Schools push state for more money, but options are limited

Teachers in #RedForEd shirts launched a major pressure campaign for more state funding, but extra money may be hard to find this year – in spite of a record budget surplus.

John Craven

Apr 27, 2023, 9:29 PM

Updated 397 days ago

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The state Capitol complex looked like the Red Sea on Thursday. Teachers in #RedForEd shirts launched a major pressure campaign for more state funding, but extra money may be hard to find this year – in spite of a record budget surplus.
SCHOOLS STRUGGLING
Facing a big jump in inflation, school districts like Stratford and Milford are facing tight budgets – and potential layoffs.
“Dozens,” said Stratford Education Association president Mike Fiorello on April 19. “We're talking about more than 20.”
NEW FUNDING PUSH
Stratford Mayor Laura Hoydick, a former Republican legislator, was among those lobbying in Hartford. She’s helping the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities launch an ad campaign urging lawmakers to accelerate a new school funding formula that evens out funding between rich and poor school districts.
“We need to do this for our kids,” said Hoydick. “No one doesn't want to fund education. Education is a priority.”
The campaign will air on television and social media for the next month.
HIGH PRICE TAG
The extra funding amounts to $300 million over the next two years – a hefty price tag when lawmakers also want to pass historic tax cuts. House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) suggested using surplus sales tax money.
“The sales tax – it's only so high because of inflation,” said Ritter. “So if you're looking for a nexus between inflation and giving money back to working families and entities and institutions negatively impacted by inflation, the sales tax – on this one-year basis – makes a lot of sense.”
Gov. Ned Lamont could object to such a move. Last week, he warned legislators not to bypass the state’s spending cap by moving some expenses off-budget.
“Don’t play games,” he said.
The legislature’s Appropriations Committee proposed a budget with about $150 million more for schools, but it also scales back some of the governor’s tax relief.
Local schools are also competing against underfunded nonprofits and higher education for money. If colleges don't get it, they're warning of steep tuition hikes.
“Students will get far less, and they will pay much more,” said Terrence Cheng, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, which operates all public colleges except for UConn.
The top Republican in the Connecticut House said something has to give.
“All they have ever asked for is more and more money, and eventually that pot of gold is going to run out,” said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the House minority leader.
GOP lawmakers plan to release their own budget proposal next week.


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