Aspiring towards the goal of the state and its municipalities sharing equally in the total cost of public education would be a major step in the right direction.
The 2019 state share of 41% and local share of 53% of the cost of public education (federal support at 6%) – has been at or near this level for nearly 30 years. This ratio leaves the majority of funds coming from local property taxes resulting in continuing inter-town inequities, inequities that were challenged in Horton vs. Meskill nearly 50 years ago.
While state aid, ECS, and other grants have been heavily based on wealth and need since the early 1980s, the aggregate amount of state aid has not been sufficient to help those towns with the greatest educational need and the least capacity to spend more.
Moving toward a state share, not town by town, but in the aggregate of 47% of all costs of public education, with matching local contributions of roughly 47%, is the only fair and equitable solution. This goal should help shape the amount of new funds in ECS and other state grants.
In recent years, the State’s considerable extra/make-up funding of the teacher’s retirement system, which was both necessary and long overdue, has helped to maintain the State’s percent contribution to public education. Unfortunately, those funds do not help equalize and/or support local spending, nor do they directly provide educational opportunities.
The most important step in the continuous improvement of the Connecticut public schools is to increase the State’s share of total expenses and to continue to focus on equity and student success.