JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT ESTABLISHING A TASK FORCE TO STUDY DECLINING STUDENT ENROLLMENT.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
REASONS FOR BILL:
This bill would establish a task force with the goal of studying the causes and consequences of declining student enrollment in school districts. The task force shall consist of nine members, chosen by the House and Senate majority and minority leaders, as well as the Commissioner of Education. The task force shall submit a report no later than January 1, 2017 on its findings.
Lines 2-6: change the task force charge:
(1) formerly: to look at causes/consequences of declining enrollment, including effect on state/local education budgets
(2) now: to collect and analyze statewide school age demographic data to consider changes to laws on education funding and district boundaries
Lines 6-18: require study of statewide movement trends in school-age population and public school enrollment; must include:
(1) Causes of reduction in school-age population
(2) Reasons for reduction and expected duration
(3) Movement trends
(4) Effect of future state investments/expenditures
(5) Recommended changes to state law
Adds membership appointments:
(1) Lines 25-30: House speaker: COG representative
(2) Lines 31-34: Senate pres pro tempore: CCM representative
(3) Lines 46-47: UConn CT State Data Center representative
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities:
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) testified in support of SB 177, noting the financial strain on municipal budgets to fund schools - the education budget in some towns equates to 80% of the municipality's total budget - despite the fact that “the state's public schools have lost a higher percentage of students than nearly every state in the country.”
CCM requested that SB 177 be amended to add a local chief elected official to the task force before voting on the bill.
Ray Rossomando, Research and Policy Specialist / Dr. Kate Field, Teacher Development Specialist, Connecticut Education Association:
Ray Rossomando and Dr. Kate Field testified on behalf of the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) in support of SB 177 but believed representation from exclusive bargaining agents for educators, such as CEA, should be included in the task force.
Katie Roy, Director & Founder, The Connecticut School Finance Project:
Ms. Roy testified on behalf of the Connecticut School Finance Project, stating that Connecticut's school finance system is “substantially impacted” by the state's continued declining student enrollment, evidenced by a 6% decline in the last 10 years. By 2025, Connecticut's 5-19 population is projected to decline 12%.
Ms. Roy further testified that Connecticut's current school finance system is not prepared to handle these enrollment declines because the state currently does not take changes in enrollment or student need into consideration when distributing education funding to districts. For example, no matter how much a district's enrollment might decline, state education will never go down, preventing education dollars being reallocated to districts where enrollment is increasing.
Ms. Roy recommended a school financing system that 1) uses a funding formula to fund all students based on their learning needs 2) distributes education dollars in a way that is consistent, predictable, efficient, and transparent and 3) takes community wealth into account and works within the limitations of the state budget.
Rachel Leventhal-Weiner, Ph.D., Education Policy Fellow, Connecticut Voices for Children:
Dr. Leventhal-Weiner testified on behalf of Connecticut Voices for Children requesting the task force to take two items into consideration.
First, 16 school districts across the state, many of which are among the highest need districts, have reported an increase in enrollment despite a statewide decrease. Second, despite a decrease in overall student population, the number of special needs students, including those receiving free or reduced price lunches, English Language Learners, and Special Education students has increased. Dr. Leventhal-Weiner recommended the Education Committee charge the task force with investigating enrollment patterns within districts in addition to looking into funding inequities that must be overcome to ensure equitable educational opportunity.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Andres Feijoo