Monday, November 8, 2010

CABE's Concern Over the 14% Gap in ECS Funding

CABE Executive Director Robert Rader recently wrote an article about what can be done regarding the 14% gap in ECS that has been, over the last two years, filled by Federal stimulus funding. Yes, you read this correctly...the financial wizards in Hartford have been using federal stimulus money to make up for their contribution shortfalls ECS. That money, amounting to $540 million over those two years, is expected to run out as the State puts together a new biannual budget. CABE, CAPSS and CASBO (had enough acronyms) recently got together to discuss the impact of lost stimulus money on various school districts/towns. Namely, most school districts were lucky to pass their budgets this year with minimal increases. (Yes, despite what some may tell you Cheshire is not alone in passing a minimal education budget increase for 2010-2011.) How would school districts, like Cheshire, be able to handle a 14% (average) decrease in ECS?

CABE, CAPSS and CASBO came up with the following points to help people understand the impact of a 14% decrease in ECS funding:
  • Even if the State Legislature is to keep funding at the same level that is has provided over the last two years, that level won't keep up with inflation. But, they agree that it will help school districts protect themselves from severe cuts if funding decreased by 14%
  • CT school districts have estimated that 4,593 teachers alone have been saved from losing their jobs by the fed stimulus money. Over 1/3 of these teachers were in DRG I, the most impoverished school districts in the state.
  • CT is ramping up it's expectations for it's schools focusing on student achievement (graduation rates, test scores) loss of teachers and other staff would be "devastating".
  • If the 14% gap is not filled, the result will be larger class sizes, deferred maintenance on schools and cuts to instructional technology and athletic programs.
  • They agree that the 14 percent gap cannot be passed on to our cities and towns. School budgets, which in 2007-2008 increased on average over 4%, are now averaging close to 1%.
  • They agree that there's no appetite at the local level to increase local taxes to make up for the gap as taxpayers are already feeling strangled by very high property taxes.
  • The one year $257M in stimulus money represents only 1.4% of all State of CT budget expenditures for 1 year.
Meanwhile, school districts are bracing for the financial ramifications of implementing Seconary School Reform.

It's important to note that these three organizations represent Board of Education, School SuperIntendents and District Management across CT. The issue of ECS funding is not isolated soley to Cheshire. Yet despite our State's financial condition, Hartford continues to beg and borrow money to make up for it's shorfalls yet continues to pile on education reforms we know we can't afford or figure out how to pay for.

And, Malloy doesn't give me any sense of relief that he'll be able to (and willingly) lead the State out of the financial mess we're in. The house of cards continues to wobble.


John White said...

This is unrelated to your topic, Tony, but I don’t know how to post a comment otherwise. If there’s a way, please inform me. That said, I’ll get to it.

Today I attended an all-school assembly at Norton School in honor of veterans. It was an excellent event, and great thanks is due to Principal Mary Karas. She and her staff invited vets through students who know us as family members, relatives and neighbors. There were about 40 of us who arrived at 8-ish for breakfast in the cafeteria, and a very fine breakfast it was.

Then we went into the gym for the assembly. We were seated in several rows along the wall. All grades came in, sixth graders first. They sat on the floor in back. Then the other grades filed in. When everyone was in, the first graders were in the front, closest to us.

The program began with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by a student, and the National Anthem, sung by a student. Student Council members offered remarks. There were presentations by various grades to recognize and thank veterans.

Mrs. Karas had asked me to speak, and since in my heart of hearts I am a teacher and always in the classroom, I was very happy to talk with the kids about veterans, the branches of the armed forces, the chain of command, and about the vets who were present. We ranged in age from 31 to 90 (but all were male). So the kids got to see that vets are their fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, relatives, etc. I also pointed out that women serve in the military, so vets are not just a bunch of old guys who fought in the war, as one student sort of phrased it.

The assembly began at 9 a.m. and was over by 10. Throughout it, the students were attentive, polite, well-behaved and respectful. As they returned to class, they all passed by us, shook our hands and thanked us. And after they’d left, we vets spoke among ourselves, expressing our appreciation for the event.

A Bravo Zulu (BZ) to Principal Karas for a wonderful Veterans Day program. BZ is milspeak for “Well done!”

Tony Perugini said...

John, do you have pictures from today's event? I'd be more than happy to create a post with your write up and pictures. Sounds like a very proud day was had by all.


Tim White said...

Thank you dad.