On Tuesday, February 9, 2021, The Windsor Patch published a press release from the General Assembly regarding a proposal that seeks revisions to how public education is funded in the state to address racism.
Feb. 9, 2021
Earlier today, Monday February 8th at 12:00PM, state legislators Rep. Brandon McGee (D Hartford, Windsor), Rep. Bobby Sanchez (D- New Britain), Rep. Giraldo Reyes (D Waterbury), Rep. Jillian Gilchrest (D- West Hartford), Rep. Antonio Felipe (D- Bridgeport), Rep. Quentin Phipps (D- Middletown) and Rep. Anthony Nolan (D- New London) joined community leaders, Jamilah Prince-Stewart, Executive Director of FaithActs for Education, Pastor William McCullough, Founder of FaithActs for Education, Senior Pastor of Russell Temple CME, and President of Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater Bridgeport and Vicinity, Subira Gordon, Executive Director of ConnCAN, and Pastor Trevor Beauford, Senior Pastor of Union Baptist Church in Hartford, Clergy leader in The Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance (GHIAA).
Rep. McGee (D-Hartford, Windsor) spoke about his bill proposal which seeks revisions to how public education is funded in the state to address issues of equity and systemic racism. This bill would:
1. revise the formula used to calculate a town’s equalization aid grant by increasing the weight for English language learners and increasing the concentrated poverty weight, reducing the concentrated poverty threshold;
2. replace the existing funding levels for interdistrict magnet schools, state charter schools, regional agricultural science and technology education centers, and the open choice program with a new weighted funding amount per pupil based on student need;
3. and repeal the charging of tuition for interdistrict magnet schools and regional agricultural science and technology education centers.
“Despite decades of chronically underfunded schools, 47% of Hartford students are approaching, meeting, and exceeding grade-level expectations in English,” said Rep. McGee. These students reside a few miles from education systems that are worlds apart in terms of quality of investment. Connecticut can and will do better.”
“How can we expect our children to succeed and have the skills required of a 21st century workforce when we don’t give them the resources and tools?” said Sen. Doug McCrory. “There could not be a more critical time for equitable education funding. Connecticut students, especially those from low-income Black and Brown families, continue to bear the impact on schools from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We need education funding that enables all of our students to grow and thrive during each of their school years.”
“One of the seven pillars of the BPRC equity agenda is educational fairness, we feel so strongly about this and it’s not negotiable,” Rep. Reyes, Chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, said. “The future of young children in Connecticut is pending on educational dollars being distributed fairly and equitable so that all children can prosper in their education.”
“The way public education is funded in Connecticut unequivocally perpetrates systemic racism. If we want to see equal opportunities for black and brown children, we need to re-structure the funding of public education,” Rep. Robyn Porter (D- Hamden, New Haven) said. “This is more important now than ever as all schools, students and teachers adjust to remote learning and new technologies, given very limited resources compared to their counterparts in districts which already had these resources prior to the pandemic. This is just one example of the many injustices which can be seen in the funding of education; and it needs to change now.”
“Equal opportunity within education should not be a privilege,” said Rep. Gilchrest. “The pandemic has only emphasized the injustice within the current funding formula, and it is imperative that we re-structure the funding of public education in Connecticut now. This is essential if we want to end systemic racism and create equal opportunities for all children in households of varying economic backgrounds.”
“One of my major focuses is providing opportunities and access to all students, regardless of the color of their skin or the neighborhood they live in,” Rep. Felipe said. “I join in support of a legislative agenda that focuses on parents and students. A parent’s right to choose and a student’s right to seek an education that works for them. Every student deserves the same chance at a prosperous future.”
Rep. Phipps said, “I am an educator who understands the immediate need for equity and the opportunity for all our students to succeed. The push to address current disparities in our education system are challenging and long overdue. I am fully committed to keep working with my colleagues and stakeholders to make the necessary changes to help ensure students in our urban communities are given all the resources they need.”
“It is clear the current education funding formula does not meet the needs of all students in all school districts,” Chair of the Education Committee, Rep. Sanchez, said, “It is essential that we work to find a more equitable approach to funding education that addresses disparities, especially in underserved communities.”
“Connecticut’s system of education funding is in serious need of reform and this legislation is a step toward true equity,” said Rep. Nolan. “Every student in Connecticut must have equal access to education no matter their race, income, social status or where they live. The pandemic has shed light on the disparity in educational funding. We need to correct it and we need to correct it now.”
Additionally, community leaders are calling on Gov. Lamont and the Legislature to adjust the Education Cost Sharing formula in order to serve all children. They urge the state to create more opportunity for more children in poverty, particularly Black and Brown children, and to better serve English Language Learners. Additionally, they demand the end of discrimination against low-income Black and Brown children who attend magnets and charters – all of which are public schools, yet do not received grants from ECS.
“The ECS itself discriminates against Black, Brown and low-income kids across our state. The formula is racist and classist. Now is the time to change it. To change history. And create a legacy people will talk about for years. 2020 was the year when calls for justice rang out. 2021 can be the year that calls for justice are heard, and put into law,” said Jamilah Prince-Stewart, Executive Director of FaithActs for Education.
“When we fund our schools through property taxes and the very ECS formula meant to mitigate that inequity further perpetuates it, we are not only setting our children up to fail. We are setting our state up to fail. This is beyond dollars, it is a moral issue,” said Pastor Trevor Beauford, Clergy leader in The Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance (GHIAA).
“Connecticut has a chance to equitably fund all public school students and strengthen a funding system that was overwhelmingly approved on a bipartisan basis in 2017,” said Subira Gordon, ConnCAN Executive Director.
It’s about more than school funding, formulas, and budgets. It’s about what justice means and justice demands. Justice demands that every child has access to an incredible education regardless of their race, class, language, or zip code,” said Pastor William McCullough, Founder of FaithActs for Education, Senior Pastor of Russell Temple CME Church and President of Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater Bridgeport and Vicinity.
This press release was produced by The Connecticut General Assembly. The views expressed here are the author’s own.