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Waterbury Republican-American: The Education Gap

Lance Reynolds, Waterbury Republican-American

October 15, 2022 - 2 minutes

Participants in this fall’s Your Voice project, where newspaper readers shared their concerns and issues about this fall’s elections, said they wanted to know why the disparity between Connecticut’s high- and low-performing school districts persists, and what candidates have to say about it.

Education advocates and officials said the difference largely comes down to whether cities and towns can fund teaching and learning in their districts on their own, without needing to rely heavily on state and federal money to offset funding gaps.

Local property tax makes up roughly 60% of the way education is funded in Connecticut, while state funding accounts for 37% and federal funding 3%, according to the School + State Finance Project, a national think tank focused on educational disparities.

Municipalities with a high value of taxable property and significant community wealth have an easier time raising revenue from property taxes to fund local public schools, the School + State Finance Project found.

Less affluent towns and cities have higher property rates to generate revenue to support local schools, but also lower property values. These municipalities receive higher disbursements in state aid, but “it is frequently not enough to make up for the disparities caused by the state’s property tax system,” according to the School + State Finance Project. Districts with high populations of black, indigenous and people of color and with large amounts of students from low-income families are the hardest hit.

School + State Finance Project found a $713 million gap in 2021 between districts with student enrollment greater than 25% BIPOC and all other districts, and a $725 million funding gap between districts where 25% or more students receive free or reduced-price lunches and all other districts.

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