ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander Submits Testimony for the Education Committee Hearing

Members of the Education Committee, Co-Chairs Rep. Fleischmann, Sen. Slossberg, Sen. Boucher and Ranking Member Rep. Lavielle, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. My name is Jennifer Alexander, I am the CEO of ConnCAN, a statewide non-profit organization that has spent the last decade fighting to ensure that all kids in Connecticut have access to a great public education.

I’m here to testify about three bills, House Bill 7035: An Act Implementing the Governor’s Budget Recommendations Concerning Education, Senate Bill No. 2: An Act Concerning the Development of A More Equitable Education Cost-Sharing Grant Formula, and Senate Bill 910: An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Department of Education.

First, I want to address House Bill 7035: An Act Implementing the Governor’s Budget Recommendations Concerning Education. As we all know, the Education Cost Sharing Formula (ECS) is no longer being followed and no longer works for our towns, schools and kids. Our school funding system is illogical, unsustainable and unfair. Without a consistent and fair funding formula–without a real formula at all–we fund students at least 10 different ways that are disconnected from students’ learning needs. The end result of this tangled web is a systematic disadvantaging of students and communities with the greatest need.  We appreciate the governor’s willingness to take the necessary and long-overdue steps to fix our broken school funding system and act on this important issue now, rather than wait for the courts to decide the matter. However, Governor Malloy’s budget does not include schools of choice. By leaving out public charter schools, the governor’s budget, continues to treat public schools students differently based on the the types of school they choose to attend and not their learning needs. Excluding public charter schools will perpetuate our current tangled web of funding and leaves Connecticut out of sync with other states.  Public charter schools in Connecticut are showing success in helping students in our highest-need communities to meet and exceed standards year after year, helping to close the State’s achievement gaps and preparing students to succeed well after high school.  Yet public charter schools face severe constraints—including insufficient and uncertain funding—that prevent them from serving even more of Connecticut’s students

Second, I want to address Senate Bill 2: An Act Concerning the Development of A More Equitable Education Cost-Sharing Grant Formula. We applaud Senator Duff for proposing this bill and look forward to seeing its content.  It is encouraging to see our state leaders stepping forward to take much needed first steps towards a fair, equitable and predictable funding formula that can help provide students with the quality education they need and deserve.

Since no details are yet available on Senate Bill 2, we don’t know whether it will provide the comprehensive fix needed to set every student up for success. We hope that it will be the solution our state needs to address the inequities cited in Judge Moukawsher’s CCJEF ruling this fall. In the Judge’s words, “schools are for kids,”and we hope that Senate Bill 2 will offer a student-centered approach to a new formula that fairly funds students, based on their learning needs, across all our public schools, including our public charter schools.

If we look at Connecticut’s history we know that the opportunity to enact a new education funding formula only happens once every 25 years. Now is the time to get this right in order to set our state and our students up for success for the next quarter-century. That means a single funding formula, based on student learning needs, that is applied consistently across all types of schools. We urge you to ensure that any school funding formula moves us towards: equity, innovation, coherence, transparency, accountability and fairness for all students, across all our public schools. Our state needs a formula that puts students at the center to give every child an opportunity to receive the quality education they need and deserve.

Finally, I want to address Senate Bill 910: An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Department of Education. Specifically, sections 8 and 9 of this bill. Every student deserves an effective teacher, but, for too long, our state’s educator licensure and certification policies have prevented talented and experienced teachers and leaders from working in our state. Members of this committee have taken important steps to improve our state’s teacher licensure and certification policies in recent years, and we encourage you to keep going to ensure that all public schools have great teacher and leaders. That’s why we support this proposed language, which would ensure that educator candidates with sufficient or equivalent degrees will be able to teach in our state. For example, someone with a PhD in a relevant field could not be denied certification.  Our state struggles to fill a number of teacher and school leader vacancies in a number of shortage areas, including math, science, special education and bilingual education. Eliminating bureaucratic barriers will help to make Connecticut schools and districts competitive in hiring qualified teachers and leaders and bringing talented educators to our state.

Thank you.