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Education, Community Stakeholders Unite to Call for New, Equitable School Funding System

School + State Finance Project

June 07, 2016 - 3 minutes

New Haven, Conn. – A diverse group of Connecticut education, community, and social service stakeholders have united in an effort to fix how the state funds its public schools.

The collection of nonprofit organizations, education leaders, and policymakers released a joint statement today calling on the State to replace its broken school finance system with one that gives all students a fair chance at success. The full joint statement and a current list of signatories can be found at the end of this release.

“Connecticut currently finds itself with a school finance system that not only defies logic but also funds public schools arbitrarily and inequitably,” said Katie Roy, director and founder of the Connecticut School Finance Project. “School finance is an issue that impacts every student, family, school, and community in our state. Connecticut needs, and deserves, an equitable school finance system that is based on the learning needs of students and the schools that serve them.”

Connecticut currently uses 11 different funding formulas to distribute funding to public schools, none of which truly take into consideration the learning needs of students or the needs of the schools that serve them. The result is a school finance system that is unfair to students, schools, and communities.

“Across the state, students enter Connecticut’s public schools with different learning levels, different abilities, and different socioeconomic backgrounds,” said Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents. “Our students deserve a school finance system that takes the learning needs of each child into account.”

The inequity of Connecticut’s school finance system is particularly apparent with the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula, which the state stopped using in fiscal year 2014. As a result, the amount of ECS funding a school district receives is driven primarily by the amount of funding the district received last year, and does not take into account changes in enrollment, student need, or community wealth.

“Flaws in the Education Cost Sharing formula exacerbate the fundamental unfairness of Connecticut's school finance system that relies primarily on local property wealth to support public schools,” said Ellen Shemitz, executive director for Connecticut Voices for Children. “In a state where concentrations of poverty mean students with the highest needs too often live in communities with the least resources, our state systems legalize gross inequities in individual opportunity, threatening not only the well-being of children trapped in under-resourced schools but also the future preparedness of our state workforce and the strength of our state economy.”

Connecticut’s broken school finance system also extends to 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.

Along with highlighting Connecticut’s current illogical and unfair way of funding public schools, the joint statement and its signatories calls for an equitable school finance system that:

  • Uses a funding formula to fund all students fairly;
  • Allocates funding based on student learning needs;
  • Distributes education dollars in a way that is consistent, predictable, efficient, and transparent; and
  • Meets the needs of communities and the state’s budget

“Our public education system must be focused on ensuring all students are provided with access to an excellent education,” said Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform. “We should be prioritizing and distributing resources in a way that maximizes student learning across the state, but that isn’t what we’re seeing in Connecticut today. Instead, we have a school funding system that is confusing, unpredictable, and often unfair.”

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