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Battle Gears Up Over School Aid

By Don Stacom

January 18, 2012

If lawmakers tweak the formula for divvying up education aid, Connecticut's communities could all agree on a guiding principle: None wants to lose anything.

A lobbying organization for municipalities announced Tuesday that it will press the General Assembly to protect against any changes in aid distribution that hurt individual towns or cities.

At the same time, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities wants the state to carry a much bigger share of the cost for special education. And eventually, it wants the state to boost school funding by $800 million a year to relieve the tax burden on local property owners.

"You can't do education reform on the cheap," said Jim Finley, president of CCM.

Legislators this year will consider adjusting the politically charged Education Cost Sharing formula. Mid-sized cities, suburbs and rural towns all fear losing out as the state tries to steer more help to the desperately under-performing schools of its biggest cities.

They worry the state won't pump any additional funds into education grants, but instead will send a bigger percentage of money to its poorest cities, leaving all other communities to fight for a share of what's left over.

In a press conference at the Capitol, Finley said CCM will press lawmakers to maintain Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's promise not to worsen the fiscal pressure on towns and cities. Cutting state school aid would force an increase in local property taxes or severe cuts in municipal services, Finley and Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman said.

Poor school systems like Hartford and Bridgeport should get more state aid, but not at the expense of other communities, Finley said. In addition, CCM will ask the state to be more generous with special education funds. Most communities can spend tens of thousands of dollars on an individual special education student without getting any state help.

Glassman and Finley conceded that Connecticut's weak economy and tight budget will prevent any large-scale increase in school aid. But they said the state needs to begin carrying more of the burden.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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