The Budget is here but the schools are still behind
By Owen Kingsley
One hundred and twenty-three days without a budget. The longest the state of Connecticut has ever endured without one has finally come to a close. Most state-run facilities, programs and anyone receiving state funding are breathing a sigh of relief. The state is feeling the effects from the transportation department to health services. The difficulties of running these departments without knowing how much they can spend were highlighted in these past months.
However no area has been more affected by the lack of a budget than education. All across the state, schools had to manage and operate well through the summer and fall without knowing how much money they were able to spend for this school year. Schools are used to making cuts but due to this budget situation, schools were forced to really cut back on everything without knowing what they could afford.
“We unfortunately had a difficult decision, we had to reduce five teaching positions that we had, including one at Cheshire High School, and not fill several other positions that we had budgeted that were open,” said Jeff Solan, the superintendent of Cheshire Public Schools.
Larger towns and areas are feeling the budget’s impact the worst. However recently the schools in larger towns such as here in Hamden, are questioning the state's budgeting procedure.
“More money is supposed to go to needier towns. Hamden has been underfunded in the state cost-sharing amount by approximately $18 million dollars a year,” said Hamden Superintendent Jody Goeller.
In a 1977 Connecticut Supreme Court hearing, the courts found that the states' means of giving out financial aid to schools was insufficient and through that decision came Equal Cost Sharing or ECS.
Hamden especially is in a unique situation where it has been underfunded for years because the state has shown that it has not used the ECS formula and has drifted away from it year after year since the original ruling.
Hamden has seen an influx of people in poverty in recent years. Its children on average have had a harder time bringing their own supplies and resources to school, so the school is in a situation to provide it.
State Representative Michael D’Agostino has been fighting for this change for awhile on the state’s use of the ECS formula. He believes that the state could see a change to its education funding with this new budget.
“Recently, the courts had a chance to revisit the ECS formula and what they found was the state wasn’t following any kind of predictable, methodology for distributing aid. Very similar to the original court case. So after months of trying to figure out a budget, the state seems to have factored in the need for proper education funding.”
With the new budget towns and cities will look to further implement the ECS formula and regain proper education funding in the state.