About 200 parents, school officials and other activists rallied at the Capitol on Wednesday to protest education-related budget cuts proposed by Gov. John G. Rowland.

Speakers said the cuts proposed by Rowland — including a $46 million from Education Cost Sharing grants and $16.5 million from special education — will hurt local schools throughout the state.

The rally, organized by the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, came hours after the state released scores on the Connecticut Mastery Test. The results showed that an average of about 60 percent of fourth-, sixth- and eighth-graders reached the state goal in reading, writing and math.

The results are slightly better than last year, but continue to show a persistent gap in scores between wealthy suburban areas and large cities. Scores in the state’s seven poorest districts — most of them in large cities — were than less than half the results in all other districts combined.

Unless school funding is restored or even increased, urban students will continue to fall even further behind, speakers at the rally said.

“Our children should not be penalized because they are economically disadvantaged,” said Margie Powell, a parent from Bridgeport.

Powell was among more than 100 Bridgeport parents who attended the rally, which also included scores of parents from New Haven.

New Haven Schools Superintendent Reginald Mayo said it was disgraceful that Rowland was proposing cuts in funding for inter-district magnet schools and other programs designed to increase diversity.

Not only should the budget approved by lawmakers last year be restored, but it should be increased by at least 4 percent, Mayo said.

He and Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim led the crowd in chants of “Don’t cut the budget!” and “Support our Schools.” Both leaders said they would be back at the Capitol to lobby for more money before the legislative session ends May 8.

Beverly Bobroske, a member of Bristol school board and president of the state school board association, said Connecticut was making progress in education and should not go backward now.

School spending should be increased by at least $75 million to $150 million to meet all the goals, Bobroske said, although she conceded such an increase was unlikely. The state spends nearly $2 billion a year for elementary and secondary education.

While lawmakers and Rowland ultimately will decide how much is spent this year on schools, “Our job is to let them know what we need,” Bobroske said.

–Associated Press