Statement from the Connecticut School Finance Project on Changes to the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) Formula Proposed in Governor Dannel Malloy’s Budget
School + State Finance Project
February 08, 2017 - 3 minutes
New Haven, Conn. – The Connecticut School Finance Project has released the following statement from director and founder Katie Roy regarding changes to the state’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula as part of Governor Dannel Malloy’s biennium budget proposal, which was released earlier today.
While the changes to the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula included in Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget proposal begin to take steps toward fixing how Connecticut funds its public schools, the governor’s budget proposal falls short of the comprehensive changes needed to address the fundamental flaws of Connecticut’s school finance system.
We share the governor’s goal of a more “equitable, transparent, and fair” school finance system, and our encouraged by aspects of the governor’s ECS changes that start to shift Connecticut in the direction of equitable school funding, including:
- Proposing the state use a formula to distribute the ECS grant to towns and end the funding of local public school districts via block grants based on little more than historical precedent and the political power of legislators.
- Changing the metric used to represent low-income students in the ECS formula from eligibility for free and reduced price lunch to the more accurate metric of participation in HUSKY A (Connecticut’s children’s Medicaid program).
- More accurately reflecting the State's contribution to the Teachers' Retirement System.
- Separating ECS funding from special education funding, which makes the amount of funding the State is contributing to special education more transparent and helps ensure Connecticut is able to meet its funding obligations under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
However, minor adjustments to the ECS formula do not address, nor will they solve, the fundamental problems with Connecticut’s school finance system. The goal of an “equitable, transparent, and fair” school finance system cannot truly be achieved unless Connecticut ends its current practice of funding public schools through an illogical maze of 11 unconnected and arbitrary funding formulas.
The governor’s proposal, unfortunately, continues this maze, which has failed to ensure all of Connecticut’s schools and districts have the resources they need to ensure equitable access to educational opportunities for all of our state’s students.
To address the fundamental challenges of school funding that our state has struggled with for decades, Connecticut needs a unified funding formula based on the learning needs of students and the needs of their communities. Maintaining the state’s 11 different school funding formulas would mean maintaining an unpredictable, inconsistent system for allocating state education dollars. A system that not only fundamentally treats students, schools, and communities unfairly but also pits town against town.
While we don’t believe the proposal put forth today by the governor solves the fundamental challenges that lie at the heart of Connecticut’s school finance system, we appreciate the willingness of the governor and the General Assembly to take up the issue of school finance this legislative session, and we will continue to work with policymakers and stakeholders across the state to achieve a school finance system that Connecticut can be proud of.