A rallying cry for equitable education funding in Connecticut

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Teachers are used to making do. They make do with whatever resources are available. They make do with whatever they have just to make sure their students get by. They stretch their checks to supplement whatever their students can afford with whatever they can afford.

These experiences aren’t dissimilar to my 11 years in the classroom in New Haven Public Schools where, if my students were under-prepared, lacking supplies, or just unable to shed their issues from home, I found myself making do with our given circumstances, because what else could I do?

Teachers take pride in this tradition of providing and supplementing for students where the district can’t, but it’s always done with a sense of sadness because they know their students’ access to achievement should not be tethered to their teachers’ ability to purchase supplies each week. But the need for funding reform goes well beyond classroom supplies.

E4E-Connecticut’s teacher members — who collectively decided to take on the issue of funding reform — are urging state leaders to give serious consideration to the fair and equitable appropriation to our neediest districts while supporting our wealthier districts through this transition, and place our state on the path to repairing this funding system that leaves too many low-income and disadvantaged communities behind.

The governor’s budget, as it relates to education, considers poverty, enrollment and a municipality’s ability to pay when distributing funds. We believe this is a much needed first step on the long path towards ensuring we are making good on our obligation to provide for our students, not just make do.

The state’s current system, which is convoluted and reliant on multiple, overlapping funding formulas,  does little to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity to succeed. Generations of students and families have felt the impact of this dysfunctional system and our state has an imperative to right the wrongs enacted overs decades.

Our membership of hundreds of current classroom teachers from districts across our state have long been frustrated, watching their students’ needs take a backseat to those of more affluent communities. We are ready for funding reform that makes it possible for every student, in every community — whether high, middle or working class — to succeed.  Our teachers believe that such a system must consolidate the existing funding formulas to provide a predictable funding stream for the communities in our state, especially those that need it most.

We support the governor’s rallying cry to ensure all our students are equitably educated; to increase state education grants in cities and towns with struggling schools; to create flexibility in the Minimum Budget Requirement, and to consider poverty, need, and enrollment in funding decisions with the goal of ensuring a student’s success isn’t dependent on their Zip Code.

Teachers take an immense amount of pride in helping their students make do. But we believe our students deserve more than an education that’ll do. We believe every student deserves an education that will set them up for success beyond their family’s income, beyond their race, beyond their teacher’s ability to supplement them, and beyond the classroom.

Our teachers, who are tired of just making do, are urging state leaders to consider every students’ needs in this budget and help ensure every classroom, in every corner of this great state, can rise together.

Justin Boucher, Ed.D, is the Executive Director of Educators for Excellence. 

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