New Haven’s Waiting On The Details

Markeshia Ricks PhotosHartford — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s promise Wednesday to protect school aid to cities — although with an unidentified “accountability” condition — left New Haven lawmakers cautiously optimistic, but eager to see the details.

He made the promise during an annual “State of the State” address to a joint session of the General Assembly on the opening day of the 2017 legislative session.

Malloy outlined three areas that he planned to tackle in an effort to close a $1.5 billion projected deficit: continuing to make state government leaner and more cost effective, seeking more changes in the state pension system, and revisiting the formula for distributing town aid.

Most of that aid — 80 percent, or 4.1 billion, of $5.1 billion in total municipal aid — comes in the form of grants to the public schools, which the governor has cut in recent years to cities like New Haven.

In light of a recent state Superior Court judge’s ruling that criticized that approach, Malloy promised to take a different tack this year:  to “direct our support to those municipalities that are struggling the most — so that we can level the playing field for our students and our taxpayers.” (Click here to read the full text of the speech.)

“Connecticut needs a new way to calculate educational aid – one that guarantees equal access to a quality education regardless of zip code. Our state constitution guarantees it, and our moral compass demands it,” Malloy declared. “We need a formula that appropriately measures a given community’s burden.  A formula that recognizes specific challenges faced by local property taxpayers.  And a formula that takes into account the impact those challenges have on the education provided to our children.”

He promised that the proposed biennial budget he presents next month “will outline a more equitable system for providing town aid. It will be based on the local property tax burden, student need, and current enrollment. The system will be designed to be more fair, transparent, accountable, and adaptable – meaning that it will provide flexibility to fit the needs of a given community.”

Then he added the caveat: “If the state is going to play a more active role in helping less-affluent communities – in helping higher-taxed communities – part of that role will be holding local political leadership and stakeholders to substantially higher standards and greater accountability than they’ve been held to in the past.  We should do it so that increased aid doesn’t simply mean more spending on local government.”

He didn’t provide details yet on what those “standards” and that “accountability” will entail. After the speech, New Haven lawmakers said they’ll be paying close attention to those details when they emerge.

State Rep. Pat Dillon said when it comes to accountability she’d like to see more on the state side.

“I don’t exactly know what the higher standard would look like,” she said. “Does that mean he’s worried about the poor towns not doing enough? I think the state could also be more accountable for how it spends its money, and that’s true on bonding and appropriations. I’ve seen [multimillion-dollar] contracts go zipping through. and I don’t see the same level of scrutiny frankly. I know lot of people are talking about pressure on the budget, but another pressure is the debt service.

“I don’t think anybody is opposed to accountability. I don’t think investing in the cities should only mean the richer cities. The economy is going to come back if people want to be [in cities], and you’re not going to get young people if you start pounding the cities into the ground.”

New Haven State Sen. Martin Looney said it looks like the city might receive more, not less, education funding despite the overall cuts coming this year. He said he believes the governor will look to use state aid to incentivize finding economies of scale, including asking small towns to look toward regional spending approaches to avoid duplication. He said the governor isn’t looking to close schools; the focus could be on not having too many small school districts with top-heavy bureaucratic structures. (New Haven receives $142.5 million in Educational Cost Sharing from the state this year.)

State Rep. Roland Lemar said the governor’s speech set a framework the legislature should consider going forward — that cities are the state’s greatest opportunity to grow jobs and be competitive in the 21st century. He said he believes that New Haven has generally been an accountable community, but the reality is that it bears the brunt of structural and institutional racism when it comes to providing public goods like a decent education.

“The city of New Haven is boxed in a tight geographic area without the property revenues to actually support a public school system and the rest of the suburban towns that created zoning rules to make sure that they never had to tackle the structural challenges we face,” he said. “They have robust property tax baselines that we don’t have access to while we have a series of nonprofits. We’re always trying to educate most of the children in the region with fewer resources.

“We need to make sure that school funding formula recognizes that reality that Connecticut has foisted upon central cities for over 100 years,” he added. “Everyone in here wants to attack cities but the reality is the only way Connecticut grows as a competitive, economic place is if cities flourish and the only way that can happen is if we can equitably fund school.”

New Haven State Rep. Toni Walker, co-chair of the legislature’s powerful Appropriations Committee, said she’s taking a wait and see approach about any plans to change the formula for distributing town aid until she gets some specifics.

“I’ve learned with our governor that I need to see the details to make sure what I’m agreeing with and what I’m not agreeing with,” she said. “But he understands the impacts of our cities and the importance of them as the economic powerhouse of the state. They’re why people move to Connecticut.”

