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Guiding Principles

  • Coherent, efficient state governance of education is needed to effect lasting educational change.
  • The school must be the organizational unit responsible for delivering high quality services for all students.
  • District administrators should have the flexibility to allocate the majority of resources. This will result in more flexible and efficient systems of resource allocation.
  • The funding system for education must be designed so that predictability and stability of funding are top priorities.
  • Districts must have the flexibility to organize in order to take advantage of economies of scale. Districts must have the ability to offer regional services so that they can distribute fixed costs across an entire region.

Key Issue 1

The state’s role in the governance system needs to be clarified. The state has an important role to play in a transformed system of education. The state must define the goals for the entire system, provide the technical assistance necessary, and hold schools accountable for meeting those goals. The state must also create policies that ensure the equitable distribution of human and financial resources to guarantee that all students have the opportunity to meet the goals set by the state.

Recommendations

35.  The efforts of the State Department of Education (SDE) should be redirected to meet the most immediate needs of the state and mediate between federal mandates and local schools. The primary roles of the SDE should be:

  • Managing the state’s relationship with the federal government.
  • Facilitating and supporting innovation throughout the state by creating incentives for transformation and providing research- based professional support to local districts.
  • Developing a broad range of valid and reliable student assessments.
  • Creating, collecting and managing a statewide pre-K through 20 data system that allows for valid and reliable assessment of local educational outcomes.
  • Creating the infrastructure to support knowledge-sharing networks among educators.
  • Supporting the creation of “wraparound” student services by coordinating with other state and local social service agencies.
  • Leveraging economies of scale to develop innovative solutions to the state’s most pressing educational problems that local districts can easily access so that the economic conditions of local districts will not stand in the way of children’s access to high-quality schools. Examples include online credit recovery programs, dropout prevention activities, regional SPED and ELL programs and statewide curricula.

36.  State funding mechanisms should include incentives tied to meeting and exceeding mandated student learning outcomes such as the deeper learning competencies.

Local School Districts in a Transformed System

Key Issue 2

District size and performance must be addressed in the current era of fiscal contraction. It is clear that school district leaders will need to continue to improve student achievement without increasing the number and amount of resources. While economists suggest there is only a tenuous relationship between resources, district/school size and student achievement (Hanushek, 2008), practical experience suggests otherwise. Economic formulas simply cannot measure all of the qualitative differences in school systems that contribute indirectly to students’ academic achievement. Research in the area of special education, for example, has provided evidence that local districts can reduce some of the costs of educational services through consolidating resources across schools (McLaughlin, 1996). Other research on district consolidation suggests that for most midsize school districts, individual costs may not outweigh the economic benefits of district consolidation (Duncombe & Yinger, 2001). For very small, rural (300-1,200 students) districts, however, there appear to be consistent benefits and cost savings due to economies of scale that can be created through consolidation (Duncombe & Yinger, 2001).

Recommendations

37.  Local school districts should be fiscally independent in order to keep the lines of accountability clear and for citizens to have a direct connection to the budget development and approval process.

38.  The staff of the local school districts should be led by a Superintendent of Education who is responsible for the entire educational enterprise, specifically for: Political Leadership, Management and Operations, Funding and Supervision of Instructional Leaders. The Superintendent of Education would have expertise in leadership and management in order to meet the political, financial and instructional needs of the district. Because leading a local school district requires a combination of skills, the State Commissioner of Education should provide a broad range of licensing options for qualified candidates.

Resource Allocation in a Transformed System

Key Issue 3

Resources must be allocated equitably. Every child in Connecticut has both a moral and a legal right to be provided with an effective educational program. Among the most important state policy decisions that affect recognition of this right are ones that determine funding levels for educational programs. Equity is providing adequate funding for each child to attain the student outcomes required for graduation.

We propose a student-based funding system with equalization. Weights would be assigned according to poverty, English language learner status, special education, and school level. This would facilitate a more equitable distribution of resources at the local level and enable more stable, longer-term planning at the district and school level. The formula would be based on population and poverty indicators for the region as a whole. The formula would include all state education funding; including such items as priority schools and any other targeted funding.

Recommendations

39.  The state should support at least 55 percent of the total cost of public education.

40.  Local school districts must be granted taxing authority.