As part of the ambitious educational reform proposal Wednesday, a $50 million increase in the state's Education Cost Sharing grant would result in a $1.34 million funding increase to the Manchester Public Schools. But town officials stressed this week that the governor's proposal was just that at this point - just a proposal - and that the funding was contingent on public school districts implementing what Malloy has termed "meaningful reforms."
Malloy's proposal, which he outlined at the State Capitol Wednesday, would funnel an additional $50 million to Connecticut's public schools through the Education Cost Sharing grant, the largest source of state funds for most public schools. About $40 million of that funding would be earmarked for 30 schools that comprise the newly formed Alliance District - basically the state's 30 lowest performing school districts, of which Manchester is one - while an additional $4.5 million in funding would be reserved for those districts that "enable even more ambitious innovations and deeper reforms," Malloy said in a statement announcing the news.
“It is critical that we get to the schools that are really struggling - and do it quickly,” Malloy said in a statement released Wednesday outlining his proposal. “We can get good teachers into classrooms, and hire the best superintendents and administrators, but we must address the overarching resources issue and fund the programs that will directly reach the kids who are at a disadvantage because their school is underperforming. We have held towns harmless, no one is losing ECS funding - which sends a clear signal to our children that we will make the investment and deliver on our promise of high-quality education for every student in Connecticut.”
In Manchester, that potential increase would amount to an increase of $1,343,579, or 4.39 percent, in ECS funding, or an increase of $179 per pupil (the full chart of Malloy's proposal is attached as a PDF to this article).
But in order to qualify for the funding increase, however, public school districts must implement some form of "reform strategies" outlined by Malloy. Those reforms, according to Malloy's office, could include:
- Tiered district interventions for schools based on school-level student performance.
- Additional learning time including extended the school day and year programming.
- The implementation of career ladders for school personnel.
- A professional development system informed by educator evaluations.
- Plans to ensure K-3 reading mastery.
- Coordination of early childhood education services.
- The establishment of a community schools approach by establishing wraparound services for students with linkages to health and social service providers.
- And other strategies as determined by State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.
Interim Manchester Superintendent Richard Kisiel told Patch Wednesday that he did not know enough about Malloy's proposal to comfortably comment, but said while the increase in ECS funding would be a boon to the school district, he had concerns with another aspect of the governor's proposal that would require public schools to pay $1,000 for each pupil from the district who attends a charter school. Currently, Kisiel said, Manchester only pays for students who attend the Capital Region Education Council's charter schools.
"You get a little, you take a little," Kisiel said.
Board of Education Chairman Chris Pattacini said that he was confident that the school district could put together some sort of reform plan that would qualify for the ECS increase by next year, but that he wanted to see any such plan focus on improving the quality of education in Manchester's public schools, not just meeting mandated criteria.
"I think that plan is going to need to talk about how we can improve the quality of education in Manchester," Pattacini said.
General Manager Scott Shanley said he was "cautiously optimistic" by Malloy's proposal to increase ECS funding, because while such an increase would theoretically reduce the amount of the school system's budget the town would need to fund, it was only a small part of what would make up the governor's total budget proposal for the state.
"In the past, increases in ECS funding have been offset with decreases in other areas of funding at the state level," Shanley said.
Or, as Pattacini noted, "the money isn't guaranteed."
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