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Leading Education Groups Develop Principles to Guide Equitable School Funding Formula

Five education groups from Connecticut have united to release a guidance containing six principles intended to help the state's legislators implement a fair funding formula for the benefit of all public school students living in the state.

The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) in partnership with Professor Ken Wong of Brown University and independent, non-partisan Connecticut School Finance Project released the principles for public viewing yesterday.

The principles were devised to help the state fix its education formula, a formula that has not been fully implemented or funded for thirty years. Just last September, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher delivered a scathing 90-page ruling deeming the state's funding formula unconstitutional. 

The groups are hopeful that their principles will guide legislators as they draft proposals to take on the challenge of making the necessary changes.

Jennifer Alexander, CEO of ConnCAN, said: "The way we're funding schools is largely disconnected from student learning needs. We believe student learning needs should be the main driver of how we fund our schools and should be applied equitably and consistently."

The six principles are as follows:

  • Equity: "Student learning needs and enrollment should drive state and local funding. Students at all public schools, including schools of choice, should receive equitable funding. Low-income students, students who are English Learners, and students who require special education services, should be funded according to their learning needs." This means that students with special needs should receive more funding because they require more resources; these students should be identified by the state using accurate, verifiable data, the groups say.
  • Innovation: "The formula should incentivize innovative and efficient practices in support of mastery-based personalized learning."
  • Coherence: A single funding formula for all school types should replace the current ECS grant and the various additional per-pupil funding methods.
  • Transparency: "Schools and districts should be able to predict their annual funding from both state and local sources and funding levels should be grounded in verifiable and transparent data. The formula should be subject to periodic reviews of its effectiveness."
  • Fairness: "Education funding is a shared state and local responsibility. State aid for each community should be determined by a combination of factors, including multiple measures of property and income conditions, and concentration of low-income students."
  • Accountability: "State and local education funds should be used wisely, mindful of broader fiscal constraints in Connecticut, and districts should be accountable for how they use their financial resources. Education expenditures should be transparent and regularly reported so that spending can be compared across schools and districts."

Because the groups are unsure what kind of proposals will be created in the 2017 legislative session, their principles do not seek to create a funding formula but rather guide the development of one.

These "design principles are not the end of the conversation; they're not the beginning either. We hope they will be a guide and that the end result will be a new single funding system that embraces as many of the core principles that we've enunciated," said Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents Executive Director Joseph J. Cirasuolo.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

1/26/2017

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