Connecticut has made some visible progress in its quest for more equitable school funding and in reducing its achievement gaps. However, no one should claim victory. The glass is at most only one-half filled. Beyond adhering to its legal and legislative obligations, Connecticut must aspire to exceed meeting its moral obligation to fully address the needs of every student.
A. The State of Connecticut has a legal obligation to lead, appropriately fund, and support public schools. Only the State can counteract the influence of local wealth on determining educational expenditures and opportunities.
B. Too many relatively poor towns with high education needs and high local tax rates are at the bottom of per-pupil spending; further, the State’s achievement gaps by town, income group, and racial and ethnic group are alarmingly unacceptable.
C. COVID-19 has exacerbated the learning gaps and the digital divide, thereby putting Connecticut’s neediest students in an even more precarious position.
D. Other states with a statewide improvement plan and significant new funds have recently surpassed Connecticut in the quest for continuous improvement of schools.
E. The continuing inequities and debate over the funding of magnet schools (and other schools of choice) from multiple sources, and the provision of and responsibility for special education and transportation at these schools have NOT been addressed for the long term.
F. The most important lessons of the last 50 years of public policy related to equal educational opportunity are:
- The failure to develop and stay with a multi-year plan, regardless of national and state economic conditions;
- The failure to take a comprehensive approach, and over-reliance on a single equalization formula;
- The failure to focus on the size and totality of the State’s contribution; and
- The failure of both the federal and state government to meet their obligation to fund special education to the detriment of both special and regular education programs.
The State of Connecticut cannot and will not reduce inequities in its school funding system unless it significantly increases state aid as a percentage of all revenues dedicated to public schools.