Small School Districts Unfairly Targeted in Education Reform Bill

February 27, 2012

Hartford, CT – Sen. Tony Guglielmo (R-Stafford), is troubled by a little known section of the Governor’s education reform bill that will hurt many small districts throughout the state, including Hampton, Chaplin, Union, Eastford, Pomfret, Ashford and Willington.

SB 24, Section 11 – Small District Consolidation would penalize small school districts serving 1000 students or less. These districts will have state education grants withheld if they spend more per-pupil than the state average.

“Many of my small school districts are at risk for this penalty,” said Sen. Guglielmo. “Our small towns will either lose state grants, cut the per-pupil costs to below the state average or be forced to regionalize. Our school budgets are decided on at the local level. A small town should not be penalized by the state because of its size. Regionalization of our schools is a choice, and a vote, each town should make with out the state forcing their hand.”

The penalty in the bill is $1000 per student multiplied by the “small district reduction percentage,” which is 10% the first year, and an additional 10% each additional year, up to 50% in the 5th year.

For example: District X has 500 students, and is in their 5th year of spending more than the state average, the state will assess the district $250,000 in total education grants (not just ECS).

There are currently 43 school districts that could be affected by this section, and with declining enrollments throughout the state, many districts could be added by the 2015 effective date.

At the Education Committee hearing on Wednesday, Allan Platt, First Selectman from the town of Eastford testified, “Citizens agreed that it is the small school, small class size, attention from teachers and administrators and regular interaction with parents that has made Eastford students successful. Parents expressed concerns about the potential loss of control and oversight and potential decrease in the quality of education that could result from a regionalized school. Bigger is not always better.”

Eastford leaders are also concerned about the potential for increased transportation costs and young children being on the bus for an extended amount of time.

“This section of the Education Reform bill is literally a one size fits all approach -one that threatens a way of life and erodes the concept of local control of education,” said Sen. Guglielmo. “I am hopeful we can correct this language to incentivize and not penalize districts to regionalize – if it makes sense to the district.”