Will It Take A Court Ruling To Force Funding Fairness Of City Schools?

Anniversaries tied to landmark legal rulings provide platforms for politicians and government officials to take inventory about the past, present and future. The 60th anniversary year of Brown v. Board of Education in which the Supreme Court ruled racial segregation of schools unconstitutional, offers discussion about the funding fairness of city schools. Mayor Bill Finch says city schools have operated under an unfair state funding formula for years. If that’s the case, where’s the will to change it? Will it take another court decision to correct it?

Government funding formulas aren’t sexy subjects, but we are in a state government election year with a mayoral campaign on the horizon for next year. Black voters in urban areas are a key voting bloc for Democratic Governor Dan Malloy. It’s also an opportunity for Republican challenger Tom Foley to appeal to urban areas with meaningful and specific ideas about what he’d do as governor to fix it, or not.

At these times it’s hard not to think about what the late local journalist John Gilmore urged many times on OIB–when a politician asks for your vote, ask: “What’s in it for me?”

Finch issued this statement about Brown v. Board of Education:

The decision was made one year before I was born, but it changed my life and the lives of my four children, very much for the better. Every child deserves a high-quality education, regardless of race, wealth or zip code. And, due to decisions like this, we’ve made great strides over the past 60 years to ensure all kids have access to good schools.

“But we still have a long ways to go. In Connecticut, only one in three low income and minority 3rd graders are reading at grade level. That’s unacceptable, and clearly we need to do more to ensure all kids get a high-quality education and are prepared to compete for 21st century jobs. Doing so entails the state giving our schools the resources they need to succeed, getting kids started early with a high-quality education, and strengthening after-school programs.

“With Gov. Malloy and state legislators leading the charge, Bridgeport received 126 more pre-k slots this year and will receive hundreds more over the next five years. Research is clear that if kids get a good education at an early age, they’re much more likely to be reading at the level they should be by 3rd grade, and in turn will be much more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, and compete for 21st century jobs. Gov. Malloy has also helped Bridgeport kids by providing us with funding to administer high-quality after-school programs.”



  1. Mayor Finch should be truly embarrassed for even attempting to issue a press release regarding funding inequities in our true public schools.

    Mayor Finch was elected Mayor in 2007.

    During the 2008-2009 school year, Mayor Finch went before the BBOE and requested they return $7 million of the required city contribution back to city because of the fiscal disaster he claimed Mayor Fabrizi left him.

    The BBOE voted to return approximately $3 million back to the city. I have never been able to find the legal authority in which the local school board could vote to in essence reduce the city’s state-mandated contribution.

    In the last few months of the 2008-2009 school year, the BBOE had some excess funds and repeatedly submitted orders for pre-buys for the 2009-2010 school year. This is completely legal and as long as the invoice is paid by June 30 and the invoice is posted to the 2008-2009 budget appropriation. Mayor Finch and Tom Sherwood repeatedly blocked these expenditures although they had no legal authority to do so. The only entity that controls BBOE expenditures is the BBOE, not any employee or elected official on the city side.

    As a result of this illegal activity, the BBOE had $7 million in unused funds on June 30, 2009. Therefore, under CT state statute, the entire $7 million reverted back to the city. Remember, Mayor Finch requested $7 million originally and the BBOE refused his full request.

    Mayor Finch and his administration illegally hijacked $7 million from over 20,000 students and their families. Dr. Ramos did not notify the BBOE until after it was too late.

    Sauda and Bobby were insistent Dr. Ramos be disciplined for this horrific fiscal management of BBOE funds. I joined the BBOE in December 2009 and I also supported a letter of discipline be placed in his file.

    Bellinger, Crossin, Colon, Fuller, Cunningham and Robles voted against disciplining Dr. Ramos. Sauda, Bobby and I voted in favor.

  2. Mayor Finch has repeatedly failed to meet the Minimum Budget Requirement as per CT state statute. The MBR requires Mayor Finch to appropriate a very specific CASH amount to the Bridgeport Public School each year. Not meeting the cash contribution is completely illegal. It is against the law to count in-kind services towards the city’s contribution to the MBR.

    In 2012-2013, Mayor Finch underfunded the Bridgeport Public Schools by $1.2 million.

    In 2013-2014, Mayor Finch underfunded the Bridgeport Public Schools by $2.3 million.

