Norwalk bemoans inadequate state education funding

Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera wants to see more state money come this way.
Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera wants to see more state money come this way.

NORWALK, Conn. – With an expected jump in the Norwalk Schools operating budget next year, Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera would like to see a push for fairer funding from the state.

“Clearly our state representatives have to assume a lead role but it also requires, my own thinking, it requires a major statewide strategy because you’ve got to get out there and convince the other state legislators who think, ‘Oh, Norwalk, Fairfield County, you guys don’t need a dime.’ They have no clue in some cases of the needs of our young people and some of the challenges,” Rivera said last week about the state’s Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula.

The question came up at a Board of Education budget forum last week. A parent asked how the decision about state funding was made. BoE member Mike Barbis said the formula is “messed up,” and wealthy Hartford suburbs get more than Norwalk and Stamford because it’s based on property values.

In early 2013, Gov. Dannel Malloy attempted to send more money to Norwalk schools through a revamped ECS formula, asking the legislature to implement changes recommended by a task force. That was dumped by the General Assembly’s Education Committee over the objections of State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143).

State Rep. Andrew Fleischman (D-West Hartford), co-chair of the committee, referred to Norwalk as a “wealthy grand list community.”

Lavielle said the belief that Norwalk is rich is a “huge” stumbling block.

“Norwalk has been shortchanged since the beginning and so has Stamford. That means you have to allocate some other city’s funds around and they don’t want to do that,” she said.

Her opponent in Tuesday’s election, Democrat Keith Rodgerson, said he also supports increased ECS funding for Norwalk and Stamford.

The issue also came up in the debate between State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25) and his Republican challenger, Bill Dunne.

Duff said he supported Malloy’s plan. “Unfortunately there was a not a majority in the legislature that agreed with me and agreed with the governor and agreed with many of us in the Norwalk delegation that we needed to change that formula,” he said. Duff’s predecessor and his predecessor before that had not been able to change it either, he said.

Duff said it’s a top priority for legislators to bring back funding for their districts. The delegation has had some success, whether through ECS, Priority School funding, early childhood education or money for Norwalk Community College, he said.

“He’s says it’s a top priority,” Dunne said. “He’s been there for 10 years. That’s an interesting priority.”

Parents at the budget forum said there is hope from the lawsuit filed in 2005 by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, CCJEF vs. Rell. That trial has been moved back to January, according to CTNewJunkie.

There is a Parent Teacher Organization Council (PTOC) meeting on the topic Dec. 15 at Ponus Ridge Middle School, parents said.

CCJEF project director Dianne Kaplan deVries presented information on the lawsuit to the Board of Education in June.

Norwalk gets fewer educational funding dollars from the state than it got in 1975 when you adjust for inflation, she said. Norwalk schools are underfunded by at least $21.3 million a year, she said.

“This is the most conservative bottom number that it would be reasonable to think you ought to be having, and your children ought to be enjoying,” she said.

If CCJEF wins it won’t just mean a moral victory, she said. Experts working with CCJEF have proposals ready to hand legislators to right the system should the judge rule in CCJEF’s favor.


9 responses to “Norwalk bemoans inadequate state education funding”

  1. Garrett Friedrichsen

    This discussion is getting so old. Each year or election cycle it seems to come up. To mention NCC getting funding is absurd!

    Wouldn’t it be great for Norwalk & Stamford to team together and effect change on a broader scale in Hartford with some sort of punitive political action/voting whatever. Hit these northern towns a bit harder.

    Come on politicians, forget about re-election if you could make your legacy one thing, wouldn’t it be great if it was leveling the playing field and creating parity for our dollars going to Hartford?

  2. MarjorieM

    Old news.

  3. Its pretty clear at this point that the upstate Democrats will never approve changes to the ECS formula to treat Norwalk fairly. We’ve pushed repeatedly, Gail Lavielle has fought the good fight, but they contemptuously reject every attempt to change the formula, arguing that Norwalk is the same as Westport. We’ll never get anywhere with people who think like that.

    The only potential solution at this point is the CCJEF lawsuit (which Norwalk is actively supporting). Success in court would FORCE the legislature to address the $21 million per year Norwalk shortfall. Short of that, we’re just banging our heads against a wall trying to get relief from the legislature.

  4. Garrett Friedrichsen

    Lawsuit, perfect. Go getem Mike!

  5. Yankee Clipper

    I thought having Duff in a leadership position was supposed to do something for us? I mean, he is “working for us”, right?

  6. Susan Wallerstein

    With all due respect, Mike, you’re ignoring the fact that legislators of all political persuasions from wealthy suburban towns will always insist on “hold harmless” provision rather than a formula that would require reallocation based on true need. Best not to make this partisan unless we want to open discussion about affordable housing, not just for seniors.

  7. Piberman

    If Norwalk lDemocratic legislators had the same enthusiasm for a fair minded ECS formula as they do supporting public union employment and wages in CT we’d be home long time ago with ECS. The problem is that ECS doesn’t vote at the polls, unions do.

  8. Susan, it is a simple fact that when Gail Lavielle proposed the ECS amendment to help Norwalk, every Republican on the Education Committee (many from suburban and rural districts) voted yes, and every Democrat voted no. It isn’t partisan to simply point out who voted which way.

  9. Michael McGuire

    Very frustrating to hear, particularly with Molloy as Governor. You would think he would carry some weight on this knowing the Norwalk community like he does. Makes me wonder….

    Does anyone know Molloy’s position and actions on this?

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