February 8, 2006
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer
As Connecticut's lowest-performing
schools struggle to meet the increasingly tough standards of President
Bush's school reform act, they probably will have to do it with
less help from the federal government.
Educators are still analyzing the latest
figures, but Connecticut stands to lose ground in several federal
programs, including vocational education and college readiness programs
aimed at low-income students.
The state's allotment from Title I, a key federal grant aimed at
helping disadvantaged children, grew sharply between 2001 and 2004,
largely to support the No Child Left Behind Act, but it has started
to decline since then. It is about $107.5 million this year but
is projected to drop to $100 million in 2006-07 and to $98 million
the following year, according to estimates from the president's
proposed budget. The allotment is being cut because the state's
child poverty rate has not grown as fast as that of most other states.
The expected reduction comes as more
of the state's public schools are required to make improvements
under the No Child Left Behind Act, the centerpiece of Bush's school
"There's no question any reduction
will have an effect on us," said Robert Henry, superintendent
of schools in Hartford, where about $20 million in Title I funding
accounts for nearly 10 percent of the city's education budget.
Three of the city's elementary schools
face wholesale restructuring under No Child Left Behind, and 22
others are required to undergo earlier stages of improvement under
the federal law.
A reduction in Title I also could affect
summer school classes, Henry said. "Full-day kindergarten programs
- we'd have to rethink those as well," he said.
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret
Spellings praised the president's budget proposal, including support
for improving mathematics instruction nationwide. "This budget
request soundly targets resources where they are needed most and
working best," she said in a press release.
Nationwide, the president's budget
plan would increase spending for No Child Left Behind efforts by
4.6 percent in 2007-08, but Connecticut would get an increase of
about one-half of 1 percent. Most of Connecticut's increase would
be due to a new $8.6 million proposed allocation aimed at high school
reform. Across the nation, the federal budget proposal calls for
nearly $1.5 billion to reduce the number of dropouts, increase the
rigor of the high school curriculum and require additional testing
in reading and mathematics.
After several years of steady increases,
Connecticut's allocation for special education, the state's largest
federal education grant, would remain roughly the same in 2006-07
at $122.6 million and would increase by less than 1 percent the
following year - not enough to keep pace with rising costs, educators
and municipal officials say.
"Towns get hammered with exorbitant
increases in special education costs year to year," said Kevin
Maloney, spokesman for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.
"Another significant problem is the continued lack of full
funding needed for the No Child Left Behind Act. More and more of
the burden is being thrust on property tax payers and towns."
The president's proposed budget also
calls for the elimination of more than 40 education programs that
federal officials have deemed ineffective.
One of the programs targeted for elimination
is a vocational education grant providing career-related education
in public high schools. Connecticut's grant is about $10 million.
"This would be a major hit,"
said Paul F. Flinter, chief of the state's Bureau of Early Childhood,
Career and Adult Education. "We use that to support agricultural
education, business finance, technology education, family consumer
science, marketing education, medical career education."
Flinter said it is not immediately
clear whether some of the additional money for high school reform
would replace some of those programs.
The budget proposal also would eliminate
support for programs such as Upward Bound, designed to encourage
middle school and high school students from low-income families
to prepare for college.
In Connecticut, Upward Bound operates
programs at Wesleyan University, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield
University, the University of Connecticut and Western Connecticut
Supporters have rallied to save Upward
Bound from budget cuts in the past and are planning to do so again,
said Donna Thompson, director of Wesleyan's program.
Jeremy Clark, a 17-year-old senior
at Middletown High School, has been part of the program at Wesleyan
for several years and has applied to schools such as Cornell University,
UConn and Colorado State University.
"There are a lot of kids
who wouldn't even have considered going to college" without
Upward Bound, he said. "I never considered it ... but they
showed me if I got an education first, I could do a lot with my
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at