Adopted 1990; amended and affirmed 2000.
The League of Women Voters of Connecticut believes that fairness or equity in education means more than the spending of equal dollars or the provision of identical programs for the education of each public school child in our state. The League therefore supports a system of public elementary and secondary education in Connecticut which will provide a suitable program of educational experiences for each child and which will make available to each community sufficient financial resources to support that level of educational services.
The League believes that the state has the responsibility to define broad goals for an educational program and to establish minimum required levels of student achievement. There should be significant local participation. School districts should be encouraged to exceed the standards where possible.
- The state should assure through state grants to communities that sufficient resources are available for the education of every child, regardless of where that child lives. The state should fund 50% of the statewide cost of K-12 public education. Every school district should receive a minimum per-pupil state aid.
- Because of the wide differences in local wealth, greater equality of educational opportunity will require a greater average state share of local school costs. This means a considerably higher state percentage of school costs in poorer communities and a lower percentage in wealthier ones. State aid to any city or town should be free to rise each year by as much as the Educational Cost Share (ECS) formula requires.
- In measuring the relative ability of different communities to finance schools from local resources and therefore the relative need of each for state financial assistance, the state should consider: a. the community's property wealth as defined by its Grand List per Pupil or preferably per capita, compared to that in other communities in the state; b. the income level of that community compared to that of other towns in the state; and c. other demands on local tax revenues, such as police, fire and social services.
- The state should recognize that spending equal dollars per child in the school assistance programs does not mean equal educational opportunity. Since certain children are more difficult to educate, it is more costly to educate them to a minimum achievement level. In determining the total amount of state assistance to a community, many factors should be considered. Among them: a. the number of poorer families, possibly those on Aid to Dependent Children (in view of welfare reform legislation, a more accurate measure of children in poverty, such as eligibility for free or reduced cost school lunch should be substituted for Temporary Family Assistance); b. the number of those failing state Mastery tests; c. the graduation rates or drop-out rates; d. the number of students not proficient in English; and e. the Excess Cost Grant, which reimburses the district for the cost of the most expensive special education students, should be set lower than five times the local per-pupil costs.
- In order to assure that increased state assistance for schools achieves an improvement in education, especially in poorer communities, the state should require a certain minimum expenditure per pupil for a community to be eligible for any state assistance for its schools. The state should also require that any increase in the school assistance be used for an equivalent rise in local school expenditures over that of previous years. The Minimum Expenditure Requirement (MER), the amount that a district is required to spend on education, should be equal to the Foundation times the number of Needs Students, as defined in the ECS formula.
- Local communities should retain control of instructional programs and spending allocations and there should be no cap on spending per pupil.
- If a substantial number of students in a district are failing to attain state-set achievement levels, the state should step in and work with the district to analyze the problem and to seek an improvement.
- The acute problem, particularly in cities, created by the concentration of children who for various reasons are more costly to educate, requires that the state adopt extraordinary measures directed at raising the levels of achievement in these communities.
- The programs and monies should, as much as possible, provide incentives for cities and towns to emphasize and execute effective educational programs.
- The cap on the ECS grant should be removed within two years as specified in the 1999 ECS legislation.
The Foundation, the basic element of the ECS formula, should be set in the state's biennial budget.