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Governor’s Budget Continues to Disappoint

Governor M. Jodi Rell talked much about the economy and job creation in her annual State of the State today, but offered few specifics. Public education, a critical element in putting the state’s economy on a strong footing, got short shrift.

For the second year in a row, the governor proposed eliminating a highly visible, research-based school reform model for improving urban public schools (CommPACT Schools). While not providing even one dollar more in state education aid for municipalities, the governor’s budget adds $5 million more in funding for charter schools and $25 million more for magnet schools.

“We are dumbfounded that the governor has turned her back on the CommPACT Schools initiative,” says CEA President Phil Apruzzese. “Stakeholders from superintendents to parents, schools administrators, and teachers came together to support this effort to close the achievement gap in Connecticut schools. Our effort has received national attention. If Governor Rell gets her way, years of work will be placed in jeopardy.”

In distinguishing between CommPACT Schools and charter schools, Apruzzese went on to say that “the CommPACT Schools initiative seeks to turn around schools that are having difficulty. It works with existing teachers and administrators in a structured process of change. Charter schools, on the other hand, always have to start with a new group of students, a new faculty, and a new administration.”

Adds Apruzzese, “The real challenge we face in closing the achievement gap is to improve results in schools where there are problems. If we don’t attempt to do that, we’re not being serious. The governor’s failure to fund this effort makes no sense.”
The CommPACT Schools initiative – which was launched in 2008 – has attracted corporate and foundation financial support from AT&T, Balfour, the NEA Foundation, and others that will disappear if the governor’s proposed budget cut is adopted or public support is reduced.

Another major disappointment in the governor’s budget is that it maintains the same level of funding for the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant in fiscal year 2010-2011 as in FY 2009-2010. State aid for this education grant was reduced by 14 percent in last year’s budget and backfilled with federal stimulus dollars.

Says Apruzzese, “The governor is continuing the troubling budget sleight of hand that she started last year with the short-term federal stimulus money. She is setting local schools up for a whopping $270 million hole in ECS funding when the federal funds dry up in 2011.”

In addition, holding ECS grants to last year’s level does not even allow local school districts to deal with even moderate inflation without having to raise local revenues or cut expenditures. The governor has continued her pattern of gradually reducing state support for local public education.

“It’s troubling,” says Apruzzese. “The effects are likely to be the continued elimination of teaching positions, reduction in education resources, and the end of programs that serve Connecticut students. Where does it stop?”

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