Updated, 5:30 p.m.: Clarification, correction due to an editing error: Press release said $1.5 million. 9:30 a.m.: Correction, funding increase relative to FY 2019 levels is $1 million over two years, not $1.5 million.
NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s Democratic legislators met Monday to tout an expected increase in state funding for education and slam their Republican counterparts for not offering a detailed budget of their own.
“In our appropriations budget that was voted on by the Democrats, everybody’s fingerprints are on it, people voted for it, we know where everybody stands,” State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) said, standing outside City Hall.
The two-year budget for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 would provide Norwalk roughly $500,000 in additional funding in its first year and an additional $1 million in its second, relative to FY 2019 funding levels, according to a Democratic press release.
Video by Harold Cobin at end of story
“Republicans gave us a blank sheet of paper. We don’t know where they stand, we don’t know where they are and right now, they are saying zero to education funding, zero to community colleges, zero to UConn, zero to the things that are important to us here in the city of Norwalk,” Duff said.
“With no budget, state Republicans have proposed $0 for state education funding for Norwalk,” a Democratic press release stated.
State Reps. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Terri Wood (R-141) replied with a statement that told a different story:
“Senator Duff willingly chose to ignore the facts when he accused Republicans of providing $0 for Norwalk schools during his press conference this morning. He knew full well that the dollar figure they trumpeted is a product of the bipartisan budget of 2017 supported by House and Senate Republicans. Here’s another fact Senator Duff chose to ignore today – his party’s funding for Norwalk comes with a big price tag – $2 billion in tax increases. Between the tolls, new tax proposals and anti-business policies they’ve presented us with during the 2019 session, it’s evident that the senator and his colleagues have little interest governing in a bipartisan manner, and have chosen a more underhanded approach. The Democrats’ plan for education funding has not changed since two years ago and neither has their tendency to over tax every hardworking individual in the State of Connecticut.”
If funding levels in the budget are approved by the full legislature and the governor, it will mean that bipartisan changes to state education funding made two years ago in the 2017 state budget have held. That budget included a 10-year revamp to the state’s Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula which factors a community’s wealth and need to determine how much education funding that municipality receives.
A press release issued by Democrats said that over the next two years, Norwalk will receive an additional $1.5 million in state education funding. This is the total increase due to the change in the ECS formula.
“In Fiscal Year 2019, Norwalk received $11,439,365 in state education funding,” the release explained. “The Democratic state budget passed by Appropriations Committee will increase Norwalk’s state education funding by over $500,000 to $11,982,530 for Fiscal Year 2020. In Fiscal Year 2021, Norwalk will receive over $1 million more than Fiscal Year 2019 for a total of $12,525,694.”
Those figures are in line with calculations released in September by Katie Roy of the Connecticut School Finance Project. The ECS changes are phased in over 10 years, so districts will not receive their full funding until Fiscal Year 2028, she explained in September.
Duff said Monday that he “worked hard to make sure that we stick to the formula that was approved two years ago,” which he said were changes that he “spearheaded and shepherded through the bipartisan budget.”
“So, I feel very confident that we can stick with the formula, stick with these increases, and that … we’ll have a funding formula that local districts can plan for over the next several years and not one that’s going to get manipulated every year like it has in the past,” the State Senate Majority Leader said.
Even so, the numbers touted by Democrats are preliminary in that they haven’t been voted on by the full legislature.
Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Mike Barbis said in September that the expected increases in state funding barely keep up with inflation. Duff after the press conference declined to respond to Barbis’ allegation. Barbis did not respond to a Monday email asking if he still felt that way, and what level of state funding would satisfy him.
Duff said he had no idea what additional revenue sources the state will resort to, as those “conversations are ongoing.” Asked what obstacles stand in the way of a greater funding increase for Norwalk, he cited state pension obligations.
Norwalk Federation of Teachers Union President Mary Yordon and State Reps. Lucy Dathan (D-142), Chris Perone (D-137), and Travis Simms (D-140) also spoke during the presser. Dathan, a member of the Appropriations Committee, praised a $6 million funding increase for magnet schools.
She said magnet schools have benefited Norwalk, and expressed dismay that “this wasn’t a concept that was grasped on the other side of the aisle.”
Duff said afterwards that the $6 million will mean an increase in funding for Side by Side Charter School, but he did not know by how much.
State Rep. Chris Perone (D-137) also slammed Republicans.
“There was no real initiative from the Republican side. We just heard crickets,” Perone said.
“We live and breathe every dime we try to bring back for our people and it’s more than just overall funding,” Perone said. He touted other budget items, laid out in the Democratic press release:
“Investing in Workforce Development
- “Provides greater funding than the Governor proposed for several workforce development programs including:
- “Jobs Funnel Programs ($632K each year)
- “Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative ($1.1 M each year)
- “Healthcare Apprenticeship Initiative ($500K each year)
- “Connecticut’s Youth Employment Program ($1 M each year)
- “Cradle to Career ($100K each year)
- “Pilot Re-Entry Program ($800K each year)
- “Veteran Machinists Training ($250K each year)
- “Increases funding for K-12 education by tens of millions of dollars from FY 19 ($42 million in FY 20 & $80 million in FY 21)
- “Fully funds the ECS formula as required under the ten year phase-in adopted by the bipartisan budget in 2017.
- “Increases funding for community colleges from FY 19 ($8 million in FY 20 & $10 million in FY 21)
“Supporting Connecticut Families
- “Includes funding to support the implementation of an increase in the minimum wage
- “Funds the creation of a Paid Family Medical Leave program
- “Funds a public health care insurance option for families and small businesses
- “Provides funding for the Center for Medicare Advocacy ($300K in each year)
- “Increases funding for Meals on Wheels ($475K in each year)
- “Includes funding for Juvenile Justice Outreach ($11.7 M in FY 20 and $10.2 M in FY 21)
- “Funds services for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities including employment and day services for new high school graduates ($6.3 M in FY 20 and $14.6 M in FY 21) as well as individuals aging out of the Department of Children and Families and residential schools ($3 M in FY 20 and $5.7 M in FY 21)
- “Preserves funding for mental health and substance abuse grants ($1.6 M in each year)
- “Provides funding for caseload growth in the Birth to Three program ($1.4 M in FY 20 and $2 M in FY 21)
- “Includes funding for a new State Trooper Class in FY 20
- “Provides funding to staff Welcome Centers and restore the hours of operation at the Rest Areas on our highways”
State Rep. Travis Simms (D-140) said everyone had worked very hard to make sure ECS funding is fair and balanced.
“The Appropriations Committee has gone back and put out a very detailed budget,” Duff said. “The Republican budget has put (a blank piece of paper) out, which is nothing. They are not funding education, they are not funding college, they are not funding the things that are very important to us here in this area.”
“We asked them to please come out with a budget,” Duff said. “We’d like to have a bipartisan budget (this year) as well. We’d like to have them not sit on the sidelines, we’d like to have them be part of this process like they were for the last two years.”