Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are some of the obstacles Connecticut faces to achieving equitable school funding for all its public school students?
A: While the General Assembly has taken steps toward equitably funding Connecticut’s public school students, the state still faces several obstacles to implementing and maintaining a fully equitable school finance system. These obstacles include:

  • The school finance system remains disjointed: Connecticut continues to use more than 10 different funding formulas. Only one of these formulas takes student and community needs fully into consideration. Instead, these formulas are based on where a school is located and what type of school it is (local 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.
  • Higher-need students doesn’t necessarily translate to greater resources: Despite research showing that higher-need students, such as those who are low-income or English Learners, often need more resources to achieve at levels similar to their non-need peers, there continues to be no correlation in Connecticut between the percentage of low-income and English Learner students a district serves and its per-pupil spending.

Q: How much money is spent on public education in Connecticut each year?
A: Each year more than $10.8 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 (55.8%), followed by state taxes (40.1%), and federal taxes (4.1%).

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. In October 2017, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a new ECS formula in the biennial budget bill that is scheduled to be implemented beginning in fiscal year 2019.

Q: What factors does the new ECS formula take into consideration to determine how much state education funding a local school district will receive?
A: The new 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 (low-income student weight)
  • Whether 75 percent or more of a district’s student enrollment is identified as low-income (concentrated poverty weight)
  • The number of students who are English Learners in a city/town (English Learner weight)
  • 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: When will Connecticut begin using the new ECS formula?
A: The new ECS formula will begin being implemented in fiscal year 2019 and be phased in over 10 years. The formula’s phase-in schedule is detailed in the chart below.

Q: What are the other education 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 the Open Choice program.

Q: What is the mission of the Connecticut School Finance Project?
A: Founded in 2015, the Connecticut School Finance Project aims to ensure Connecticut has a fair and equitable school finance system, and strives to be a trusted, nonpartisan, and independent source of accurate data and information. 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 17-2 (June 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.
Duncombe, W. D., & Yinger, J. (2004). How Much More Does a Disadvantaged Student Cost? (Working Paper). Syracuse University, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Center for Policy Research. Available from http://surface.syr.edu/cpr/103.
Gándara, P., & Rumberger, R.W. (2007). Defining an Adequate Education for English Learners. Retrieved from http://www-leland.stanford.edu/~hakuta/Courses/Ed205X%20Website/Resources/Gandara%20%20Rumburger%20EL%20Resources.pdf.
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. (2017). Public Education Finances: 2015. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2017/econ/g15-aspef.pdf.