Asking for a fairer more equitable distribution of state educational dollars, State Rep. Pam Staneski has co-sponsored a bill to change the Education Cost Sharing grant formula, according to a press release she sent to the local media.
The legislation, SB 816, An Act Establishing a Minimum Level of Funding under the Education Cost Sharing Grant Formula, would require the state to fund every town’s ECS grant at least 50%.
Staneski, who submitted written testimony on the bill said, “I represent two towns, Milford and Orange, whose ECS funding is below the 50% threshold, and in fact, Orange is only funded at 23% of the full grant. As a prior Board of Education member, I was witness to the tough decisions we had to make in setting a budget that would balance educational needs — special education, Title I, ELL, free and reduced lunch, along with all programs for all students — with taxpayer’s ability to pay.”
The bill received a public hearing on April 2 in the Appropriations Committee with many local officials and state lawmakers testifying that the current formula needs to be fixed.
The basic Education Cost Sharing Formula (“ECS”) multiplies the number of students in each school district (weighted for educational need) by the amount the state has determined a district should spend to provide an adequate education (the “foundation”) and by an aid percentage determined by the district’s wealth. The result is the district’s ECS grant. The law then imposes minimum or base aid for all towns and adds supplements for such things as students attending regional school districts.
According to Staneski, the ECS formula has three main parts that are multiplied together:
The number of students each town is educating adjusted to compensate for educational and economic need;
A “foundation” amount representing the level of per-need-student spending that state aid helps towns achieve, which is, ideally, the amount necessary to provide an adequate education to each student; and
A base aid ratio representing the relationship between (a) each town’s wealth (measured by equalized grand list adjusted for income) and (b) a state guaranteed wealth level.
According to the Office of Legislative Research, the formula has rarely been fully funded in its 23-year history. Over the years there have been attempts to phase in full funding when state revenues were strong, but financial downturns and related budget issues have often led to interrupting the phase-in and freezing or reducing funding levels.
“We all recognize that the Education Cost Sharing Formula is flawed; however, the move to fund all grants to a 50% threshold is a start,” Staneski said.