Senator Boucher calls Malloy education cuts “a slap in the face of our communities”

April 14, 2016

Malloy Proposes Deep Cuts in School Funding, With 28 Districts Losing All Money

HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal this week to eliminate education cost-sharing grants for 28 of the state’s wealthiest school districts and to reduce funding significantly for many others was intensely criticized Wednesday by some school officials and key legislators.
Malloy’s plan calls for protecting the education funds in the state’s 30 lowest-performing school districts.

“To take a district like mine … and completely eliminate the funding is entirely irresponsible,” Madison Superintendent Thomas Scarice said. The district stands to lose $1.57 million.

Taken together with the state’s “countless unfunded mandates” for districts, Scarice said, Malloy’s proposal is “nothing less than unspeakable.”
The slashing of education funding was part of a revised budget proposal from Malloy in an effort to close a $922 million deficit projected for the next fiscal year.

Rep. Andy Fleischmann, D-West Hartford and co-chairman of the legislature’s education committee, said Malloy’s plan for education funding is “not bold or smart” and is a proposal “that no one would ever vote for.”

Devon Puglia, a spokesman for the governor, explained the proposed cut in education cost-sharing funding, saying, “The bottom line is that, in a new economic reality, we have to make difficult decisions and important structural changes.

“This is just that – with fewer resources at hand, the governor believes that education funding needs to be equitable. We need to provide support to schools and districts that need it most. Taking the same percentage of cuts in towns with wildly varying mill rates and tax bases just doesn’t make sense in our new economic reality.”

The governor’s proposed budget for education cost-sharing is $64.8 million less than the amount originally planned for fiscal year 2017.
Malloy is also seeking a $2 million cut in funds for charter schools; $6 million for troubled priority school districts; and $4.4 million in early childhood programs.

Fleischmann called the cuts in programs affecting low-performing districts “penny-wise and pound foolish.”
Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said Malloy’s proposal has been met with “complete outrage and disbelief” from the towns she represents in Fairfield County. Malloy is proposing elimination of funding for many of the towns in Fairfield and Litchfield counties, as well as in several districts along the eastern shoreline.

“This is really a slap in the face of our communities,” Boucher said. “They are penalizing towns that have worked hard to be fiscally responsible, while the state continues to be fiscally irresponsible.”

She said she’s hearing an outcry for the elimination of unfunded mandates if the education funding is pulled.

Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said, “We are really disappointed in this proposal. Up to this point, all we’ve heard from the governor’s office is that they are going to protect education cost sharing money. Now that is going down the drain. That’s disappointing.”

Across the state, some school district and municipal leaders said that if Malloy’s proposal goes forward, it would detract from the quality of education. Also, several town leaders complained that they would have to go back to the drawing board on budget proposals that were ready to go out for a town vote.

Nina Daniel, first selectwoman of Weston, said she attended an emergency meeting Wednesday to decide how to deal with Malloy’s proposed elimination of almost $1 million in education aid for that town.

“I think this is a devastating blow to towns, coming in an untimely fashion, after their budgets have been prepared,” Daniel said. “I think it’s unwise to penalize well-performing schools.”

In Simsbury, the governor is recommending a reduction of $760,388 that would bring the town’s allotment down to $5.5 million. First Selectwoman Lisa Heavner said officials are closely monitoring the situation.

“The word of the day is frustration,” she said. “From a municipal perspective, it’s extremely disappointing to see these changes made after almost all municipalities have completed the budget process.”

In West Hartford, Malloy is proposing a $3.1 million reduction, bringing the grant down to $18.3 million.

Under the town’s charter, a budget must be adopted by April 25, and Town Manager Ron Van Winkle said he may have to guess how much funding the town will receive.

“We are going to take a jump on the 25th and make some judgments as to what we might expect,” he said. “We will probably take a conservative jump.”

Elliott Landon, Westport superintendent of schools, said he is “sympathetic” to the 30 low-performing districts that were not cut. His district would lose almost $2 million under Malloy’s plan.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Landon said of the elimination of funding for Westport. “But on the other hand I understand the terrible impact [any cuts] would have on the urban districts … I think the urban districts need what they are entitled to under the formula.”

But Landon too said he’d like to see unfunded mandates cut if the funding is eliminated.

Courant staff writers Ken Byron, Peter Marteka, Jodan Otero and Kristin Stoller contributed to this story.