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Katie Roy Submits Testimony to Education Committee on H.B. 7109

Legislative Testimony

Testimony Regarding H.B. 7109, An Act Concerning Interdistrict Magnet School Program Funding

Katie Roy, Executive Director & Founder
Education Committee
Friday, February 22, 2019

Chairmen McCrory and Sanchez, Ranking Members Bethel and McCarty, and distinguished members of the Education Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on H.B. 7109 and discuss how we can improve the way Connecticut funds its public schools.

My name is Katie Roy and I am the executive director and founder of the Connecticut School Finance Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy organization based in New Haven that works to identify solutions to Connecticut’s school and state funding challenges that are fair to students, taxpayers, and communities.

While H.B. 7109 specifically concerns funding for interdistrict magnet school programs, my testimony today will discuss improving Connecticut’s school finance system overall by creating a unified funding formula that would distribute state education aid to ALL types of Connecticut public schools, including interdistrict magnet schools.

In October 2017, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a new Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula as part of the state’s biennial budget for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. This new ECS formula is now being used and is scheduled to be phased-in over the next 10 years.

The new ECS formula takes several steps in the right direction toward equitably and fairly funding Connecticut’s local public schools, particularly those serving higher-need students and those districts located in cities and towns facing greater financial challenges.

I want to thank members of this Committee for their work in making this new ECS formula a reality, and for their support of distributing state education aid to local public schools more equitably and with greater transparency.

Although the new ECS formula is a significant step toward creating the equitable and fair school finance system that all Connecticut students deserve, there is still more work to be done. Arguably, the biggest piece of that remaining work is the creation of a unified education funding formula that distributes state education aid to ALL of Connecticut public school students and not just those in traditional local public schools.

While the ECS formula takes student and community needs into account and provides additional resources for students who are low-income or English Learners, the formula only applies to traditional local public schools and maintains Connecticut’s complex and disjointed system of more than 10 different education funding formulas.

All other types of Connecticut public schools (magnet schools, local and state charter schools, the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System, agriscience programs, and the Open Choice program) continue to be funded by different formulas/statutory amounts that are not based on student and community needs, and are instead largely arbitrary. Additionally, these different formulas interact with funding for local and regional school districts in disparate ways, distorting the equity created by the ECS formula.

An equitable, transparent, and fair school finance system cannot truly be achieved unless Connecticut ends its current practice of using unconnected and arbitrary formulas to fund its public schools. To continue using the existing complex web of different funding formulas would be to continue a system that fundamentally treats students, schools, and communities unfairly, and pits town against town.

To achieve an equitable school finance system and ensure our state is providing each student with opportunities for success in and outside of the classroom, Connecticut must move toward a unified education funding formula.

A unified funding formula for all students that is based on individual student needs, not type of school, would help Connecticut better address educational inequities and improve the state’s complex and disjointed school finance system.

I urge the Committee, as it takes up H.B. 7109 and discusses how best to fund one of Connecticut’s most important and valuable assets – its public schools – to consider moving toward an equitable, transparent, and fair unified funding formula so our state can achieve the school finance system our students and communities need and deserve.

Additional information about a unified education funding formula can be found on the one-pager attached to my testimony, which is also available on our website at www.ctschoolfinance.org/assets/uploads/files/Unified-Funding-Formula.pdf.

Additionally, the Connecticut School Finance Project is happy to provide further information about creating and implementing a unified education funding formula should you have any questions.

Thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to provide testimony on H.B. 7109 and the need for a unified education funding formula, and please feel free to reach out to me via the contact information below should you have any questions or would like more information.

Sincerely,

Katie Roy
Executive Director & Founder
Connecticut School Finance Project