Op-Ed: Connecticut’s school funding system inefficient, ineffective, outdated

Regarding Jacqueline Rabe Thomas’ recent article (Re: “Foley advocates businesslike approach to improving ailing schools”), I was disappointed to read an incomplete representation of my views on the subject of student-based budgeting.

More troublingly, the article disregards the fact that the core of this debate must be about children and their potential and opportunities to succeed, not political maneuvering.

Op-ed submit bugAs I have said many times since the question of school finance became a campaign issue, voters would need to be provided details on any plan before anyone, including ConnCAN, could lend support to it.

We have not seen those specifics yet from any candidate — and look forward to seeing them because fixing our broken school funding system is one of the greatest challenges facing our next governor.

Connecticut’s school funding formula is inefficient, ineffective and outdated. Fixing how we fund our children’s education will take more than just political rhetoric.

Whoever is elected our next governor must fix this problem, starting with getting resources to the kids who need them and ensuring that all students and teachers, across all types of public schools, have the resources, tools and support they need.

All children deserve the best schools possible and the opportunity to fulfill their potential. Decisions about how to fund schools help determine our ability to meet that goal. That’s why we need our state leaders to tackle the bigger challenge of how to fix the whole funding system, with a very clear and stated purpose of providing every child the high-quality education they deserve.

A small but growing number of schools in Connecticut are delivering great results for kids, especially students of color and students in poverty. Educators at these schools are proving what’s possible when kids of any race or income level are held to high expectations and get the tools and support they need to succeed.

And yet, in our state, it is clear that race and wealth too often decide the quality of a child’s education and his or her opportunities for success.  In fact, there are over 40,000 children in schools in which nearly all children are below proficient.  The vast majority (90 percent) of these students are children of color and students who live in poverty.

Right now, only three out of every 10 black and Hispanic third graders can read at grade level. That is unacceptable. If success is possible for some children, it’s possible for all children.

So, the question that faces us is: If children are stuck in failing schools, why would we not give them access to something better immediately, or should we keep students in failing schools simply because we’re worried those schools might lose funding if children leave?

We must spend our education dollars on what will work for kids to ensure that we’re effectively preparing our next generation workforce and giving all children the opportunity to succeed.

That perspective is sorely lacking in most of the discourse surrounding Connecticut’s funding formula. It should, to be succinct, be about children.

The way we fund our schools is the foundation of our public education system. That foundation is broken. If we want to build the schools of the future, we can’t build them on quicksand.

Connecticut needs a funding system that allows all families to access good schools, not just those who can afford them.

Educators across our state are proving every day that kids rise to the challenges before them and meet high expectations when they get the support they need. It’s up to our next governor to make sure they get it.

 Jennifer Alexander is the CEO of ConnCAN (Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now).

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