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CT Inside Investigator: Report: K-12 education cuts may cost cities and towns

Tricia Ennis, CT Inside Investigator

February 09, 2024 - 2 minutes

The School + State Finance Project – a non-partisan education policy organization with a mission “to develop data-driven solutions that ensure all public school students receive equitable education funding that supports their learning needs” – is raising a red flag about millions in budget cuts they say will affect Kindergarten through high school (K-12) students and the districts they attend.

A draft budget adjustment released by the Lamont administration on Wednesday includes nearly $62 million in cuts for K-12 programs. Most of those cuts – $47.9 million – are coming from the state’s Education Finance Reform line item and shifting the allocation to other education programs.

Among the changes is a removal of the tuition cap (currently set at 58% of total tuition) for magnet and vocational agriculture sending districts, which places a higher cost burden on districts, as do cuts to OpenChoice programs – which allow students to attend a participating school outside their district.

According to Michael Morton, the Deputy Executive Director for Communications & Operations at the School + State Finance Project, that loss is going to mean budget problems for school districts.

“What the governor has done is he’s taken away that funding,” says Morton. “He has put the cost burden back on to municipalities and districts, and, ultimately, the backs of property taxpayers. And it continues this problematic relationship between different public-school types, where you have different school types competing for resources against one another.”

If municipalities have to find a way to cover the bill, Morton says they will face greater fiscal hardship going into the next school year than they already face with pandemic-era funding drying up in 2025.

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