NEW BRITAIN – Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy visited Smalley Academy in New Britain on Monday to unveil part of his upcoming budget proposal.
Joined by New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart and Connecticut Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell, Malloy focused on the unequal distribution of education aid in the state during the conference. He cited the recent CCJEF ruling – where the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding found that Connecticut’s Education Cost Sharing grant was not being calculated correctly – as evidence for what he said is a much-needed change in how the state distributes education funds.
“We must ensure that all students, regardless of their life circumstances, have access to quality public education,” Malloy said. “The time for bold action to address the issues of equitability and equitable funding of our education system is now.”
Malloy’s budget proposal includes an updated ECS grant formula that aims to be more “equitable, transparent and fair.” ECS is Connecticut’s main public education grant awarded to every municipality in the state.
Free-and reduced-priced lunch will not be the metric used to measure student poverty anymore under Malloy’s proposal. HUSKY A data - the number of children younger than 19-years-old enrolled in Medicaid for Children – will instead be used to measure it.
Malloy’s new ECS formula will change the threshold factor used in determining a municipality’s relative wealth to better determine a town’s ability to pay for education.
“This change will benefit communities that face pockets of concentrated poverty,” Malloy said.
The new formula will count current enrollment to accurately measure the growth and changing demographics of school districts and municipalities.
“Taken as a whole, this new formula is intended to bring greater accountability and flexibility in a system that hasn’t been making the grade,” Malloy said.
Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, released a statement following Malloy’s press conference in which he supported the governor’s ECS proposals.
“CCER is optimistic about these proposed changes to ECS. We are part of a coalition of education stakeholders that has spent over two years analyzing ECS and contemplating solutions to make it more fair, equitable, and predictable,” Villar said in his statement.
Under the governor’s proposal, special education will no longer be incorporated into the ECS formula – instead a new Special Education Grant will be created. The Supplemental Special Education Grant - which covers excess costs for special education - will collapse into this new grant. $10 million above current special education funding will also be added to the new grant.
School districts will be reimbursed for special education costs on a sliding scale based on a town’s relative wealth. In addition to these reimbursements, “Local districts will be required to seek Medicaid reimbursement for eligible special education services. They will continue to share additional federal revenue with the state,” Malloy added.
The state’s Minimum Budget Requirement will be modified under Malloy’s budget proposal. MBR is the state law requiring municipalities in Connecticut to allocate at least the same town education aid as they did in the previous fiscal year.
Malloy’s budget proposal aims to provide municipalities with greater flexibility and relief from the MBR. Changes include maintaining the MBR set at the Fiscal Year 2017 level for towns receiving an increase in ECS grants. If a district sees a decrease in its ECS grants, MBR can be reduced for that district.
The proposal will also allow towns that fail to meet MBR to apply to the State Board of Education for a waiver from penalties.
Connecticut Conference of Municipalities Executive Director Joe DeLong condemned any ideas that would make local municipalities solely responsible for their education funding.
“Any attempt to shift the burden of education funding off of the state and onto our local communities is clearly, as denoted in CCJEF vs Rell, a violation by the state of its constitutional responsibilities,” DeLong’s statement reads.
Malloy will present his full state budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018-2019 on Feb. 8 during an address to the Connecticut General Assembly.
“We are failing children in urban environments. We are failing children because their parents are poor, and it’s not right. And by the way, it’s not constitutional. The Constitution doesn’t say that we’re going to well-educate well-off children, it says we’re going to well-education all of our children, and I’m trying to build a system that actually does it,” the governor said.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Total State Education Aid in 2017
Berlin: $6.3 million
Bristol: $45.3 million
New Britain: $87 million
Plainville: $10.4 million
Plymouth: $9.8 million
Southington: $20.5 million
Malloy said he plans to release how each municipality will fare under his proposed changes to the ECS grant later this week.