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Education News

Opinions Vary on How to Fix Connecticut's School Funding Formula

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For years, Connecticut's public schools have been funded using a complicated formula that's left many schools underfunded. And there's no clear consensus on how to fix it.

There's a multitude of ways that schools are funded in Connecticut. The formula for deciding how much money an open choice school gets is different than the formula for a magnet, which is not the same as a traditional public school or a state charter, or a technical high school. 

"In order for all of the students in our state to achieve at high levels, we need to make sure we're equitably funding our schools," said Katie Roy, director of the Connecticut School Finance Project, an advocacy group asking for fundamental changes in how the state funds schools. She said there's at least 10 different ways the state gives money to various schools.

"So we need to make sure that we're funding schools in accordance with the learning needs of the students that they are serving," she said.

The Education Cost Sharing Grant is the single most important source of money for education from the state to local cities and towns. A few years ago, the legislature essentially abandoned this formula in favor of something that State Sen. Beth Bye says is basically arbitrary.

"This is so complicated, and right now, we're not using a rational basis for school funding," Bye said. 

Bye chairs the Senate's Appropriations Committee. Fellow Democrat and Education Committee co-chairman Andrew Fleischmann agrees that there are inequities, but he sees a different solution to the problem.

"It's a strong formula if it's used properly," Fleischmann said. "The challenge has been years of underfunding that affected different districts in different ways."

According to research by the Connecticut School Finance Project, eight of the ten most underfunded districts are the poorest in the state. Waterbury was short-changed by over $51 million, and Bridgeport by nearly $43 million.  

Flieschmann said he believes the state has made strides to eliminate inequities.

A pending decade-old lawsuit slated for trial on January 2016 will determine the state's constitutional obligation to adequately and equitably fund Connecticut's public schools.

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