The Norwalk Board of Education has been wrestling with budgets for years and the Education Cost Sharing Formula (ECS) has been a source of many frustrations.
The ECS formula for Connecticut equalizes state education funding to towns by taking into account a town's wealth and its ability to raise property taxes to pay for education. In 2011 Governor Dannel Malloy created the ECS task force to review the effectiveness of the ECS grant and develop ways to change how the money is divided among school districts. Superintendent Manual Rivera says Tuesday night the ECS formula disadvantages Norwalk because of its property wealth.
"Less than 10 percent, actually it's about seven percent of our revenue comes from the state, yet as a district, we are in a category or a classification of schools where there are students with comparable demographics and needs," said Rivera.
ECS has been an issue for many schools statewide, especially within the Norwalk public school system, which the District Performance Index ranks among the 30 lowest in the state. Norwalk's former mayor, Alex Knopp says the city has been looking for legislative action to change the formula for years.
"Soon after I became mayor I was contacted by one of the nation's leading finance education consultants, Dr. Diane DeVries by whether we would consider joining a different kind of lawsuit, one that did not seek to fund a defective formula, but which sought to change the formula that would be an effective one, that would guarantee under our state constitution, an adequate education for each student."
Dianne DeVries from the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) spoke on the coalition's ongoing efforts to advocate adequate and equitable state aid for schools across the state regardless of geography and socioeconomic status.
"This notion that lay people can devise complex systems like this is [ludicrous]," said DeVries. "That's why the schools' finances are in such bad shape across the nation. You can't politically appoint a group and say, you go write the formula."
CCJEF is looking to see immediate action in July when the case is scheduled for trial at Hartford Superior court.