Testimony of CAPSS Re. HB 7050 - An Act Concerning Enhancements to Municipal Finance and Accountability
Joseph J. Cirasuolo, Ed.D.
March 9, 2017
The CT Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), which represents the superintendents of CT’s public school systems and the members of the central office staffs of those systems, strongly opposes the provision of HB 7050, An Act Concerning Enhancements to Municipal Finance and Accountability which would in effect require municipalities to cover annually 1/3 of the contribution that the State is obligated to make to the Teacher Retirement Pension Program.
CAPSS recognizes the need to make sure that the Teacher Retirement System is actuarially sound and that it does not place upon the State a financial burden that will be crippling in the future to the provision of State programs, assistance and services. The Act’s provision that in effect would compel municipalities to shoulder 1/3 of the financial burden for the System does nothing to make the System sound and sustainable. All it does is transfer from the State to local municipalities the result of the fact that the System has not been studied for soundness and sustainability.
This transferal to the local level is not without consequences because it is highly unlikely that local governments would accommodate the transferal without establishing school system budgets that would reduce the programs being offered to children served by the school systems. Among the reductions that are already under consideration are the following:
- All Day Kindergarten.
- Psychological and academic support services for children who do not yet qualify for special needs services but who will qualify soon after these support services are eliminated or curtailed.
- Extra-curricular programs that are a major source of school engagement for many children.
- Curricular programs in which few children enroll but for whom those programs are a major source of academic engagement.
- Efforts to keep class sizes at a level that makes it possible to meet the individual needs of children.
- Buildings and grounds maintenance projects. This will simply make the projects more expansive and therefore, more expensive in the future.
- The move of many districts towards a mastery based personalized learning (MBPL) approach to teaching and learning. This would be particularly tragic because it is in this work that the hope of finally closing the immoral achievement gap between children who are financially poor and those who are not resides. Curtail this work and closing the achievement gap will become very difficult if not impossible.
These negative consequences would not be a one-year phenomenon because the transferal of a portion of the financial responsibility for the Teacher Retirement Program to the local level would not be for one year only. Instead, the transferal would be perpetual and, therefore, the establishment of a MAJOR UNFUNDED MANDATE for local government. How this can be even considered in a year when major reductions in State financial aid to local governments appear to be inevitable is very difficult to understand.
For all of these reasons the transferal of financial responsibility for financing the Teacher Retirement Program to the local level is at best extremely foolish public policy and at worst highly irresponsible.
CAPSS, therefore, recommends that, instead of enacting the present provision of HB 7050, the Act be amended to require the State to initiate a study of the Teacher Retirement System, specify a group that will have representatives of teachers, administrators, superintendents of schools, boards of education, municipal governments, those with proven expertise in government pensions for educators and others and charge the group with the task of recommending to the Governor and the State Legislature by 1/1/18 recommendations for making structural changes in the Retirement System so that it is rendered sound and sustainable.