ConnCAN Advocates Linking Schools Funding To Wealth Of Students In System
Education Group Lists Legislative Goals
Grace E. Merritt
January 20, 2011
A school reform organization will announce this morning that it will advocate legislation this year that would link state education funding to the relative wealth of students in individual school systems.
The group will also advocate changes that would allow teacher layoff decisions to be based on job performance rather than seniority in certain cases.
But some education experts say ConnCAN's lobbying tactics are really aimed at furthering its agenda to support and promote funding for charter schools.
Alex Johnston, executive director of ConnCAN, said the group will urge the governor and legislators to revise the state's school funding formula so money is directed based on the financial situation of individual students.
The group will also continue to press for a "money-follows-the-child" approach to state aid for education. For instance, if a child attends a magnet school, the proportion of state aid money for that student would be sent to the magnet school rather than to the child's local school district. Currently, the state funnels money both to the child's school system and the magnet school.
State Department of Education spokesman Tom Murphy said that the current formula already takes municipal wealth and student need into consideration. He said ConnCAN's goals are not specific in how they would equalize educational opportunity.
"They are calling for a major overhaul in the way we finance public education. It is a complex issue that needs thorough analysis and debate," Murphy said.
The state's largest teachers union was more blunt.
"ConnCAN lobbyists want to create fertile ground for the unfettered growth of charter schools by upending the school funding formula," Connecticut Education Association spokeswoman Kathy Frega said. "Their tactics should concern parents and other citizens because research indicates that charters are on average no better than neighborhood public schools."
The state currently distributes $1.9 billion in school funding to cities and towns. Charter schools do not get any of that money, but get a separate state grant based on $9,300 per child, Murphy said.
In addition to the funding issue, ConnCAN said it will also push for changes in the way teacher layoff decisions are made, seeking to end the "last one hired, first one fired" approach to layoffs. ConnCAN leaders said the state lost about 1,500 teachers statewide last year and expects to lose at least as many this year as funding from federal economic stimulus grants dries up.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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