Group Seeks To Avert State Education Spending Cuts
December 02, 2008
Fearful that a potential $237 million rollback in school aid could crush municipal budgets, a lobbying organization for Connecticut's towns and cities is campaigning to head off the cuts.
"We have to draw a line in the sand on funding for education," said James J. Finley Jr., executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. "Those cuts would be a disaster at the local level and a disaster for students."
Two days before the state education board is scheduled to take a key vote on next year's budget, CCM on Monday issued a plea to board members to resist proposing cutbacks.
"When you cut spending and it affects a year of a child's education, you can't get that year back," Finley said.
CCM leaders plan to make their pitch in person Wednesday morning, when the state school board meets in Hartford to recommend a budget for 2009-2010. CCM will also ask the General Assembly to impose no new mandates on local school systems next year.
Representatives from the state teachers' union, a superintendents' organization and a group of local school boards are also expected to ask the state board to reject any cuts to local school aid.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell has asked all state agencies to identify ways to cut spending by 10 percent next year, and state Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan has warned that that reduction would cut education aid to municipalities by 6 to 12 percent. About 90 percent of state education spending is in grants passed along to municipal school systems, so any large-scale budget cut would inevitably reduce local aid.
Large and mid-size cities, along with the poorer small towns, are especially dependent on grants from the state, and stand to lose the most if the Education Cost Sharing money is cut across the board. Connecticut's four biggest cities — Hartford, Waterbury, Bridgeport and New Haven — took in nearly $600 million in ECS payments this year.
The state school board's spending recommendation will go to Rell, who can amend it as she wants before presenting her state budget proposal to the General Assembly in February.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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