On June 3 the Connecticut General Assembly will close the legislative session and hanging in the balance is $5 million in much-needed funding for the Bridgeport public schools.
The Superintendent of Schools for the City of Bridgeport has stated that she needs the $5 million in order to avoid making drastic cuts to the budget. Right now, Bridgeport is poised to not receive the much needed funds because the state is proposing to flat fund the district and as a result school administrators will have to cut things like guidance counselors, school building repairs, paraprofessionals and other essential functions.
The state of Connecticut has been underfunding its education cost-sharing grants for many years — it’s been the subject of debate from many angles. But there’s a glaring inequity that needs to be addressed. Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven each receive hundreds of millions in support through ECS, but recently the state has been spending far more in Hartford and New Haven on a per pupil basis than in Bridgeport. This needs to be addressed.
Not funding the Bridgeport schools adequately is an injustice to the district’s nearly 22,000 students and their families. Once again, Bridgeport kids are expected to run the race of life barefoot!
The problem of poor funding for Bridgeport schools is well documented. In fact, as far back as 2005 a study showed that the state of Connecticut has not adequately funded the Bridgeport public schools.
Among the key findings in the 2005 study was the identification of a series of extra costs associated with operating urban districts in Connecticut. They deemed it so important that they created a separate category called an “urban factor” as an added cost adjustment.
More recently, the state commissioned a task force to examine the state’s funding of public schools and they essentially concluded in their final report that school districts like Bridgeport are significantly underfunded.
Among the key recommendations, the task force concluded that a new measure of student need should be determined by using the number of children who qualify for free and reduced price lunches and increasing the current target allocation amount by four percentage points for districts like Bridgeport.
Need more proof that Bridgeport schools are underfunded?
According to data obtained from the state Department of Education’s Bureau of Grants Management website, Bridgeport’s school budget is significantly lower than the budgets in Hartford and New Haven.
In 2013-14, Hartford’s total budget was more than $400 million and New Haven’s total budget was more than $329 million. Bridgeport total budget? A mere $287 million. That’s a difference of between $42 million and $113 million! Bridgeport’s school budget is significantly lower than Hartford’s and New Haven’s despite the fact that all three face similar challenges educating children. In fact, Bridgeport is the second largest school district with 21,008 students compared to 21,786 for Hartford and 18,875 in New Haven, respectively.
Again, according to the state Department of Education’s Bureau of Grants Management website, Bridgeport receives less per pupil funding from state and federal sources when compared to Hartford and New Haven. In 2013-14, state and federal sources accounted for $14,190 per pupil in Hartford, $12,499 in New Haven, and only $11,141 in Bridgeport.
But the picture even gets worse at the local level.
To add insult to injury, the City of Bridgeport spends less per student than both Hartford and New Haven. The state Department of Education’s Bureau of Grants Management website shows that in 2013-14, Hartford spent $18,721 per pupil, New Haven spent $17,052 per pupil, and Bridgeport spent $13,891 per pupil.
Compounding the negative effects of inadequate funding even more, compared to Hartford and New Haven, Bridgeport has received the least amount of local funding for more than 10 years!
This is simply unacceptable. How can we expect Bridgeport kids to learn if we are not providing them with the resources needed to be successful?
Give the children of Bridgeport a fighting chance to succeed!
Restore the $5 million the schools desperately need. It’s the right thing to do and long overdue.
Jorge Cabrera is a Bridgeport public school graduate and public commentator. He can be reached by .
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