Lack of staffing. Lack of resources. Lack of time. All of these are a result of the lack of funding we are seeing in many of our Connecticut schools. However, this can be fixed if our legislators pass H.B. 5003.
All Connecticut schools are not created equally. Due to the structure of the way we fund our districts throughout the state, there is a racial funding gap of over $700 million within our schools. This means that some schools have a surplus of funding allowing them to implement specialty programs and provide an abundance of resources for their students, while other schools face a severe lack of funding, impacting their ability to even provide students with adequate resources and staffing to assist them throughout their education.
In my school, lack of funding can be seen most in regards to the severe staffing shortages in our classrooms. Students with Individual Education Plans, or students who require additional help and attention, are not able to receive the individualized care they need to be academically successful because of large class sizes and a lack of paraprofessionals in the school building. For example, some of the middle school classes in my building are only divided into two sections, resulting in overwhelmingly large class sizes for both students and teachers.
Teachers are going to do our jobs regardless of the circumstances, but having factors -–like large class sizes and lack of support staff-–being outside of our control, makes our jobs exponentially more difficult. Not having enough personnel in the classroom, or within the school as a whole, makes it difficult to address emotional and academic needs individually, therefore making the classroom harder to manage, and possibly making the learning less effective for the students.
Students are also not exempt from feeling the effects of a lack of school funding on a daily basis. The seniors I teach struggle with receiving enough time and attention as they navigate through the college and career readiness process, and students notice when they don’t have enough time with their teachers or with their counselors. I personally like to sit with each of my students individually to try and build a positive relationship, but because there is only one of me and many of them, I find myself sometimes having to set a timer for our conversations so I can see everyone. This is not fair. This is not conducive to a productive learning environment.
The need for funding colors the experiences of everyone in the school building. It can make school days discouraging and overwhelming, it can highlight the need for extra support, and it can make every aspect of teaching and learning more difficult. By expediting the Education Cost Sharing formula and fully funding our schools, we are not only increasing the potential of our teachers to teach, but we are elevating the student-teacher experience; helping to increase test scores; helping to increase proficiency in reading and mathematics, and most importantly, we are helping our students to succeed.
A coalition of organizations are working together during this legislative session to demand legislators pass bill H. B. 5003, which will expedite the ECS formula, addressing the racial funding gap in our classrooms. Without this expedited formula, our schools will face a drop off point where programs and additional staff hired with the ESSER funds will no longer have the funding needed to continue, and our teachers and students will be the ones who suffer.
Teachers like myself can make a difference by contacting our local legislators and demanding that our voices be heard. We know what is going on in classrooms, and we know what it will take to improve. Join me and other educators as we let our legislators know that there is no more time to wait. Pass H.B. 5003 now.
Shakira Perez is a teacher in the Hartford Public School system.