Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is Connecticut’s school funding system unfair?
A: The current system is unfair to students, schools, and communities across the state. It is unfair because:

  • Funding isn’t based on student learning needs: Students with special learning needs need more resources to be successful in school. In Connecticut, schools that serve students who need more support don’t necessarily receive more funding.
  • The school finance system is illogical and disjointed: Connecticut uses more than 10 different funding formulas. These formulas are not based on the needs of the students in those schools. Instead, of being based upon the needs of students, these formulas are based on where the school is located and what type of school it is (traditional district, magnet, charter, etc.).
  • Local property taxes very widely: Local property taxes are the largest source of funding for public schools. Community wealth varies widely in our state and some communities have very low property tax rates, while other communities have high property tax rates. This means some communities are able to fund their schools at higher levels than others.

Q: How much money is spent on public education in Connecticut each year?
A: Each year more than $10.5 billion is spent on public education in Connecticut. Roughly 96% of this funding comes from state and local sources. State and local elected officials decide how much funding public schools receive and how that money is distributed to schools and districts.

Q: How is my local public school funded?
A: Local public school districts are funded through a combination of local, state, and federal tax dollars. Local property taxes are the largest source of revenue for public schools (57%), followed by state taxes (39%), and federal taxes (<5%).

Q: Who decides how much funding my local public school receives?
A: A city or town’s governing body (normally called the city/town council, board of alderman, or common council) approves the budget for its local public school district. In some communities, there is also a budget referendum, in which the voters in the community approve the budget.   

Q: How does the state decide how much money each school receives?
A: Connecticut’s legislature has established more than 10 different funding formulas to determine how much money public schools should receive. The formula that distributes funding to local public school districts is called the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula.

Q: What is the ECS formula?
A: The Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula is the formula the state legislature has established to distribute approximately $2 billion in state education funding to local public school districts. The ECS formula uses the following factors to determine how to distribute state education funding:

  • The number of students who live in a city/town (resident student count)
  • An amount that represents the cost of educating a student (the foundation)
  • The number of low-income students in a city/town (need students)
  • A measure of the city/town’s wealth to determine how much a city/town must raise from its property taxes to pay education costs, and how much state funding is needed to help offset these costs (base aid ratio)

Q: Why isn’t the ECS formula working?
A: In theory, the ECS formula is supposed to make up the difference between what a community can afford to pay and what it costs to run a public school system. However, Connecticut does not have enough money to pay each community the amount it is owed under the ECS formula. Fully funding the ECS formula would cost Connecticut approximately $600 million more than the state is currently spending. As a result, most cities and towns actually get far less money than they are entitled to under the formula, while a few cities and towns get more than they should. Because the state cannot fully fund the ECS formula, Connecticut stopped using the ECS formula to distribute state education funding to local public school districts in 2013 and is now making “block grants” (lump sums of money) to each community—opening the door to funding public schools based on politics, instead of students. 

Q: Would fully funding the ECS formula make school funding fair?
A: No, fully funding the ECS formula would not make school funding fair. The ECS formula was established nearly three decades ago. Since then, the formula has been changed and tinkered with so many times that it no longer accomplishes the goals it was created to achieve. The list of problems with the ECS formula is long, but some of the key issues are:

  • It doesn’t sufficiently take student need into account: The ECS formula only provides additional funding for low-income students. Schools do not receive additional funding to support students with other special learning needs, such as English Learners and students with disabilities.
  • It doesn’t include all students and schools: The ECS formula only funds local public school districts. More than 50,000 students in Connecticut participate in school choice programs, which are not funded through the ECS formula.

Connecticut needs a modern, fair funding formula that meets the needs of today’s students, schools, and communities.

Q: What are the 10 other funding formulas?
A: Connecticut has different funding formulas for each “type” of school choice program. In addition to the ECS formula, Connecticut uses five different formulas for magnet schools, two different formulas for charter schools, and individual formulas for the Connecticut Technical High School System, agriscience programs, and Project Open Choice.

Q: What is the mission of the Connecticut School Finance Project?
A: Founded in 2015, the Connecticut School Finance Project strives to be a trusted, nonpartisan, and independent source of accurate data and information that transcends special interests. The goals of the Connecticut School Finance Project are to 1) build knowledge about how the current school funding system works, 2) bring together stakeholders who are impacted by how schools are funded, and 3) identify solutions to Connecticut’s school funding challenges that are fair to students and taxpayers, and strengthen schools and communities.

Q: What is the Connecticut School Finance Project’s solution to the unfair school funding system?
A: We are approaching the challenges of Connecticut’s school funding system with an open mind and want to work collaboratively with all of the stakeholders who are impacted by how Connecticut’s public schools are funded before developing our recommended solution(s). Any solution(s) we put forth will focus on creating a sensible funding system that is fair to Connecticut’s students and taxpayers, and strengthens schools and communities.


Para obtener una versión española, visite http://ctschoolfinance.org/faqs-espanol.


Sources:

Conn. Acts 16-2 (May Special Session).
Conn. Acts 16-3 (May Special Session).
Connecticut General Assembly, Office of Legislative Research. (2013). Task Force to Study State Education Funding Final Report. Retrieved from http://www.cga.ct.gov/2013/rpt/2013-R-0064.htm.
Conn. Gen. Statutes ch. 172, § 10-262f (2013).
Conn. Gen. Statutes ch. 172, § 10-262h (2013).
Moran, J. (2014). Comparison of Charter, Magnet, Agricultural Science Centers, and Technical High Schools (2014-R-0257). Hartford, CT: Connecticut General Assembly, Office of Legislative Research. Retrieved from http://www.cga.ct.gov/2014/rpt/2014-R-0257.htm.
U.S. Census Bureau. (2016). Public Education Finances: 2014. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/econ/g14-aspef.pdf.