Within a comprehensive package of education proposals released Wednesday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that he wants to increase the state's share of school funding by $50 million.
Under Malloy's plan, West Hartford will see an increase of $919,940 in Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) entitlements from the state. That translates into a 5.72 percent increase – from $16,076,120 in 2011-12 to $16,996,060 in 2012-13.
The governor's education reform package includes a total of $50 million in additional ECS funding, $40 million of which will be directed at the 30 lowest-performing school districts in the state. Those "Alliance Districts" will "have new funding phased in at the rate of 2.47 percent of the gap between what they currently receive in ECS funding and the new formula amount," according to a release from the governor's office.
Other districts, like West Hartford, will receive 1.4 percent of the funding amount gap. No district should receive less in ECS funding than last year, according to the governor's proposal.
"We have held towns harmless. No one is losing ECS funding," Malloy said in a news release.
That "sends a clear signal to our children that we will make the investment and deliver on our promise of high-quality education for every student in Connecticut."
Chip Ward, director of Finance and Planning for the , said the additional ECS funds will "make it easier for the Town to support education." The funds, he explained, are given directly to the Town, not to the education system, and are intended to "equalize the burden for supporting education."
In terms of actual dollars, although it is not an Alliance District, West Hartford will receive more money under the proposed ECS increase than most other towns and cities in Connecticut.
"We have one of the biggest gaps; we only receive 28 percent of what the ECS funding formula says we should be getting," Ward said. The additional 1.4 percent translates into a large dollar amount and a significant overall percentage because the gap is so large, Ward said.
"The ECS grant is where we have seen the largest shortfall in state education funding to the Town of West Hartford – $193.8 million over 15 years and a $41 million shortfall in 2011-12 alone. In 2011-12, West Hartford has the second largest shortfall of any town in ECS funding. The [proposed] $920,000 increase is a step in the right direction to help alleviate the burden on the taxpayer," Superintendent of Schools Karen List said in an email Wednesday afternoon.
Bruce Putterman, chairman of the Board of Education, had the following response to the proposed ECS increase: "We appreciate that the governor's office has acknowledged that West Hartford has been grossly underfunded for many years, and we are grateful for the extra amount that will be coming to West Hartford under his proposal as a first step toward making up that shortfall,"
According to Ward, "The Town of West Hartford has a budget of over $220 million. This is 1/2 percent of the revenue that needs to be raised for general fund services. But every bit helps."
The West Hartford Public Schools administration will present its budget for 2012-13 in March, and the overall will be adopted on April 23.