News

OP-ED: Connecticut must fix its school finance system (New Haven Register)

Op-ed

View the full op-ed at http://www.nhregister.com/opinion/20160612/forum-connecticut-must-fix-its-school-finance-system.

By Katie Roy

As the state has grappled with difficult fiscal challenges over the last several months, Connecticut and its policymakers have been forced to reexamine how the state operates and make difficult budget decisions. Still, more challenges lie ahead as we work together to ensure Connecticut has a strong economy and that all of our citizens have the opportunity to thrive.

One critical challenge Connecticut must address is fixing our state’s school finance system.

For nearly four decades, our state has attempted to create equitable school funding through a series inconsistent fixes, patchwork policies, and flawed formulas. The result is a convoluted system that is in serious need of repair if it is ever going to serve our students, schools, and communities well.

Now, after years of inconsistent and arbitrary funding, Band-Aid fixes, and unwillingness to truly addressing the issue, the state’s fiscal condition has pushed Connecticut to a point where it can no longer ignore the problems with its school finance system. Our state cannot ignore the tangled knot of 11 different formulas we use to fund our public schools, or ignore the fact that there is no relationship between the needs of the students a school serves and its funding, or ignore that the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula hasn’t been faithfully used in years and has been replaced by unpredictable block grants. Most importantly, Connecticut cannot—and should not—ignore that how we fund our public schools impacts every student, family, and community in the state.

That’s why I am heartened to see a diverse group of nonprofit organizations, community leaders, education stakeholders, and policymakers from across the state, release a joint statement recently calling on Connecticut to replace its broken school finance system with one that meets the needs of Connecticut and its students. (The joint statement and a current list of signatories can be found at http://ctschoolfinance.org/news/2016/joint-statement).

This joint statement is significant because it shows broad support for a new, fair school finance system that Connecticut students, parents, educators, and communities yearn for. A school finance system that:

  • Uses a funding formula to fund all students fairly;
  • Allocates funding based on student learning needs;
  • Distributes education dollars in a way that is consistent, predictable, efficient, and transparent; and
  • Meets the needs of communities and the state’s budget.

The task of fixing our state’s flawed school finance system will not be an easy one—the system is complex and it impacts many different stakeholders who have varying concerns and perspectives. However, having a equitable, predictable, and consistent system for how the State allocates more than $2 billion in education funding isn't ideological or partisan - - it's just good governance.

With tough fiscal challenges, increasing student needs, and significant inequity across the state, now, more than ever, is the time for Connecticut to work together and replace the state’s school finance system with a long overdue solution that moves Connecticut past its long history of flawed formulas and temporary fixes and finally provides all students with fair funding and allows predictability and consistency for districts and communities.

Fixing our state’s flawed school finance system will be a challenging task, but within each challenge lies an opportunity. Connecticut has a chance to create the school finance system our students, families, and communities deserve. We just have to seize the opportunity.


Katie Roy is the director and founder of the Connecticut School Finance Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to identify solutions to Connecticut’s school funding challenges that are fair to students, taxpayers, and communities.