October 27, 2020

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New report says CT’s method of school funding puts strain on districts with most need | News

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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) — A new report put out by the Federal Reserve Bank of...

HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) — A new report put out by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston said Connecticut’s method of school funding is putting more financial strain on the districts with the most need.

The report, done with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), said certain costs and needs are overlooked when distributing funds, including poverty levels and single family homes.

The report suggests too much money goes to the suburbs and not enough to some of the most distressed school districts.

However, that’s been a complaint in Connecticut for a long time, and now the issue is finding a solution.

“The cost of addressing student needs run much higher and property values tend to be much lower,” said Kevin Maloney, spokesperson for CCM.

The state did pass a new formula in 2017 that will begin to slowly shift more money to the lowest performing school districts.

However, this report said that formula still doesn’t factor some financial hurdles.

The report compares Hartford and New Canaan, which are two districts that are not far off in terms of per pupil spending.

But Hartford has higher portions of students coming from low income homes, single family homes, and homes where English is not the first language.

Each of those things can result in the need for additional resources, raising Hartford costs.

According to the report, Hartford would need to spend twice as much per pupil as New Canaan to reach the state average in terms of testing.

The average school district spends roughly $15,000 per student, according to the report. Hartford spends $16,500 and New Canaan spends $18,900.

“Those students demand incredibly expensive services compared to suburban communities,” said Jim Finley, of Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding.

To get to state average on testing, the average school district should spend $15,800. Hartford would need to spend $24,300 per student, nearly double the $13,000 New Canaan would need.

The legislature did approve adding money to the Education Cost Sharing grant and changing the formula to help distressed towns. Those changes will phase in over the next decade.

“You want to talk about changing different parameters, we can have that conversation, but I think it is something that is objective real and honest,” said Republican State Senator Len Fasano.

But CCM wants to add $900 million, a difficult task when the state is facing projections of multi-billion deficits each of the next three years.

Another solution would be to simply shift more money to distressed districts, but that’s easier said than done.

“That’s the number one concern that my colleagues are going to have, if we do any changes, how is it going to affect my community,” said Democratic State Senator Douglas McCrory.

McCrory said the state also needs to look at changes that won’t cost more money, things more diversity among teachers and more selective professional development. Studies have found both those changes can help all students.

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