Education activists in Connecticut are concerned about a midyear $20 million cut to the state’s Education Cost Sharing grant, a fund currently embroiled in a lawsuit brought by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding.
The cut comes as a result of an expected lapse in municipal aid funding. A similar lapse last year was taken out of the State-Owned and Private College and Hospital Payment In Lieu Of Taxes grant. But this year, the governor’s office is instead looking to the ECS grant to find the lapsed funds. In its lawsuit, the CCJEF alleges that the ECS grant, a formula used to allot state education funds to different municipalities, is not properly funding its educational districts.
CCJEF members have since declared the $20 million cut as further evidence that the state is not meeting its constitutional responsibilities toward education.
“For us this is just another bit of evidence that school districts and students can’t rely on consistent and adequate funding from the state,” said James Finley, CCJEF principal consultant of operations and government relations. “Education funding is increasingly falling victim to state budget politics.”
Chris McClure, strategic research and communications advisor at Connecticut’s Office of Policy and Management, said Connecticut General Assembly put in the lapse when they agreed to the fiscal year 2016 budget. The governor’s office decided to take the money out of the ECS grant, he said, as it is one of the largest municipal grants and is distributed more fairly than other grants, as every city receives funding from it.
To mitigate the impact of the cuts, the state capped cuts on distressed and alliance regions at $250,000 — regions that are deemed low-perfoming. McClure said New Haven, which receives $154 million from the grant, is one of 48 capped districts.
Mercy Quaye, director of communications for New Haven Public Schools, said she could not comment on the ECS grant, and that the district is still currently in the process of developing a proposed budget for the 2017–18 school year.
McClure said the state is currently writing its budget proposal for the 2018-19 fiscal year and that there will likely be more lapses, though he could not comment on the amount of such a lapse or where it might occur.
According to McClure, Gov. Dannel Malloy is going to reevaluate funding for schools and cities and that changes in the next budget will address education funding concerns.
Still, Finley said the cuts will be a “significant hit” for uncapped suburban school districts.
“It is incredible that, in the midst of the CCJEF v. Rell education adequacy and equity trial and appeal, the state has cut the ECS grant twice and the governor is poised to propose ECS formula changes and possible additional cuts,” said Herbert Rosenthal, president of CCJEF, in a press release.
In September, Connecticut’s Superior Court ruled in CCJEF v. Rell that the state had misallocated funds in its public education spending.