Today, Governor Lamont proposed his first biennial budget for FY20-21. Designed with structural changes to position the state for long-term growth, it largely preserves existing funding for public education. Here are 5 quick takeaways on education in CT.
(1) Formula Education Grants
Governor Lamont proposed funding the ECS grant at the statutorily required amount. The state’s neediest districts will receive their scheduled increases. And, after much hard work, the poverty measure included in the formula will be HUSKY A data, which is far more accurate and reliable than the long-used Free and Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL) factor.
(2) Shared Services for Education
To complement the ongoing discussion about reducing costs for school districts, the Governor’s budget encourages school districts to pool resources, and to share superintendents and back-office functions with the carrot of priority for new bonding. In addition, the budget proposes $500,000 for three new employees within the State Department of Education, dedicated to providing technical assistance to expand shared services for interested school districts. We also expect the Administration to propose a new Commission on Shared School Services.
(3) Minority Teacher Recruitment (MTR)
During his budget address, Governor Lamont committed to recruiting more teachers to Connecticut’s most challenging school districts, specifically teachers of color and male teachers. The budget maintains existing funding for MTR programs, but does not add any additional funding. It does provide a new authorization to the CT Housing Finance Authority to provide down payment assistance for teachers. More detail to come.
(4) Teacher Pensions
The State of Connecticut has always been responsible for the employer contribution to teacher pensions. But Governor Lamont’s budget proposes sharing the cost of funding current teacher pension benefits with municipalities over a three year phase-in. According to his proposal, municipalities will contribute a minimum of 25% of their normal cost towards teacher pension benefits. Distressed municipalities like Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, New Britain, and Waterbury will be required to pay 5% instead. If a community pays its teachers beyond the median state salary, an additional percentage will be added to the base 25% contribution. The total estimated contributions from municipalities towards teacher pensions is $23.8 million in FY 2020 and $49.2 million in FY 2021. So, a town like Greenwich, which pays its teachers far above the median, would pay in more to teacher pensions than a community like Coventry.
(5) Higher Education Funding
Despite the large deficit facing the state, funding for both the University of Connecticut and the CT State College & Universities were maintained. Although, bond authorizations for each system will be reduced and re-prioritized within Governor Lamont’s planned “Debt Diet”.