Coalition of Connecticut Organizations Launches “Education Justice Now” Campaign
Updated: Apr 14, 2021
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February 8, 2021 Ashlee Niedospial
Hartford, CT – A broad coalition of advocacy organizations, including FaithActs for Education, Connecticut Charter Schools Association, Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), Educators for Excellence (E4E), Greater Hartford Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance (GHIAA), Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater Bridgeport and Vicinity, and the School and State Finance Project today announced the launch of their “Education Justice Now” campaign to end discrimination in education funding in Connecticut. During the launch, the coalition was joined by state legislators committed to advancing equity within public education funding, Rep. Brandon McGee (D- Hartford, Windsor), Rep. Bobby Sanchez (D- New Britain), Rep. Geraldo Reyes (D- Waterbury), Rep. Jillian Gilchrest (D- West Hartford), Rep. Antonio Felipe (D- Bridgeport), Rep. Quentin Phipps (D- Middletown) and Rep. Anthony Nolan (D- New London). You can view the full event here. “The ECS itself discriminates against Black, Brown and low-income kids across our state. The formula is racist and classist,” said Jamilah Prince-Stewart, Executive Director of FaithActs for Education. “Now is the time to change it. To change history. And create a legacy people will talk about for years. 2020 was the year when calls for justice rang out. 2021 can be the year that calls for justice are heard, and put into law.” Through the “Education Justice Now” campaign, the coalition is urging Governor Lamont and the Legislature to repair a funding system that shortchanges too many Black, Latino and low-income students across Connecticut. In a solution proposed during the event, organizers called for Governor Lamont and state leaders to adjust the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula to serve all public school children. This includes:
Funding all public schools through a needs-based ECS formula which includes magnets, charters and vocational technical schools.
Significantly reducing the phase-in and fully funding ECS by next year. Under current law, a 2nd grader will be in high school before they see the full funding.
Increasing the English Language Learner (ELL) weight from 15% to 25% and lowering the concentrated poverty threshold from 75% to 60% to ensure students in high-poverty cities such as Bridgeport, New Haven, New Britain and Hamden receive the supports they need and deserve.
“When we fund our schools through property taxes and the very ECS formula meant to mitigate that inequity further perpetuates it, we are not only setting our children up to fail. We are setting our state up to fail. This is beyond dollars, it is a moral issue,” said Pastor Trevor Beauford, Senior Pastor of Union Baptist Church in Hartford, Clergy Leader with the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance (GHIAA). “Connecticut has a chance to equitably fund all public school students and strengthen a funding system that was overwhelmingly approved on a bipartisan basis in 2017,” said Subira Gordon, Executive Director of ConnCAN. The coalition called for further support for Rep. Brandon McGee’s proposed HB 5620 and Rep. Jason Rojas and Rep. Jeff Currey’s proposed HB 5798. “Despite decades of chronically underfunded schools, 47% of Hartford students are approaching, meeting, and exceeding grade-level expectations in English,” said Rep. Brandon McGee (Hartford, Windsor), Chair of the Housing Committee, Member of the Education Committee. “These students reside a few miles from education systems that are worlds apart in terms of quality of investment. Connecticut can and will do better.” “It is clear the current education funding formula does not meet the needs of all students in all school districts,” said Rep. Bobby Sanchez (Hartford, Windsor), Chair of the Education Committee. “It is essential that we work to find a more equitable approach to funding education that addresses disparities, especially in underserved communities.” Comprised of 11 different funding formulas for public schools in Connecticut, the state’s current system is convoluted and for generations has left Black, Latino, ELL students, Special Education students, and low-income students behind. Pastor William McCullough, Founder of FaithActs for Education, Senior Pastor of Russell Temple CME Church, President of Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater Bridgeport and Vicinity: “It’s about more than school funding, formulas, and budgets. It’s about what justice means and justice demands. Justice demands that every child has access to an incredible education regardless of their race, class, language, or zip code.” Stephanie Nieves, Parent Member of FaithActs for Education: “It isn’t fair that the state of Connecticut, bound by the constitution to educate my son and give him a shot at success, is the same state that has allowed so many children like my son to slip through the cracks. It’s even more unfair that parents 5 minutes away from me in Fairfield don’t have to deal with this issue.” Sen. Doug McCrory (Hartford, Bloomfield, Windsor), Deputy President Pro Tempore, Chair of the Education Committee: “How can we expect our children to succeed and have the skills required of a 21st century workforce when we don’t give them the resources and tools? There could not be a more critical time for equitable education funding. Connecticut students, especially those from low-income Black and Brown families, continue to bear the impact on schools from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We need education funding that enables all of our students to grow and thrive during each of their school years.” Rep. Geraldo Reyes (Waterbury), Chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus: “One of the seven pillars of the BPRC equity agenda is educational fairness, we feel so strongly about this and it’s not negotiable. The future of young children in Connecticut is pending on educational dollars being distributed fairly and equitable so that all children can prosper in their education.” Rep. Robyn Porter (New Haven, Hamden), Chair of the Labor Committee and Member of the Appropriations Committee: “The way public education is funded in Connecticut unequivocally perpetrates systemic racism. If we want to see equal opportunities for black and brown children, we need to re-structure the funding of public education. This is more important now than ever as all schools, students and teachers adjust to remote learning and new technologies, given very limited resources compared to their counterparts in districts which already had these resources prior to the pandemic. This is just one example of the many injustices which can be seen in the funding of education; and it needs to change now.” Rep. Jillian Gilchrest (West Hartford), Vice Chair of the Public Health Committee, Member of the Appropriations Committee: “Equal opportunity within education should not be a privilege. The pandemic has only emphasized the injustice within the current funding formula, and it is imperative that we re-structure the funding of public education in Connecticut now. This is essential if we want to end systemic racism and create equal opportunities for all children in households of varying economic backgrounds.” Rep. Antonio Felipe (Bridgeport), Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, Member of the Education Committee: “One of my major focuses is providing opportunities and access to all students, regardless of the color of their skin or the neighborhood they live in. I join in support of a legislative agenda that focuses on parents and students. A parent’s right to choose and a student’s right to seek an education that works for them. Every student deserves the same chance at a prosperous future.” Rep. Quentin Phipps (Middletown), Chair of the Progressive Caucus: “I am an educator who understands the immediate need for equity and the opportunity for all our students to succeed. The push to address current disparities in our education system are challenging and long overdue. I am fully committed to keep working with my colleagues and stakeholders to make the necessary changes to help ensure students in our urban communities are given all the resources they need.” Rep. Anthony Nolan (New London), Member of the Education Committee and Appropriations Committee: “Connecticut's system of education funding is in serious need of reform and this legislation is a step toward true equity. Every student in Connecticut must have equal access to education no matter their race, income, social status or where they live. The pandemic has shed light on the disparity in educational funding. We need to correct it and we need to correct it now.”
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About FaithActs for Education FaithActs for Education is a Black-led, faith-based community organizing nonprofit consisting of 4,500 committed voters, 500 members and 80 churches across the state. We are people of faith building power to get our children the education they deserve. We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to graduate from college, take care of their family, and fulfill their God-given potential. We build relationships, we build leaders, and we build power through community organizing and civic engagement.