Gov. Dannel Malloy’s state education budget proposal, presented Wednesday to the Connecticut General Assembly, is facing backlash from politicians and education activists.
A Feb. 6 press release from Malloy’s office stated that the new budget would increase equity in education funding to Connecticut districts. In September, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher declared that the state had misallocated education funds in his ruling of a lawsuit brought about in 2005 by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding.
“We do not believe the state is spending enough overall on education,” said James Finley Jr., CCJEF principal consultant of operations and government relations. “CCJEF does not see reducing state support for education as increasing adequacy and equity for students in Connecticut.”
In the press release, Malloy agreed with the ruling that the formula the state currently uses to allocate money for education is not ensuring that all students have access to quality education. He said the state must not wait for more court orders before “taking bold action” to increase education equality. However, CCJEF activists said the plan Malloy presented cuts approximately $400 million from education spending.
Moukawsher ruled that the state was spending enough on education, but that the distribution was irrational, Finley said. Malloy used that part of the court’s decision to give credibility to his proposal to cut funding from cities and towns, he added. A proposal on the new budget in which cities and towns would pay for one third of retirement plans for teachers, for example, is one way the new budget would reduce state support for education, Finley said.
A CCJEF press release on Feb. 8 also expressed concern about a part of Malloy’s proposal that would continue to cut into the state’s Education Cost Sharing Grant, a formula used to allot state education funds to different municipalities. A $20 million mid-year cut was already made to ECS in January.
Republican state Sen. Heather Somers for the 18th district in Connecticut, who is one of three vice chairs for the Education Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly, agreed with the education activists. In a press release on Feb. 8, she said the new budget is “a reprint of the same failed plans that have damaged Connecticut’s economy.”
The proposed budget, Somers said, would increase taxes on low- and middle-income Connecticut families, and would punish local school districts.
Democratic state Sen. Gary Winfield, representative for the 10th district, which includes New Haven, and a member of the Education Committee, said it is too early to tell what the overall impact of the plan will be because the rest of the budget has impact as well. He said New Haven will receive more funding under the plan, but he is unsure how the funding will compare to the additional price of sharing the cost for teacher retirement funds.
Included in Malloy’s plan are changes to ECS intended to direct state aid to communities with the greatest needs, determined by a community’s ability to pay, current enrollment numbers and the impact of poverty as measured by HUSKY, Connecticut’s Medicaid program. The plan also includes changes to the state’s minimum budget requirement that would allow cities to allocate less funding to education by the difference between their 2018 and adjusted 2017 ESC grants. The proposal also would have towns and cities partner to fund teachers’ retirement plans.
The budget’s plans to revise ECS funding are one aspect of the plan that CCJEF approves.
“Malloy’s … revisions in the calculation of ECS funding … are welcome but long-overdue revisions that CCJEF has been advocating for many years,” Finley said in a Feb. 8 press release. “But these are only baby steps, rather than the bold leaps forward advocated by CCJEF.”
The nonprofit CCJEF was founded in 2004.