ctnewsjunkie file photo
Former Sen. John McKinney (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — A new nonprofit organization is trying in a bipartisan manner with “out of the box voices” to convey the urgency of coming up with a formula for how the state funds education.

“There’s an opportunity here in terms of interest,” Amy Dowell, executive director of Fix the Formula CT, the new nonprofit, said Monday.

She said there’s a tremendous amount of attention focused on the issue at the moment mostly due to a recent court decision in a decades old lawsuit that found Connecticut is “defaulting on its constitutional duty” to provide an adequate education to all its students.

With the help of former Rep. Bill Dyson, a Democrat from New Haven, and former Sen. John McKinney, a Republican from Fairfield, Dowell said the nonprofit is building a diverse coalition of Connecticut leaders to advocate in favor of a single, inclusive funding formula that provides state funding based on precise student need.

“Education is economic development. Our schools create the skilled and prepared workers of tomorrow, which is essential for keeping jobs in Connecticut and attracting new businesses to the state,” Dyson and McKinney said in a joint statement. “Moreover, the state’s budgetary climate requires a funding system that helps not hurts the state.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has proposed changes to the funding formula as part of his two-year budget proposal. The changes are based on enrollment and a different measure of poverty. However, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, the plaintiff in the landmark education adequacy lawsuit, said recently that adding or subtracting from the current formula doesn’t help resolve the problem.

The group is instead asking lawmakers to start from scratch rebuilding a formula based on student needs.

Eric Chung, a Yale Law School student representing the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, said the state should undertake an “education adequacy cost study” to find out what measures are need to ensure every child in the state receives an equal educational opportunity.

He said cost studies have been done in over 30 states and it’s necessary for Connecticut to do a study before making any more changes to the current formula.

The study would cost about $250,000 and would take a year to complete.

But Fix the Formula CT doesn’t believe a cost study is necessary.

“The time for action in the legislature is now on a new funding formula,” Dowell said. ” There is sufficient data already to determine a base amount and we know by comparison what other states provide that are seeing results. We don’t need to hold up resources for kids in need now for a study and delay yet another year.”

Fix the Formula CT is proposing implementing a formula that includes 1) Core Student Funding: a base instructional amount for all students; 2) Student-Weighted Supplemental Funding: additional funding for students who require greater resources to learn and thrive in school, including students living in poverty, English Language Learners, special education students and gifted and talented students; 3) Equitable Division of Local-State Funding: a reasonable division of education costs between local and state resources based on a community’s ability to fund its schools; and 4) Effective and Timely Implementation: a commitment to fully funding a single formula and an implementation schedule to grant this funding.

Currently, the amount of funding a municipality receives to educate a child varies widely and in recent years the distribution has not been based on a formula, according to Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s decision.

Meg Green, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said they believe the time is now to take action on a fair funding formula for education.

“For decades, we have not properly supported pockets of poverty in our cities and small towns,” Green said. “The Governor’s proposal seeks to rectify that situation by creating a formula that is more predictable, transparent, and fair – including a better measure of student poverty and current enrollment to recognize shifting demographics in our communities. We are steadfast in our commitment to improve outcomes for all students and look forward to continuing the dialogue this legislative session.”