HEADLINES

Danbury Public Schools joins with City to address funding shortage

On Monday, Oct. 5, the Danbury Public Schools and Board of Education members will join with Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Danbury City Council, state legislators and community leaders to address the challenges of being underfunded by the state.

The meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Broadview Middle School, 72 Hospital Ave., in Danbury. The public is encouraged to attend.

Based on the Education Cost Sharing formula suspended by the state in 2013, DPS remains underfunded by the state by nearly $30 million per school year. Because the state no longer adheres to the ECS formula, funding to school districts is now given out in “block grants,” or lump sums, some of which have been deemed inequitable because of how the grants are calculated. Some districts that receive more funding have greater tax rolls or a higher mill rate creating a larger tax base. Other districts have fewer expenditures for students learning English or students with special needs, but receive more funding based on other statistics and not necessarily need.

DPS currently has the seventh lowest per student spending in Connecticut at $12,684 per student and, therefore, relies heavily on local funding. The City of Danbury contributes $9,061 per student in tax dollars, or 70 percent, a figure that is nearly twice that of a similar district. New funding proposed under the ECS formula to be reinstated in 2016 cuts the funding that Danbury is entitled to by 50 percent, or $30 million.

Despite these financial challenges, the district has shown and continues to show great progress in many areas, from state-recognized programs at the high school to middle school students earning top prizes at the state levels to an elementary school named top in the state and another elementary school being awarded as a “success story.”

“Our schools and our teachers are doing a phenomenal job, especially in light of the financial constraints that we face together as a district,” Superintendent Dr. Sal Pascarella said. “Because of their dedication and hard work in and out of the classroom, we are able to achieve great results. But we need to do better and the taxpayers need some relief. We all need help from the state in order to make sure that every child is reaching his or her fullest potential, and that families aren’t being overburdened.”

DPS has also increased its course offerings and programs at all levels, including career pathways and an Early College Opportunity at the high school. Increased funding at the state level would ensure the district’s sustainability in these continuing efforts.

The October meeting will assess Danbury’s two options: to request a one-time ECS grant from the state to alleviate the inequitable funding, or to advocate for more failsafe funding from the state that would be based on students’ learning needs.

The results of the meeting will be incorporated into a plan to be presented to local lawmakers who will help identify a solution in the 2016 legislative session.

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