Last fall, our organization conducted an analysis that revealed a $639 million funding gap between Connecticut’s majority white school districts and all other public school districts in the state.
As staggering and unconscionable as that $639 million figure is, it is an unacceptable yet unsurprising reality for tens of thousands of Connecticut students, their families, and their teachers who continue to be shortchanged and inequitably funded. It is a reality that has only worsened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on public education and its disproportionate impacts on communities of color. And it is a reality that has been caused by our state’s education finance system.
While positive steps have been taken by the General Assembly over the past few years to improve how Connecticut funds K-12 public education, our state’s education finance system sadly remains inequitable, disjointed, and inadequate for addressing the systemic racial disparities and wide funding gaps our students, our teachers, our school districts, and our communities face every single day.
This legislative session, however, Connecticut has an opportunity to finally change this unacceptable status quo and drastically reduce the racial disparities in education funding by creating a student-centered funding system that provides equitable education funding for all students.
S.B. 948 is this opportunity.
Passed out of the Education Committee by a wide bipartisan margin and now currently before the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, S.B. 948 is a straightforward yet comprehensive approach to education funding that helps address Connecticut’s educational inequities, fixes the state’s current complex and disjointed way of funding public schools, and makes significant strides in reducing the alarming funding disparities that currently exist between the state’s students of color and white students.
The bill would accomplish this by:
- Fully funding all districts;
- Increasing funding for students learning English;
- Driving greater resources to districts with concentrated poverty; and
- Expanding the formula to include all Connecticut public school students.
Taking these steps would reduce Connecticut’s racial funding disparities by 66 percent and decrease that $639 million gap by $419 million. Additionally, S.B. 948 would invest essential operating funds into Connecticut’s neediest school districts to help ensure all public school students receive the equitable funding they need in order to succeed in and outside of the classroom.
Supported by superintendents, town leaders, members of boards of education, current and former teachers, parents, students, faith leaders, and hundreds of community members, S.B. 948 offers the positive change Connecticut’s education finance system desperately needs. Change that puts students at the center of how funding is distributed and finally funds each and every one based on their learning needs and the needs of their school district.
Our state cannot continue down the inequitable road it has been on for decades and decades. We cannot continue to accept a system that perpetuates disparities in education funding, contributes to the state’s wide opportunity gap, and fails to provide all public school students with the resources they need and deserve.
S.B. 948 offers an opportunity for Connecticut to chart a new path. A path that will bring equitable funding for all students. A path that will reduce the state’s racial education funding gap. A path that will help ensure all students receive a high-quality education no matter their socio-economic status, where they live, or what type of public school they attend.
The opportunity is here. Now is the time to seize it and pass S.B. 948.
Lisa Hammersley is the executive director of the School and State Finance Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy organization, focused on education funding and state finance issues, with a commitment to providing independent analysis, building public knowledge, improving transparency, and developing fair, sustainable solutions.