Task Force Leaders Say They Have More Work To Do; Final Report Not Due Until October
BY KATHLEEN MEGAN
January 24, 2012
A New Haven-based education reform group, ConnCan, says the interim report prepared by a task force charged with fixing the way Connecticut funds education is a "missed opportunity" and falls far short of the "bold" proposal the governor had sought.
"The governor asked the Education Cost-Sharing Task Force to take bold action, and what we see in this interim report is really just nibbling around the edges," said Patrick Riccards, chief executive officer of ConnCan. "We're not getting the sort of bold change that is necessary to assure that our kids are being funded fairly and equitably."
Riccards said: "We all know that we need to fix the [education cost-sharing] formula. The formula does not work the way it is… If these interim recommendations are any indication, … if we are expecting real change and real improvement when it comes to school funding, it's going to have to fall on the governor and the legislature to do it."
Riccards said he is encouraged by three of the panel's recommendations: increasing access to early education; funding special needs students fairly; and funding performance incentives tied to priorities for student achievement and accountability.
Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, who is co-chairwoman of the task force, emphasized that the report is interim.
"These are not final recommendations," Stillman said. "We have a long way to go. It's reflective of just a very few months of work… I think everybody's got to just put this in perspective."
The task force started its work in August and has met 11 times. Its interim report was due this month, with a final report due in October.
Stillman said the report reflects the "consensus opinion of folks who serve on the committee."
She said it's "too soon" for the task force to have come up with proposals to fix the funding formula. "We've just put the very early pieces in place," she said. "This is not necessarily reflective of what the new policy recommendations could look like. It's just the work to date."
Benjamin Barnes, secretary of the Office of Policy and Management and the task force's co-chairman, said that the education funding formula is "a big complicated subject. … We've only begun to begin the process of coming to some conclusions. … We obviously haven't gotten to a final conclusion."
Barnes said the recommendations in the report reflect "the type of language you can come to a consensus on in a short period or time."
The effort was not "to immediately devolve into bickering about the issues," Barnes said. He said that "some of the battles one might expect to occur" haven't happened yet.
Asked if the governor's budget proposal will include reform of education cost sharing, Barnes said, "I expect we'll be doing something." But he added this won't "preclude us from taking further input from the task force in the future."
Among the task force's recommendations:
The task force supports efforts to increase education cost-sharing funding; to establish year-to-year predictability; and to collect and use the most recent and appropriate data to measure wealth, poverty, population and other formula factors.
In addition to base education cost-sharing money, the state should provide funding incentives tied to state priorities.
The state should provide greater access to and enhancement of pre-school and kindergarten programs.
The state should explore a fairer and more reasonable approach to funding programs and services for students with special educational needs.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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