ELLINGTON—State Rep. Christopher Davis met with municipal and school leaders here today to discuss local education and how decisions made by the state legislature affect it. Davis talked with school board members as well as selectmen and finance board members during the session inside the media center at Ellington High School. The district’s school superintendent participated, too.
Unfunded mandates were a top concern among school officials—specifically legislation tied to the federal “Race to Top” program, which offers federal dollars to states that bolster education standards. In pursuing that money last spring, a majority of legislators instituted tougher graduation guidelines figuring Connecticut would win federal money to cover associated costs, such as hiring more instructors to teach foreign languages. Connecticut didn’t get the federal dollars, leaving local districts—and taxpayers—holding the bag.
Davis, too, explained his concern about such unfunded mandates and described a bill (H.B. 5141) he proposed that would prevent the legislature from enacting such municipal mandates unless two-thirds of the members in each House of the General Assembly give their seal of approval. His bill won approval from the legislature’s Planning Committee, and he expects it to receive a hearing sometime soon.
But discussion on unfunded mandates didn’t end there. The Open Choice program, which affords Hartford students opportunities to attend Ellington schools, also came up. Local school leaders worry the legislature will take away their ability to fill classroom slots as they see fit, forcing the district to accept students in already-full grade levels. That could mean hiring more teachers—something the district can’t afford.
Ellington officials told Davis they worry about state education funding, also known as the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant. The town’s grant, they said, has not increased despite a growth in student population. With an increase seemingly out of the question because of Connecticut’s multi-billion-dollar budget deficit, local officials asked to at least receive the same amount of money as the district got last year.
Davis represents the 57th General Assembly District, which also includes East Windsor.