The good news is that federal dollars are on the way. More than $ 1 billion arrives in Connecticut thanks to US bailout. This is an unprecedented investment in our schools that will go a long way in addressing student learning disruptions over the past year.
But we need to be clear on one thing. These federal dollars are temporary and will not solve the funding of schools in our state in the long term. Inequitable school funding plagued Connecticut long before the first positive COVID test.
As crucial as these dollars are in making up for lost time during the pandemic, they alone will not solve our state’s education funding problems. As 2020 report from the Center for Education Law points out, while Connecticut compares favorably with other states in terms of average spending per student and dollars allocated to pre-K-12th education as a percentage of our state’s economic capacity, we receive a rating failure when it comes to ensuring that extra dollars go to districts serving the poorest students.
And it’s not just students living in poverty that our state isn’t investing in. A recent analysis of the School and State Finances Project found a funding gap of $ 639 million between predominantly white districts and districts serving primarily students of color.
As a teacher at Hartford, these findings do not surprise me. But they are heartbreaking. In the richer neighborhoods, students have access to a lot of technologies and supports in the event of a pandemic, while in Hartford we don’t even have enough paper for the whole year. My students are brilliant and full of potential. It’s time for Connecticut to fund our schools so that every student – not just those in affluent neighborhoods – has the opportunity to succeed.
While the US bailout dollars are intended to help students recover from unfinished learning and the impacts on their social, emotional and mental health caused by the pandemic, we must focus on addressing the root causes that led the system to fail our most vulnerable students. .
Which brings me to more good news: This month, several important measures that make education funding in Connecticut more equitable were added to the next state budget. These changes will affect additional funding for schools serving English language learners and high concentrations of students from low income households.
In short, these measures offer a way to narrow the opportunity gap for Connecticut’s most disadvantaged students. Historically, districts with high poverty levels and high percentages of English language learners have spent less per student. These budget changes reduce this gap by flattening funding between advantaged and underprivileged communities.
This increase in funding is critical, especially to help students who were not physically present at school during much of the pandemic, losing access to essential services like speech therapy, speech therapy, and health services. special education and hot meals.
While these measures are not perfect, and much remains to be done to make the funding of Connecticut schools more equitable, they are a step in the right direction. Teachers and students will benefit enormously from full funding for education. Additional funding means more guidance counselors, more paraprofessionals, and smaller classes. With these changes in sight, we need lawmakers to make the only fair decision and ensure that these measures get passed in this budget.
We must also continue to fight for fiscal fairness – our students cannot afford to wait any longer to address the history of inequity in our schools. My fellow teachers and I will not give up until all schools are fully funded, because my students in Hartford and other students across the state finally deserve to receive their fair share.