    In 2014-2015, Mayor Finch is projected to underfund the Bridgeport Public School by over $2 million.

    CT state statute allows Mayor Finch to underfund the BPS by the same amount the following year. For example: Mayor Finch underfunded the BPS by $1.2 million in 2012-2013, therefore the following year he is allowed to reduce his contribution by the exact same amount. In addition, CT state statue requires the state to double the underfunded amount and reduce the Education Cost Sharing grant by that amount as a penalty. For example: Mayor Finch underfunded the BPS by $1.2 million in 2012-2013, therefore the state is required to reduce the ECS grant by $2.4 million as a penalty.

    The reason Mayor Finch wants to be able to count in-kind services is because it does not count towards the MBR, therefore he is legally allowed to reduce his cash contribution year after year after year. It is a complete scam that hurts our 20,000 public school children and their families.

  3. Sorry, I forgot to mention although Mayor Finch is failing to meet his legal financial contributions to the BBOE and its 20,000 students, he submitted a letter with the Great Oaks Charter School application stating the city was willing to pay up to 50% of the lease costs for Great Oaks for its first five (5) years.

    Based on the five (5)–year budget Great Oaks Charter School submitted, 50% of their lease costs equated to approximately $500,000.

    Mayor Finch has no legal obligation to fund state charter schools located in Bridgeport, however he has an extra $500,000 laying around for a new charter school controlled and supervised by the SBOE, not the BBOE.

  4. Maria, will you, if you are able to do so, indicate from what department budget the Mayor proposes funding 50% of such cost at a rate of $100,000 annually? If you are not certain, care to make a guess? Does the City provide support of this type already from the City side of the budget? Or does it provide use of a property as support, as an in-kind way of handling? Time will tell.

  5. I don’t know where this expenditure would be listed in the city budget, my guess would be wherever other lease costs are listed. It is not exactly $100,000 for each of the five (5) years. The first year is under $100,000; however it escalates each year as the school expands grade levels. I do not know if the city is contributing to Achievement First, New Beginnings, Park City Prep, etc. I certainly would be interested in knowing if they do.

  6. Lennie, I realize you are posting this to elicit comments, but must you use this drivel from Finch? Funding is a serious topic, but the problems of public education in urban centers is more complex.

    Brown v BOE was a historic ruling. What evolved into the situation now is more than funding. Finch’s parents moved to Trumbull and provided their children a superior education. People still leave urban centers to ensure a better education for their children. It’s more than an issue of funding. To a large degree, race and norms of behavior are still the reason.

    Finch’s statement is the usual campaign rhetoric. He’s stumping for Malloy, hoping Malloy will do the same for him (assuming he is reelected).

  7. JMart, more “money” will not solve every education issue in Bridgeport because it does not address the root cause of the number-one contributing factor to poor academic success, poverty. I read a recent report that found when funding education funding was increased by 20% in poor urban communities, there were substantial increases in educational outcomes.

    1. BINGO!!! “One contributing factor to poor academic success, poverty,” this is one thing the Bridgeport Board of Education cannot solve, this is where the elected officials come into play.

  8. You (Bridgeport), along with Hartford and New Britain are getting at least 2-1/2 times more ECS money per student than all the other CT school districts, and all three are the worst performing school districts, year in and year out. People now have to be held accountable and responsible for this, from the Governor to the student going to school. It’s not about more money, its about Responsibility and Accountability.

  9. JMart, first of all, your statement New Britain is getting 2-1/2 times more ECS money per student than all other CT school districts is not true. Second of all, Hartford is not ranked in the bottom three worst-performing districts in CT. And finally, all three districts do receive substantially more ECS funding than many other districts, however it is all relative. In the end, Bridgeport and New Britain spend significantly less per pupil than the vast majority of school districts in CT.

  10. The 2012-2013 school year based on CMT Mathematics and CMT Reading.
    Bridgeport School District–Last
    Hartford School District–2nd to Last
    New Britain School District–3rd Worst

    In 2013-2014 the state gave The Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test in preparation for the Common Core State Standard Test that will start on the 2014-2015 school year.
    These results were not released to the public, TOO ASHAMED!!!
    Who is responsible for the dismal performance of these districts, money given freely with no accountability or responsibility?


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