Ever since Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher handed down his scathing ruling in the CCJEF v. Rell school funding case last September, state legislators have given lip-service, declaring that the state must fix Connecticut’s broken school funding system.
It seems neither the majority of Democrats nor Republicans are willing to put their money where their mouth is.
For a prime example, here’s an excerpt from the Connecticut Mirror on the state appropriations committee’s budget proposal (bolded for emphasis):
“Greenwich was the biggest winner for education aid. Its Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant – the state’s main tool for distributing aid to local school districts – was slated to increase by $1.25 million. Lisbon was the biggest loser, taking an ECS hit of $155,279. School aid for troubled school districts was boosted slightly – with Bridgeport, Hartford and Waterbury each scheduled for a $500,000 increase next fiscal year.”
Wasn’t this exactly why Judge Moukawsher ruled the state funding system was unconstitutional?
In his ruling, Moukawsher criticized the legislature for playing politics, allowing “rich towns to raid money desperately need by poorer towns.” He said this kind of behavior made “a mockery of the state’s constitutional duty to provide adequate educational opportunities to all students.”
It would be one thing if this was happening out of the context of CCJEF, but In his ruling, Judge Moukawsher even mentioned Greenwich specifically He criticized the legislature for increasing Greenwich’s funding, writing that the town’s taxable property was worth more than four times the amount of Bridgeport. Yet, fast forward to this year, and the state appropriations committee proposes a budget that gives another large increase to Greenwich while undercutting Bridgeport.
Luckily, this proposal didn’t pass, but the fact that it even got this far is a testament to how little state leaders have learned.
Republican Proposal Isn’t Much Better
Following the state appropriation’s committee failure to move their budget proposal forward on Thursday (which was their deadline), state republicans proposed their own plan.
While their proposal does more to reform the Education Cost Sharing Grant (ECS) — for example, it adds an additional $33 million more to the education budget in 2018-19 and actually revamps the funding forum — it suffers from one of the same problems the appropriations committee plan suffered from: It continues to fund education through multiple grants.
Judge Moukawsher ruled the funding formula was unconstitutional because it was irrational and wasn’t based on need. By continuing to fund schools through a tangled web of grants, the state republicans, have purposed a system that no less irrational or opaque.
The CCJEF ruling presented the legislature with an unprecedented opportunity to radically reform the state’s school funding system. More than ever there’s momentum in the state to get things done, but right now it’s being squandered by state leaders.
For more on the republican plan here’s a link to their press release.
For more on the failed appropriations committee plan, here’s a link to the Connecticut Mirror’s coverage.