As a widowed mother of two wonderful boys, a senior at East Hartford High School and a sixth grader at Sunset Ridge Middle School in East Hartford, I support SB 948 An Act Addressing Education Funding and Racial Equity in Connecticut. I work as a Pre-K, paraeducator at the Early Childhood Learning Center, also part of East Hartford Public Schools.
In 2015, I moved from Puerto Rico to East Hartford seeking better medical attention for my son, who was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Though medical resources and family support dictated where we would live, the choices I had for my children’s education were disconcerting. This provoked a great deal of distress because I did not understand how the school districts were set up. Having them being categorized by “hearsay” as great, bad or good enough did not help either.
In the time that I have lived here, I have come to this conclusion: the district that has the funds does not have the needs, and the district that has the needs does not have the funds. That being said, equity cannot be achieved when it is measured by income.
My school district has made headway in moving the needle toward providing an equitable education for our students. It would go faster if it had the budget to enhance its efforts. East Hartford Public Schools mission is to deliver a high-quality learning experience for every child, every day because their vision is to have schools that are the pride of their community.
Connecticut spends about $17,506 on average per pupil. How does that compare to West Hartford ($17,245) Hartford ($17,261) and East Hartford ($14,747) or even Glastonbury ($17,874). Populations and demographics are different, but the human being, meaning the child, is the same.
For education to be equitable it needs to adapt and be agile with the community it services. For example, in the past five years, alone East Hartford has diversified immensely. We have received an influx of students from Hartford that had to relocate because of housing issues and from Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria. A diverse amount of needs in a short amount of time but yet the same budget to accommodate all.
SB948 makes some significant improvements to the education funding system. First, it simplifies the formula by including all public schools. No longer do we have to debate one school type over another. Next, it sends more money where it’s needed most: for students in concentrated poverty and English Language Learners. Finally, it sends the needed money now. It does not wait another ten years to phase-in. If the amount of money that is distributed among the school districts is equitable to the needs that it has, wouldn’t that serve our children more effectively? Wouldn’t that support our teachers and make all districts more attractive to work for?
Being proactive in mitigating disparities among ALL of our children is imperative. This is the moment in time that change should and can occur. Let’s maximize this opportunity and make a difference.
Veronica Rosario is a Parent Fellow with ConnCAN.