With a large-scale deficit solved for the better part of the next two years, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he will focus his time and energy toward reforming the state’s Education Cost Sharing formula.

On Monday, he took steps to do just that by finalizing his appointments to a newly formed task force to review how the state funds education and develop recommendations for how the state divides its funding amongst school districts.

“It is our responsibility to routinely review the distribution of education grants to municipalities to ensure that communities are receiving a fair share of dollars under grant distribution rules, especially in light of constitutional requirements,“ said Malloy. “Unfortunately, it has been quite a while since the state last had a thorough review of this system.“

“We must ensure this formula focuses on improving educational outcomes for all of our students, regardless in which city or town they live,” Malloy added.

In addition to focusing on the ECS formula, the group will also consider state grants to interdistrict magnet schools and regional agricultural science and technology centers as well as special education costs for the state and municipalities. The recommendations are due by Jan. 2, 2012 and its final report by Oct. 1, 2012.

The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), an advocacy organization for educational reform, said they’ll believe it when they see it.

“Despite years of study by previous governors, Blue Ribbon Commissions, and independent organizations – all of which concluded that our current funding system is broken – no solution has been enacted,” ConnCAN said in a press release.

It said Malloy has admitted the ECS formula is broken, but nothing was done during the 2011 legislative session to fix it, even though at least one proposal was put forth.

ConnCAN advocated for a money follows the child  type of school funding reform, but the Appropriations Committee, not the Education Committee was the only legislative committee to even hold a hearing on the issue.

“We hope this task force will be able to break from Connecticut’s long tradition of studying school finance and doing nothing by developing a concrete and actionable solution that is centered on students and their learning needs – and that is ready to be enacted in the coming legislative session,” said Alex Johnston, ConnCAN’s CEO. “As towns across Connecticut face massive budget challenges and we are all being asked to do more with less, there has never been a better time to rethink the way we spend our education dollars.” 

But the money follows the child model of school funding isn’t supported by everyone.

Officials from the Connecticut Education Association and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities say it will inevitably create winners and losers when it comes to local schools and how they’re funded.

Jim Finley, executive director of CCM said in March that money follows the child legislation favors about 8 percent of the charter and magnet school students in the state when 92 percent of students are educated in the public school system. He said the current formula is already underfunded by $700 million and he would rather wait for Malloy’s task force to study the issue than move forward with this legislation.

Ray Rossomando, the Connecticut Education Association‘s legislative liaison, said the group pushing this legislation is a charter school advocacy group which has pushed similar legislation in other states. He said the formula the bill creates “changes who the winners and losers would be.”

“Where is the extra money going to come from,” he said. “If we you have money to put into the system then you have an ECS formula that already works.”

To complicate matters further the state’s funding formula is already being challenged in court. The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding sued the state back in 2005 alleging that under the state’s Constitution not only are students entitled to a public education but they are entitled to one that works, one that assures them at minimum an adequate education. The court agreed in a 4-3 decision in 2010, which sent the case back to the trial court.

Dianne Kaplan deVries, director of the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding has said for the past 20 years the legislature has been tinkering with the ECS formula and it hasn’t worked. She said everyone recognizes the funding stream is completely broken and the state needs to hire some outside experts to create a formula that’s fully funded and fully implemented.

“The solution is not going to be homegrown,” deVries said in February.

The 12 member task force appointed by both the governor and the legislature will have to hope deVries is not right.

Governor’s selection: Benjamin Barnes (Co-Chair) – Secretary, Office of Policy and Management

·Governor’s selection: Dudley Williams – Director of District Education Strategy, GE Asset Management, former Assistant to the Commissioner, Department of Education

·Governor’s selection: Portia Bonner, Ph.D. – Educational Consultant, Wolcott Public Schools, former Superintendent of Schools, City of New Bedford, Massachusetts

·Governor’s selection: Theodore Sergi, Ph.D. – Former Commissioner, Department of Education

·Governor’s selection: Dr. Elsa Núñez – President, Eastern Connecticut State University

·Governor’s selection: Len Miller – Certified Public Accountant, Co-founder of the Fairfield County Collaborative Alliance, Treasurer of Kids in Crisis, former Chair of Stamford Achieves

· President Pro Tempore’s selection: Senator Andrea Stillman (Co-Chair) – Co-Chair, Education Committee

·Senate Majority Leader’s selection: Senator Toni Harp – Co-Chair, Appropriations Committee

· House Speaker’s selection: Mark Benigni – Superintendent of Schools, City of Meriden

·House Majority Leader’s selection: Mary Loftus-Levine – Executive Director, Connecticut Education Association

· Senate Minority Leader’s selection: William Davenport – Agriscience teacher, Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, Director of the Ellis Clark Regional Agriscience & Technology Program

·House Minority Leader’s selection: Representative Michael Molgano – Member, Education and Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committees