Tuesday, January 5, 2021

BRUCE BAKER, ROB COTTO AND PRESTON GREEN: Fixing Connecticut school finance: The time is now

Fixing Connecticut school finance: The time is now
Fixing Connecticut school finance: The time is now

The COVID pandemic has laid bare the extent of inequalities across Connecticut’s cities, towns and school districts and the children and families they serve. Connecticut has long been one of our nation’s most racially and economically segregated states, while also one of the wealthiest. In the past decade those inequities have worsened along both economic and racial lines. In 2021, Connecticut continues to face the interrelated challenges of segregation and school funding equity and adequacy.  Connecticut must do better.

In two recent articles we showed that Connecticut school funding continues to systematically disadvantage students in schools and districts serving predominantly Latinx communities. This finding is not new, with districts like BridgeportWaterbury and New Britain recognized in numerous national reports as being among the most financially disadvantaged school districts in the nation. For a period, Connecticut appeared to do somewhat better on behalf of predominantly Black school districts, but this was largely a function of additional aid directed specifically at magnet school programs in Hartford and New Haven, and not by the design of the general aid formula. In a forthcoming article, we find that Black-white disparities in state and local revenues and in property taxation are among the largest in the nation and have worsened in recent years.

Inequities in property taxation, fueled by a long history of exclusionary zoning and racial discrimination, are major contributors to the state’s school finance problem, and cannot be ignored. Municipal fiscal dependence is also a problem. Having a system in which local public schools rely on city and town budgets, where those budgets are based on prior taxing and spending behavior rather than current needs exacerbates the unevenness of school funding, hitting especially hard, schools in cities like Bridgeport.  Above all, however, the state’s general aid program for schools – The Education Cost Sharing Formula (ECS) – falls short of addressing these inequities, and has never been CONTINUE READING: Fixing Connecticut school finance: The time is now