Now is NOT the time to stop focusing on school funding. 


TwitterFacebookCopy LinkPrintEmail

To the Editor:

$150 million. An amount of money that could make an imperative impact on the lives of students across Connecticut. Last year, dozens of organizations fought for and won an additional $150 million for education funding in schools throughout the state. Unfortunately, after a short lived celebration and glimpses of hope, Governor Lamont is threatening to reallocate a significant portion of these funds away from their intended purpose, before the schools have even seen it. 

Connecticut schools have a massive racial funding gap, one of the largest in the nation. We have been working to fully fund education in Connecticut and to end this racial funding disparity for years, and last year we made significant progress in this goal. 

Districts across the state have already begun drafting budgets with the promise of these funds. These budgets include things like retaining teachers hired during the pandemic to address the teacher shortage, retaining support staff brought in to help students’ social-emotional well-being, continuing learning programs instituted to aid in learning loss, and more budget-related decisions made during the pandemic.  High dosage tutoring and individualized care for students were two of the most important implementations to come out of such an unprecedented event. And without the funding to continue these programs, our students benefiting from these programs will suffer from a major loss. 

The Esser funds are currently backing programs that were needed long before the pandemic. Students have long needed social emotional support and additional support staff in schools, and now that the funds are expiring, we cannot pretend these supports are no longer needed. We need to make these programs permanent, and we cannot do this without the money won last year. Taking this money away from schools before they’ve even seen it is cruel and outrageous. 

If legislators go back on their word in granting this money to schools in the upcoming year’s budget, any existing trust between school districts and the state  will be broken. It takes time to build a budget and for schools to see the budgets through. If districts cannot trust the promise of funding, any money granted will not be built into planning budgets, and money cannot be used as it is intended. Programs and staffing will continue to be ad hoc, diminishing the stability of schools and employment throughout Connecticut, and ultimately negatively impacting our students. 

Preliminary data from Educators for Excellence’s annual Voices from the Classroom survey found that school funding is still considered a major issue to most teachers. If the legislature comes together to deny Governor Lamont’s most recent budget proposal, we can help some of these educators see an end to these budgeting disparities in their schools. 

It is so important that all public schools, no matter the school type–VOAG, Magnet, charter, etc.–are fully embraced by the ECS formula and fully enact a policy that ends tuition billing. We should not be pitting schools and children against one another for money, when students should be at the forefront of our decision making, as they are the future of our communities. Schools need the $150 million won last year so that we can keep building on our past progress, and make even more headway to closing the racial funding gap and achieving equitable education for all students in Connecticut. 

I highly recommend our legislators pass House Bill 5212, “An Act Concerning Education Funding.” This will not only ensure our students finally get a fraction of the opportunity they deserve, but it also will send a message to all students that we see them, they matter, and they all deserve equity. 

Daniel Pearson

Pearson is executive director of Educators for Excellence – Connecticut