It's time for ECS to do it's job

In all great works of fiction, the cavalry usually arrives just when the good guys need them most. However, in real life, that's not always the case.

Take Connecticut's Educational Cost Sharing Grants program, for instance. First enacted in 1988 to replace two other state educational cost sharing programs, the Guaranteed Tax Base Formula and the Education Enhancement Acts Grant program, ECS grants were heralded as being the most logical way to aid towns and cities across Connecticut in their quest for relief from rising education costs.

How much money a year ECS would provide to a certain town or city rested on several factors alone, such as a town's relative wealth, how mastery test scores related to a town's impoverished population, and rate of improvement on mastery test scores just to name a few. All this was to be phased in over a four-year period, with the full impact of ECS occurring in fiscal year 1993-1994.

But it was not to be. With good intentions or not, the Connecticut General Assembly voted to reduce state aid to Connecticut's towns and cities based on among other things, by how much towns benefited under previous state education funding programs, such as the Guaranteed Tax Base formula. Later, a five percent cap was instituted, which has proven to be the most painful. The five percent cap factor basically says that the state cannot increase its Educational Cost Sharing funding to a particular town by no more than five percent of the previous year's amount.

Ouch. With the majority of proposed budgets increase going towards just maintaining the status quo in a proposed budget, we're not sure Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge taxpayer's can take much more of this. Though it's understood that the state is due to remove this cap and other limitations applied to the ECS formula in recent years by fiscal year 2003-04, we say why wait.

Four years equates to an entire generation of high school students, where the Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge communities are having difficulty due to overcrowding right now.

If the six percent cap as well as other factors were lifted now, Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge would be getting more than enough to secure the additional teachers needed to ease overcrowding as well as deal with the spiraling insurance and special education costs that are currently taxing the school system and taxpayers alike, and will continue to.

It would probably mean also that the mill rate due to go up to if the budgets are passed in their entirety, would go down dramatically. Though some of you may think that this is all idle thinking right now, being that fiscal year 2003-04 is still a long ways off, we can still hope that the cavalry will come sooner instead of later Even now, it's getting too painful to just sit and wait.