Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told school superintendents Thursday that before some of them come knocking at his door for more state funding, they should first be asking their local leaders for more support.
“Yes, I would like to see more money, but I don’t have a magic wand,” he told a roomful of superintendents at their annual conference in Plantsville.
“You know some of the school districts represented in this room will point to the state and say, ‘We are not getting as much money as we should.’ But then I can point out to you that your mill rates… are a lot smaller than other districts in the state. So the idea that the help is only going to come from the state goverment is not the answer.”
The state spent $3.7 billion on education this past year, about one-fifth of its total budget. State officials did boost state funding for education by almost $100 million for this school year. Over the previous seven years, state funding for education has increased by $270 million a year.
But municipal leaders argue the state’s share of covering education has continually decreased as costs increased over the years, and they carry too heavy a burden of paying for education. A report released by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities earlier this week shows the state picks up 42 percent of the cost of education, leaving local officials no choice but to raise property taxes to cover the rising cost of education. State law largely forbids districts from cutting spending on education.
Speaking to reporters after the conference, Malloy signaled that if there is any new state funding, it would be directed at the lowest-income districts.
“That’s the path we need to go down… There’s a great variance in mill rates. My point is we are not the only people that have to pay for education. I am not knocking anybody, but that is a discussion that needs to take place in town after town after town.”
A state panel tasked by Malloy to provide him some solutions to fix the chronically underfunded — and highly critized — state school funding formula is set to finalize itsrecommendations by Dec. 1.
During a meeting Thursday at the state Capitol complex, those panel members seemed to back away from a proposal that would address skyrocketing special education costs by having parents who can afford it to chip in to cover their child’s special education services. However, another recommendation that would require wealthier districts pay more to pick up the costs of special education does seem to be moving forward.
The chairman of the School Choice Committee also informed members — which includes the governor’s budget director and the Senate chair of the legislature’s Education Committee — that his committee is looking into increasing the tuition wealthy districts pay to send their students to nearby charter and magnet schools.
Ben Barnes, the governor’s budget director, said while “there are no shortages of ideas” on how to spend additional money, he doesn’t think planning for additional funding in the shortrun is realistic.
“Next year is likely to mirror last year in terms of fiscal constraints,” he said.
“Everyone is looking for an answer. How do we fund education better than we do now?” asked Sen. Andrea Stillman, the co-chairwoman of the Education Committee.