At the close of the 2013 legislative session, Connecticut legislators and stakeholders have truly shown just how committed they are to the state’s children. The budget bill that passed on Monday night, H.B. 6704, restored most of the funding for education reform that had been threatened throughout session.
This has been a hard-won battle to secure funding for the major reforms that were passed during last year’s legislative session and through state action this year.
Here’s a look at what has been secured for Connecticut’s students:
- Funding to add 17 schools to the Commissioner’s Network. Currently, there are 4 schools receiving intense turnaround interventions and supports in the Commissioner’s Network: Curiale in Bridgeport, High School in the Community in New Haven, Milner in Hartford, and Stanton in Norwich. The final budget allots $27,500,000 to this intervention over the biennium for a total of 21 Commissioner’s Network schools. In fact, six schools have already been invited to participate in the Commissioner’s Network: Crosby in Waterbury, DiLoreto in New Britain, Dunbar in Bridgeport, Briggs High School in Norwalk, Walsh Elementary in Waterbury, and Windham Middle.
- Funding and an appropriate timeline for implementation of the new teacher evaluation and support system. Earlier this year, the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) decided to allow districts the option to phase in the teacher evaluation and support program over the next two years, and require full implementation by the 2014-2015 school year. During the 2013 legislative session, a proposed bill threatened this entire reform policy by attempting to push out implementation dates and tie the evaluation process to collective bargaining. Through collaboration, strong testimony by key stakeholders (including union members), and positive reviews of the evaluation and support model by pilot districts—this proposed bill was overcome, and over $20 million was put aside for implementation of the teacher evaluation and support system.
- Increased funding for state funded charter schools. Some state funded charter schools in Connecticut have demonstrated success in helping low-income populations to raise their academic performance. The recently passed budget puts aside enough funding for four new charter schools in Connecticut, adding to the menu of options available to parents and their children.
- ECS Funding for the Alliance Districts. During the 2013-2014 school year, $50,000,000 will be distributed through the ECS formula—almost all of which will go to the Alliance Districts, our lowest-performing districts. Furthermore, the State Department of Education has shown commitment to monitoring the strategic use of these funds so that districts invest in a few programs that are proven to work, rather than spreading funds between numerous small interventions.
- Funding for K-3 Reading Pilots. Over $5 million will be invested over the biennium in five schools piloting a K-3 reading program. These schools–Ann E. Norris Elementary School in East Hartford, Latino Studies Academy at Burns School in Hartford, John Barry Elementary School in Meriden, Truman Elementary School in New Haven, and Windham Center Elementary School in Windham—will be able to invest approximately $2,100 per student enrolled in the pilots. Furthermore, the pilots will be monitored by Uconn’s Neag School, in order to track best practices for replication throughout the state, as well as needed training and supports. With the addition of a modest amount of new funding in the budget, there is also the possibility of increasing the number of schools in the program.
- Funding to Implement the Common Core State Standards. For the first time ever, Connecticut has committed funding ($8.3 million next year and $6.3 million the following year) to train teachers, build lesson plans, and roll out testing programs for full deployment of the Common Core State Standards. This funding will allow Connecticut teachers to implement higher standards and expectations for our students.
By continuing their commitment to these important reforms, Connecticut’s Governor, legislators, and stakeholder have made it clear–even when the budget is tight–that the education of our children is a top priority.