By Laura Demée
Local News Reporter
Connecticut’s lack of State funding has affected Norwalk’s schools including the different opportunities students receive. Pictured is Mr. Ayala teaching his second period Civics class. (Photo by Laura Demée)
Norwalk is nestled between some of the richest towns in the country, but it always makes do with what it has. The city often tries to provide our schools with healthy school environments, extracurriculars, and the appropriate staff. Despite all this, there is no doubt that Norwalk is less fortunate when it comes to providing funds to our public schools. Towns like Darien, Westport, and Greenwich always have better facilities when Norwalk struggles to get by. This problem resides in the inequality of income that is dispersed across the state.
On September 7th, 2016 Superior Court Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher finally made a ruling on the 11 year-old case stating, funding Connecticut school districts unequally was unconstitutional. Until now, students from needy districts have been at a disadvantage. The State has failed to provide the same level of education for all public school students based on the Department of Education Funding per Pupil.
The current system divides funds for public schools into two categories: State and Local sources. Schools receive approximately 39% of all funds being provided by the State, while 57% is made up on a local level, and under 5% is received from the federal government.
So why is this unconstitutional?
The majority of the money which is allocated to put into the budgets of CT public schools, is derived from the incomes of those towns. For example, take a town like Darien which has an average median income of $200,724. Since the median household income is significantly higher than of Norwalk, they are able to provide their schools with a heftier budget.
Mrs. Bilodeau, a CGS History teacher, commented on the issue stating how she feels about the current system: “The smaller suburban towns also struggle to get state funding. As a teacher in a city school, I feel there are huge hurdles to overcome. Norwalk falls in that category in some ways as well. Greenwich and Darien are outliers because they have such incredibly wealthy communities.”
The ruling made by Moukawsher reads the State of Connecticut has 180 days to propose a plan to equalize the funding across all districts.
One student who was aware of the issue, offered his opinion in regard to the urgency of the case. Brendan Murtha (‘17) told PrideTime, “I believe all students, rich and poor, black and white, male and female-- they all deserve an equal and outstanding education. Anyone who believes in equal educational opportunity for all should be concerned about the major deficits in school budgets.”
Although public schools have dealt with what they have been given, the growth of students depending on the districts they attend, in an academic realm will differ. If there isn’t enough funding put into each pupil, their end result will reflect that amount.
To get a different perspective of the issue, PrideTime interviewed Lorena DeCaprio (‘17) who currently attends Darien High School. She stated, “Their responsibility should include making sure all the districts are given equal opportunities. I feel lucky to be in a good quality school district, but the emphasis on wealth breeds a lot of competition, making other students uncomfortable.”
It’s important to remember the inequalities between school districts across the State and the urgency to provide all schools same opportunity, however we must not let that divide us from town to town.
Districts within Fairfield County and the Net Current Expenditures per Pupil (NCEP)
*All amounts have been published by the Connect State Department of Education Bureau of Grants Management.