Now that the 2019-20 school year is well underway, I wanted to take an opportunity to update the Norwalk community on the positive changes that are taking place in the way our schools are funded. Two years ago, as part of a bipartisan effort, I led a redesign of the Education Cost Sharing Formula, or ECS as it is known, in the State Legislature. The goal was to make a more transparent and fair system to distribute over $2 billion in municipal education aid each year.

The way we had funded public education in Connecticut over the last 30 years had become outdated, dysfunctional and unfair. The funding was not being distributed based on how many students were enrolled in a district or an accurate measure of a community’s ability to cover costs. These outdated calculations over time had become obsolete and supported conditions that had favored one community over another. After years of public studies and lawsuits, Connecticut could no longer allow communities that required more resources struggle to meet the needs of their students.

The new ECS funding formula does several things to address the changing community landscapes and economic realities of our state, while serving students, in places like Norwalk, more fairly. The first common sense thing we did when creating this system was to count every child enrolled in district public schools, and allot a base amount to each community to cover these costs. The second thing we prioritized was providing more funding for students who live in poverty and communities with concentrated low income populations. We measured this using public assistance data like free and reduced price lunch eligibility and a communities’ income tax levels. We also added additional resources specifically for English Language Learners (ELL) students, to account for the extra costs of supporting their needs as they acclimate to our communities. And finally, we made the formula more equitable by adjusting the balance between property values and income levels in the way we measure a town’s wealth and municipal aid needs.

When the state budget that included the new ECS funding formula was approved in the fall of 2017, we recognized that changes this big could not take place overnight. In 2019, we have started to implement this plan, and expect it to be fully executed by 2028. So, what does this mean for Norwalk? This school year, Norwalk schools will receive $11.4 million in state aid. Each year, based on the estimated enrollment increases and additional ELL and low income students, Norwalk will receive significantly more resources year over year, and this number could go up based on any additional increases in student population. By the 2024 school year, based on current enrollment, Norwalk will take in $14.1 million in education funding from the state and by 2028, that number will climb to $16.3 million, for a total of an additional nearly $5 million each year in education funding after 10 years, or an increase of 43 percent.

Creating a new ECS formula was half the work, and now making sure it is implemented with sincerity and diligence will be key to making the plan a success. For my part, I will continue to speak out on the importance of transparency and fairness, as well as monitor the resources that we expect as a community here for Norwalk schools. Additionally, we hope to add on to our 2017 efforts by ensuring all public schools in our state and in Norwalk, such as magnet, technical, vocational agriculture and public non-profit charter, will be included in the current ECS formula in the very near future, so they too get the resources their students need.

Norwalk public schools are some of our state’s most excellent and diverse. We are proud of our students and staff, and we know that in order to meet their needs, we must invest in them. As a leader in the General Assembly, I take pride in what we have done to improve the way we fund public education, and I am looking forward to returning to Hartford this winter to continue this work.

State Sen. Bob Duff is the Senate Majority Leader. His district encompasses Norwalk and Darien.