Dear Senator Osten, Representative Walker, and members of the Appropriations Committee
My name is Daniel Pearson and I am the State Director for Educators for Excellence, a teacher-led nonprofit with nearly 1,000 members statewide that seeks to promote student equity and elevate teachers’ voices in policy decisions. Today I submit testimony on behalf of our members who are current classroom teachers and educators who work tirelessly to ensure that their students have access to the best possible education. We are deeply disappointed in Governor Lamont’s proposed budget alterations and how it ignores the issues within our public schools. We have a massive surplus and an influx of federal funding, yet we are not addressing the structural inequities in our schools. Connecticut has a massive racial funding gap with over $700 million dollars and we need to help address this by expediting the ECS phase in and fully funding education by the time the federal dollars run out.
Districts are currently using ESSER funds to implement new programming and to help mitigate learning loss exacerbated by the pandemic. If we do not fully fund these schools, how will these programs continue?
By committing to fully funding ECS by the time the federal dollars run out will give districts the opportunity to be more effective with this money. Covid has exacerbated so many issues that have plagued our schools for so long, and we have this historic amount of ESSER funds that we are squandering away because our district leaders say that they cannot fully utilize them due to fear of a fiscal cliff.
Equitable school funding is the driving force behind the majority of the pressing issues plaguing our teachers and students, particularly our students of highest need. Each student in Connecticut deserves an equal opportunity to succeed, and that is why I am here today. I am here today to urge state leaders to reject the Governor’s proposed budget alterations and to fully fund education before the federal dollars run out so that another generation of students doesn’t have to endure the effects of our inequitable school system.
As teachers know all too well, each year that a student falls behind, the chance that they catch up decreases exponentially and that is why we must treat this issue with the urgency it deserves. As it stands, the school system in Connecticut best serves a select few of the state’s students–students in overwhelmingly white, affluent and high-income districts. The rest of the state’s most vulnerable students are left behind in underfunded schools where our teachers are provided with fewer resources each year to effectively teach their students.
Additionally, the current ECS phase-in leaves a generation of students behind and tells those students that they are not worthy of the state’s investment. We cannot make up for this lost time in the future. This is impacting our students now, and we need to take action now.
The Governor and many others are celebrating the state's surplus and rainy day fund, while our students continue to suffer. We have structural inequities in our schools that are racist and classist and we need to do everything we can to address these issues now.
We know Connecticut schools are facing immense challenges caused by COVID and meeting the needs caused by the pandemic, but we also know that these challenges existed long before this pandemic as well. If we don’t fully fund our schools, these challenges will continue to exist, disproportionately affecting our most vulnerable students. So I ask you, when is enough, enough?
We need equitable school funding, and we need it now. The need is visible in our burnt out staff. The need is visible in our discouraged students. The need is visible in the clear opportunity gaps amongst Connecticut school districts. Equitable school funding is a nonnegotiable necessity.
With a massive racial funding gap, we are not providing fair and equitable education to our students and we are not taking students’ needs seriously. If we do not close this gap, we will continue to tell our black and brown students that they do not matter.
Connecticut needs to fully fund education in our schools now, during this legislative session, and that starts with committing to fully fund ECS before the federal dollars run out. Without these changes, we are doing a tremendous disservice for our most vulnerable students and the teachers that serve them with unwavering commitment. We need this change now.
Thank you for your time,
Educators For Excellence - Connecticut (E4E-CT)
Founded by public school teachers, Educators for Excellence is a growing movement of more than 33,000 educators nationwide, united around a common set of values and principles for improving student learning and elevating the teaching profession. We work together to identify issues that impact our schools, create solutions to these challenges, and advocate for policies and programs that give all students access to a quality education.
For more information, please visit e4e.org.