Funding in danger: Malloy's order makes big cuts to school funding

Published on Friday, 18 August 2017 22:07
Written by Skyler Frazer

Staff Writer

HARTFORD - Gov. Dannel Malloy announced changes to his Executive Order Resource Allocation Plan Friday morning, eliminating Education Cost Sharing funding for 85 school districts and reducing funding for 54 other districts should the state not adopt a budget by October.

While Plainville and Southington would lose a significant portion of their ECS funding under the order, Bristol and New Britain, as Alliance Districts, the name given to the 30 lowest-performing districts in the state, would fare better. Bristol would still get $44.8 million in ECS funding, and New Britain would still get more than $86.2 million.

State lawmakers have not passed a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 and the following year. The state faces an estimated $3.5 billion deficit over the next two years.

“In the absence of an adopted budget from the General Assembly, my administration is reallocating resources to pay for basic human services, education in our most challenged school districts, and the basic operation of government,” Malloy said in a statement.

“The municipal aid that is funded as part of this executive order reflects the nearly impossible decisions Connecticut must make in the absence of a budget. It will force some of our municipalities - both large and small - to make similarly difficult choices of their own.”

In the plan, Southington’s more than $20 million in ECS funding would also get zeroed out, as would Plymouth’s $9.7 million in funding. Berlin would lose 100 percent of its ECS funding - more than $6.2 million. Other municipalities in the area would see reduced funding rather than a full elimination.

Newington would see a 90 percent reduction in ECS funding in the plan, reducing its funding from almost $13 million to about $1.3 million. Plainville would see a reduction of about 80 percent in ECS funding, from about $10.2 million to about $2 million.

Bristol and New Britain

As members of the Alliance Districts, Bristol and New Britain school districts would fare better than their neighbors under Malloy’s plan.

Although Bristol will likely be spared any state cuts to education, the Board of Education this week had unanimously passed a resolution calling on the governor and General Assembly to provide a phase-in period for any changes in state funding to public education.

Board Chair Chris Wilson said the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and individual boards around the state are crafting similar resolutions “to see if we can motivate our state legislators to act on the budget and act on the resources that we all desperately need to run our schools.”

The resolution reads:

“Whereas, the Bristol Board of Education has already made significant reductions in program and services for our students and

Whereas any further reductions taking place when the school year is about to begin would seriously disrupt the efforts to support the achievements of our students

Therefore, be it resolved, that the Bristol Board of Education urges the Governor and the General Assembly to provide a phase in period for the implementation of any changes in state funding for public education.”

“This really an untenable situation,” Wilson said. “Education is not a business but we certainly can use some business principles and the idea that we’re asked to start delivering our services without knowing our finite revenue source is really rather unusual at best.”

Superintendent Ellen Solek  assured the board and the public “we are gearing up nonetheless for an engaging and upbeat school opening.”

“We will forge ahead no matter what the funding ends up being from the state,” she continued. “We certainly are well equipped with support from our board, from administrators, and from the innovation of teachers and staff, to provide a solid and positive educational experience for students and families in Bristol.”

Plainville

Plainville Superintendent of Schools Maureen Brummett said she would not panic about the proposed reduction of funds.

“It is such an outrageous cut that I can’t imagine our state legislators will allow it,” she said. “I have been in communication with Sen. Henri Martin and Rep. Bill Petit. I have also spoken to our Town Manager Robert E. Lee, and with Director of Finance Rob Buden, and they agree. Everyone would be taking a hit in some way, and I can’t imagine that this budget will stay.”

Brummett stressed that Malloy’s proposal won’t take effect until Oct. 1, when municipalities would normally receive state funds.

“I hope that our state officials realize that if they don’t want this to happen they need to put forth a budget,” she said. “This would set education back dramatically. This should be a wakeup call. This cannot possibly be how the budget ends up. I hope that the legislature gets this proposal completely eradicated and that they replace it with something better.

Lee said that be believes the governor’s proposal to be a “ploy to get the legislature to do something.”

“You looked at Plainville and other communities, and it is just inconceivable to me that any rational legislator will allow this to go into place,” said Lee. “I have consulted the council to be patient. I don’t think that we should overreact. We should wait until the legislature hopefully passes the budget in September as planned. Under this proposal, Berlin would be losing $7 million and that is the Speaker of the House’s home town. I can’t believe that a majority would ever support this.”

Southington

Southington Superintendent of Schools Tim Connellan called the proposed cuts to Southington’s education funding “completely outrageous.”

“This hasn’t gone into effect yet, and this is not the final word, but ladies and gentlemen of the General Assembly, the people of Connecticut are tired of you not getting your job done,” he said. “Get into a room, get the budget done. This executive order will hurt our children. Where would we come up with another $13 million in reductions? This is Robin Hood style budgeting, pitting district against district and people against people. Our town has been conservative financially and we have saved money and come up with reasonable budgets. Are we going to be punished for that?”

Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback said that he is “hesitant to overreact” about the proposed elimination of 100 percent of the town’s state education funding, which would result in a $20 million loss.

“It would be devastating so I hope that our legislators pass a budget that makes this proposal irrelevant,” he said. “It is difficult to imagine the level of devastation that this level of cut would cause. I don’t have any reason to believe that it will be coming back. I have communicated with the council, and I have spoken to our legislators and one of them is the Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz. He is confident that they will be able to get something else done.”

“This has never been my preferred path,” Malloy said in a statement about the executive order. “I have proposed full balanced budgets and also short-term solutions that would alleviate some of this pain. It is incumbent upon state leaders to come together and reach an agreement on a biennial budget right away.”

Following the governor’s announcement, Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano, R-North Haven, issued a statement criticizing Malloy’s plan.

“Instead of adopting a fair education funding formula, Governor Malloy’s executive order exacerbates the very same education funding system deemed unconstitutional by the Connecticut Superior Court,” Fasano said in part of the statement. “What the governor is doing, arbitrarily shifting funding to only a few school districts and stripping core funding that children across our state are relying on, is not what the judge ordered - nor is it in the best interest of our students.”

Fasano said that Malloy’s order violates Connecticut law on multiple fronts.

There is still time for legislators to prevent drastic cuts to ECS, though. The first wave of ECS funding payments - 25 percent - will be made in early October. If legislators can adopt a state budget before October, this executive order wouldn’t effect

Staff writers Brian Johnson and Susan Corica contributed to this report.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, General News, Plainville, Plymouth, Southington Herald on Friday, 18 August 2017 22:07. Updated: Friday, 25 August 2017 09:35.