HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – A coalition of educators and legislative leaders gathered at the Capitol on Friday, calling for immediate funding for Connecticut schools to improve educational equity.
The coalition urged legislators to fund school districts, especially in cities that serve a larger percentage of high-need students, including low-income students and English Language Learners.
“We are at a moment in the State of Connecticut where education is finally a priority for everyone in this building,” said State Rep. Jeff Currey, (D) Chair of the Education Committee.
Their bill seeks to fully fund the education cost-sharing grant formula that was reset in 2017. The legislation accelerates the release of dollars to poor districts and equalizes education funding across the board.
According to an analysis from the nonprofit School & State Finance Project, the proposal would result in more than $250 million in additional state funding, which means 157 towns and cities would see an increase, and 12 towns would remain flat funded.
Low-income students in New Haven, Hartford, and Waterbury would be the largest potential beneficiaries.
“This bill streamlines, makes it more transparent, and recognizes students in all types of school settings, magnet, technical, charter, and addresses the learning needs of all of our students,” said Kathleen McCarty (R).
Democratic House Speaker Matt Ritter says there is a critical component of the bill.
“Does it make sure we pay paraeducators more? Does it raise teachers’ salaries in Hartford, so we make sure that they are not attracted to another town that can pay $20,000 more,” Ritter said.
Advocates say their bill also includes accountability measures to track where the dollars go.
In a statement to News 8, Governor Ned Lamont said, “My proposed budget will increase funding for ECS by $46 million next year and $91 million in fiscal year 2025, on top of new money for initiatives to help students struggling with absenteeism and disengagement and to recruit more teachers and paraprofessionals to the classroom.”
Lamont adds that under his administration, they’ve increased funding for the state’s Education Cost Sharing program by $165 million. He is said to be non-commital on this bill.
Lamont has publicly said he would like to see that the superintendents spend down the COVID relief money they still have in their education budgets.
The bill was heard in the Education Committee on Friday.