individual learning needs wherever they live or whichever type of public school they attend.

“This is a historic achievement that not only increases funding for Connecticut’s students but helps untangle the state’s disjointed and inequitable web of education funding formulas by putting in place for FY 2025 a single, transparent formula to support both local and regional public school districts as well as public schools of choice…” reads a press release by The School and State Finance Project.

Before the passing of H.B. 5523, sixty district leaders completed a survey conducted by The School and State Finance Project and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) that looked to explore how the expiration of ESSER funds would impact staff and students.

The results, published April 18, emphasized districts’ concerns of widening achievement gaps and worsening staff shortages—particularly among low-performing (“Alliance”) school districts with high-need students. Connecticut has a history of seeing racial disparities in education funding, which sustain long-standing inequities in education quality, access, and outcomes.

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