When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy released his budget a week ago he promised no municipality would receive less education funding than it received last year, but House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said Tuesday that the governor cut $72,000 from his city’s education grant.
Cafero alleges that by eliminating the funding Malloy failed to keep his promise.
“This is not a good start down the road to bipartisanship,” Cafero said.
Norwalk receives an additional $577,000 in education funding under Malloy’s budget, but the budget also eliminates language added back in 2007 that provides an additional $650,000 in funding. The elimination of the language creates a $72,000 deficit.
Cafero said when the additional funding was added—to account for the discrepancies created by the formula—everyone including the co-chairs of the Education and Appropriations Committees and Democratic leadership were in the room and approved of it.
Malloy’s Senior Communications Adviser Roy Occhiogrosso dismissed Cafero’s accusation that the governor failed to keep his promise to make sure not one town would receive less funding than it did last year.
Malloy’s budget adds $50 million to the Education Cost Sharing formula. Under the plan 130 municipalities will see their ECS grants increase, while 39 towns will see theirs remain the same.
“The Governor kept his word; not one town – including Norwalk – will lose ECS funding next year,” Occhiogrosso said. “And the districts where kids need the most help, including Norwalk, will see more funding.“
Occhiogrosso said the provision eliminated from the budget “came about as part of a back room budget deal he cut with Gov. Rell.“
Cafero said it wasn’t done in any back room and everyone, including the Democrats, acknowledged the discrepancies in funding created by the ECS formula. He said Norwalk is treated far differently than any other municipality, including similar ones with fewer students.
He said he doesn’t understand why West Hartford with 1,000 fewer students than Norwalk receives $16 million in funding when Norwalk receives more than $10 million.
He said Norwalk isn’t an affluent suburb like West Hartford, it’s a suburb with pockets of poverty and pockets of wealth. But under the funding formula, he said it’s considered so wealthy it wouldn’t receive any priority school district dollars if this provision wasn’t included in the budget for the past five years.
Occhiogrosso wondered what Cafero promised in return for the additional funding when he cut the deal five years ago.
“Roy’s rush to defend the governor and point a finger proves it was intentional,” Cafero said. “He just confirmed he took away funding from Norwalk.”
The legislation in 2007 never mentioned anything about the City of Norwalk, it simply said, “ the State Board of Education shall allocate six hundred fifty thousand dollars to the town ranked sixth when all towns are ranked from highest to lowest in population, based on the most recent federal decennial census.”
The town ranked sixth is the City of Norwalk.
Some in the legislature have referred to the Norwalk schools funding provision as a “rat.” At the Capitol, a rat is language put into legislation to help one person, town, or special interest group.
Cafero scoffed at the implication. He said the funding formula is unfair and it was added in order to compensate for the fact that the ECS formula is broken and has been for several years. He said he thought the legislature and governor would attempt to fix it this year, but instead they’re just throwing more money at it.
Cafero and the rest of the Norwalk delegation, including Rep. Terrie Woods, R-Darien, and Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, will work with lawmakers to try and correct what they believe was an error on the part of Malloy.