In Closing: What are the most important messages here?
A. The State of Connecticut has a legal and moral 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. Connecticut’s inequities and achievement gaps are well documented. Furthermore, COVID-19 has exacerbated the learning gaps and the digital divide, thereby putting Connecticut’s neediest students in an even more precarious position.
C. Other states have recently surpassed Connecticut in the quest for continuous improvement of schools.
D. The most important lessons of the last 50 years of public policy related to equal educational opportunity are:
1) the failure to take a comprehensive approach and too much reliance on a single equalization formula; and
2) the failure to focus on the size and totality of the state contribution, and the concurrent failure to stick to a multi-year plan, instead of allowing the 169 town distribution to be the focus of debate.
E. This comprehensive and long-term package of recommendations has a first-year cost of approximately $78M in additional state funding, beyond what has already been planned. This represents only a 2.5% increase over the $3.070B CSDE’s general fund operating and grant budget for 2020–21, not including school construction and teacher retirement costs. Yes, the second year of the biennium would require an equal increase to that of year one, and the15-year plan for ECS represents the promise of hundreds of millions in additional state aid. These hundreds of millions are deliberately phased-in over a 15-year period allowing for efficient use locally. The dollars represent only $12M to $20 M more per year than what has been planned for ECS through 2027–28.This is an important, reasonable, and responsible plan in light of all the educational needs of the state. Appendix C summarizes the new costs of this plan.
F. ”Despite multiple court cases and repeated efforts at reform, there are still significant concerns about the equity and adequacy of Connecticut’s K-12 education funding. The state (should) consider adopting a new, scientifically grounded, equitable, and adequate formula that allocates more state aid to districts with higher costs… in the last year analyzed an additional $940 million…would have been needed to fully fund the predicted costs required to achieve the average student test performance in every district.”
Note: The estimated costs of an additional $940 million were based on 2013 data analyses.
“Measuring Disparities in Cost and Spending Across Connecticut School Districts,” Bo Zhao and Nicholas Chiumenti, September 2020, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
G. While some of the recommendations will require state legislation and funding, and some require actions by the CSDE, several of the most important recommendations include steps that every school board, superintendent, principal, and teacher can begin to address right now, for example, attacking structural racism and discrimination.
The continuous improvement of the educational experiences for each student in Connecticut’s public schools begins with a commitment to action by all of us.