Forget the studies and task forces about equitable public school funding. We don’t need them to tell us what we already know, says Iona Smith Nze, a pastor at Bethel AME Church in Bridgeport.
“The way that Connecticut funds public education is racist, and classist,” she added at a Zoom forum organized by the education support group FaithActs For Education. “There are vast spending inequities.”
Nze and others pointed out the dramatic gulf in Connecticut’s per-student spending that ranges in the thousands of dollars between cities and suburbs.
At the 17:34 mark of the forum Nze poses the following question to legislative leadership: “As senate and house leadership, do you commit to pass a budget in the 2021 legislative session that includes an education formula that equitably funds Black, Latino, and low-income students in all public schools?”
Leaders declared that the will is there but building a city-suburban coalition is a different story.
The problem centers on the number suburban legislators who hold vote sway over city lawmakers who want to reform the system, as noted by State Senator Dennis Bradley. How to persuade legislators from wealthy communities such as Westport and New Canaan to close the spending gap.
Bradley shared skepticism that major reforms will be passed, adding that perhaps a voucher system should be examined.
Several members of the city’s legislative delegation participated in the forum and urged passage of an equitable education funding formula.
State Rep. Steve Stafstrom who represents Black Rock and the West Side also echoed a theme he’s espoused for several years that the legislature has yet to embrace.
“This does go well beyond education,” he told the religious leaders. “Property tax reform absolutely has to be at the center of this. It’s not just about direct education aid.”
“We have to build a coalition with the suburbs. We need suburban allies.”
The General Assembly convenes for a six-month session in January.
CT Mirror reporter Jacqueline Rabe Thomas has more here.