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Hartford Foundation Testimony on S.B. 2, An Act Concerning the Development of a More Equitable Education Cost-sharing Grant Formula

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving offered testimony on S.B. 2, An Act Concerning the Development of a More Equitable Education Cost-sharing Grant Formula to the state Education Committee on Friday, March 3, 2017. 

As it did in earlier testimony to the Appropriations Committee, the Foundation expressed appreciation to the Administration and legislators for their efforts to create a more equitable system of funding for public schools. The Foundation's testimony urges the state to continue its commitment to providing an adequate level of resources for both core instructional and non-academic supports that narrow the opportunity gaps for students, regardless of their zip code or school choice including neighborhood schools, magnet schools and charter schools. The Foundation stated that any education financing approach should reflect the academic and non-academic key factors that impact educational achievement and the changing demographics of our region. The Foundation asked legislators to include the concentration of poverty in our urban centers and rising poverty in suburban areas as key factors in determining a more equitable distribution of education support. The Foundation also asked legislators include a weight for English Language learners in order to reflect the unique needs and potential for this population to support economic development.

 

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Testimony on S.B. 02, An Act Concerning the Development of a More Equitable Education Cost-sharing Grant Formula

Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
Education Committee
March 1, 2017

Good afternoon Senator Slossberg, Senator Boucher, Representative Fleischmann, Representative Lavielle and distinguished members of the Education Committee.

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for the 29-town Greater Hartford region with a mission to put philanthropy into action to promote equitable opportunity for all residents in our region. We are the largest community foundation in Connecticut, and among the largest 20 community foundations in the country.

  • Our knowledge of national research on evidence-based practices and our own experiences confirms that children, and particularly children facing significant opportunity gaps, need access to schools with a strong "instructional core" and access to comprehensive, high-quality academic and developmental supports and opportunities to thrive in school and life. The Foundation's extensive work in support of Hartford's Community Schools, and more recently working with six other high-need school districts in Bloomfield, East Hartford, Manchester, Vernon, Windsor Locks and Windsor, evidences how, with a very modest investment, school districts can develop partnerships with families, nonprofits and the community to provide the additional supports and resources that students need to be academically successful. Our work with the school districts in our region has provided districts with the ability to implement their own strategies for leveraging partnerships with community based providers and families to introduce a variety of vital supports for students including early childhood programs; before and after school programs; health and mental health services, summer learning opportunities, student internships, and other extended learning opportunities that ultimately lead to student success. These supports, along with access to quality special education programs and support for English language learners, are vital to ensuring that every child has the opportunity to succeed.
  • We know that our investments alone are not enough. We applaud the efforts of the Administration and the Legislature to create a more equitable system of funding for public schools and we urge the public sector to continue an adequate level of commitment for both core instructional and non-academic supports that narrow the opportunity gaps for students, regardless of their zip code.
  • We believe state funding for education should reflect the key academic and non-academic factors that impact educational achievement and the changing demographics of our region. The metro Hartford region has had the largest increase in poverty in the state since 2000. While 14,000 more people live in concentrated poverty in Hartford neighborhoods than 10 years ago, suburban poverty has increased even more rapidly with 20,000 more people living in poverty in suburban towns than 10 years ago.1
  • It is vital that any education formula take into account both changes - the concentration of poverty in urban centers and rising poverty in suburban areas. The Hartford Foundation's focus on students facing the largest opportunity gaps is reflected in our commitment to schools with high concentrations of poverty. We believe any education funding formula should include concentrated poverty as a factor so that schools with higher concentrations of poverty receiving increased funding. The concentration of poverty is not solely an urban issue and our work has expanded to reflect this. Of the 113 district schools in our region where more than one-third of students live in poverty, 65% (58 schools) are in suburban towns, including several outside priority (Alliance) districts.2 58% of the HUSKY A eligible students in our region reside in suburban towns (25% outside Alliance districts).3
  • We believe that an education funding formula should also include a weight for English Language learners in order to reflect the unique needs and potential for this population to support economic development. Students with limited English language proficiency need additional supports to be successful in school. Researchers believe that, on average, it takes two years to master conversational English, yet 5-7 years to master academic English.4 In the metro Hartford region, the Latino population has grown by 200% over the last 25 years and the Asian population by 300% - population growth in the region has been almost entirely foreign-born.5 While 78% of English-Language learners are concentrated in the state's 30 Alliance Districts, some of the most rapid growth has been in suburban areas and schools in Wethersfield and West Hartford have over 10% of their student body with limited English proficiency.6 We understand the necessity to pursue alternatives for measuring poverty in schools and believe that including a weight for English Language learners also addresses some of the shortcomings in the use of HUSKY A eligibility as a proxy measure.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Elysa Gordon at 860-548-1888 or EGordon@hfpg.org

 

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1 2015 Metro Hartford Progress Points, based on U.S. Census data 2000 — 2010-14.

2 Connecticut State Department of Education, Indicators of Educational Need 2013-14

3 Analysis of HUSKY A eligibility data from CT School Finance Project

4 'English Language Learners: The opportunity and challenges of increased cultural and linguistic diversity in our region,' Latino Endowment Fund, Summer 2015.

5 'English Language Learners: The opportunity and challenges of increased cultural and linguistic diversity in our region,' Latino Endowment Fund, Summer 2015.

6 Connecticut State Department of Education, Indicators of Educational Need 2013-14

 


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