Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will announce plans Wednesday morning to pump $50 million in new funds into education cost-sharing — the state’s main engine of funding for public education — and concentrating most of the new money in the 30 lowest-performing districts, a source briefed on the governor’s budget said.
Under Malloy’s plan, 130 towns and cities would see their education cost-sharing grants increase during the coming fiscal year, while 39 towns will see their grants from the state remain the same. No town will receive less aid in 2012-13 than it now receives.
The $50 million increase in education cost-sharing money for cities and towns is the largest chunk of the total $128 million in new education spending that the governor will propose Wednesday as part of his overall state budget plan.
Of that $128 million, 80 percent is targeted for low-achieving “priority” districts, the source said. Currently, 63 percent of the education-cost sharing money goes to those districts.
“The governor articulated a series of principles several months ago that the new aid we provide should be targeted to those districts and schools with the greatest challenge in the area of achievement,” the source said. “The principle goal is to address the achievement gap.”
At a news conference early Tuesday, Malloy declined to provide details of how his budget proposal Wedneday might address education cost-sharing.
Pressed by reporters, Malloy said: “This is a comprehensive package, which will begin the process of redirecting our assets to the 30 schools districts which on some measurement are underperforming. … We will begin the path of directing our assets more appropriately to those communities.”
The governor also will propose revising the long-controversial formula for education cost-sharing in an effort to more accurately reflect the demographics and need in each Connecticut community. Malloy also will call for the state to raise the amount budgeted per child in the formula from $9,867 to $12,000.
“It’s been a long time coming,” the source said. “Increasing the foundation level has been a big demand from a lot of towns and districts for many years.”
Malloy’s proposal also includes $4.5 million in competitive funds that would be available to all districts to try innovative programs to improve students’ performance and close the achievement gap.
The proposal also includes funding for charter schools as part of the education cost-sharing grant, rather than as a separate line item, as is now the case.
Heated Criticism & Worries About Change
The state’s education cost-sharing formula has long been the subject of heated criticism and debate as city and town leaders worried about how change might affect them.
Earlier this month, Bristol Superintendent Philip Streifer predicted that his city might come out a loser if the formula were rewritten.
But in Malloy’s proposal, Bristol, a priority school district, would do relatively well, with an increase in funding of almost 4 percent.
The revisions range from highs of an 11.53 percent increase in funding for Stamford, Malloy’s hometown, and a 7.42 percent increase for Danbury, to no increase in towns such as Avon, Farmington, Wilton and Weston.
Asked about the hefty percentage increase that would be projected for Stamford and Danbury, the source said, this is “because they have been so dramatically underfunded. … In percentage increase, it shows up as larger, but that’s largely a reflection of how small their grant is.”
There is a high level of student need in those cities, the source said, and many new immigrants. The formula “tends to drive aid toward districts that have high levels of student need.”
“I think Stamford and Danbury have been poorly served by the formula for a long time.”
Of the $50 million increase proposed for the education cost-sharing fund, $39.5 million — or 79 percent — is earmarked for the 30 priority districts if they meet certain conditions. Those districts include Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, New Britain, Meriden, Manchester and other urban areas.