“There will be a lot more detail into the research of each agency, especially in appropriations,” she added. “We’re going to make sure that we go through all of the details. It’s going to be a lot of hours and a lot of work, but it’s the reason why we came up here. If we have to be sequestered for a month, so be it.”

The state cut nearly $850 million to balance the current fiscal budget. Malloy told a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate Wednesday that more will have to be done to reduce spending given the new projected $1.5 billion hole.

“Commissioners will need to once again work with their staff – and with you, our legislative partners – to find additional savings,” Malloy said. “Like families across Connecticut, just because we responsibly managed our budget in recent years doesn’t mean we can take this year off.  We must continue to live within our means, spending only as much revenue as we have, and no more.”

New Haven State Sen. Gary Winfield said that statement gave him a bit of pause because cuts last year not only reduced spending, but actually reduced the size of government, which Malloy pointed out in his speech.

“It all sounds great,” he said. “People should be accountable for the money they receive. People who have more needs and a different tax base should be compensated differently—all of that sounds wonderful. But I don’t know what that means. I need details.”

Malloy touted some of the success that state has had in criminal justice reform including a reduction in the prison population and recidivism rates. Winfield said there is still more work to be done on the issues of solitary confinement, body cameras, and in juvenile justice reform with raising the age at which arrestees are tried as adults. He also added the question of marijuana possession as a criminal justice issue.

State Rep. Robyn Porter said she took hope in many of Malloy’s points — such as the increase in reading proficiency and graduation rates. She tempered that hope with the problems she sees represented in the New Haven and Hamden school systems she represents. She said though there have been improvements, graduation rates are still low. She said there is a continued need to invest in urban centers, not just for the purpose of attracting people, but for sustaining those who live there and can’t find jobs.

“We have to invest our urban centers,” she said. “People are coming to work there and make their money there, but not caring about the people who live there and can not find work. There isn’t an achievement gap. There is an opportunity and resources gap. I’m glad hear [Gov. Malloy] say he wants to put more money in urban centers where more money is needed.”

Like Winfield, she wants to hear more about what the state plans to do to remove the “scarlet F” that formerly incarcerated felons wear as they try to move on from their previous crimes and find work. She said she wants to see more done to address the problem of employment among the formerly incarcerated and she wants to see the end of the criminalization of children.

In his speech, Malloy pointed out that the state provides $5.1 billion in aid to municipalities and 81 percent of that spending, or $4.1 billion, is for education. That number doesn’t include what the state spends on school construction financing, which is roughly a quarter of the state’s bonded debt.

Freshman New Haven State Rep. Al Paolillo Jr. said his interest was piqued by the points the governor made about the equitable distribution of aid, education and economic growth. He pointed out that New Haven educates more than 21,000 children. “I think we do a good job, but obviously accountability is an area of interest,” he said.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 4, 2017  6:19pm

The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return.

Gore Vidal

posted by: duncanidaho645 on January 4, 2017  6:31pm

No need to fear on the local level.  New Haven has bought its amnesty with the overpayment on contracts with AFB and contracts handled by them.

http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/FBI-subpoenas-trove-of-records-for-contractor-9191623.php

posted by: Perspective on January 5, 2017  7:45am

Is the issue truly the amount of money each town has/gets or are the issues ‘deeper’ than that? Based on this article the proposition is if the ‘cities’ received more money then inherently the scores and quality of education would rise also ???
It would be interesting to see a comparison of the educational dollars spent per student for each town in CT.  Anyone know where that data is available?

posted by: Statestreeter on January 5, 2017  7:57am

Luckily during these times of financial duress that Harp has exasperated and is trying to cover up until she sneaks in a tax increase under the cover of the re-eval, at least we have these state reps that are in front of it.

Lemar wants to legalize pot and marginalized Connecticut with a popular vote. Dillon wants to tackle dark money and Looney wants to burden employers with guaranteed abuse ridden paid family leave and create a bigger fiscal turd with no taxes on social security.

In the meantime Toni Harp will cry about our struggling City while she creates more useless positions and supplements them with $20,000 raises, promotes expensive giveaway labor agreement like the school administrators who have been in charge of our failing schools , to stay competitive and advocate to give paraprofessional and security guards 40% wage increases and justify it with a false tale that a lot of them have masters degrees.

The house of cards that Harp has turned the city finances into is going to fall. Re-financing our money just to owe more but spread it out so you can spend more and claim a reduction is not sound.  Police and fire overtime is millions in the hole and our pension funds are suffering a slow death.

Harp has brought all her talents from her recent years as a state senator that has crippled Connecticut back to her long forgotten about home in New Haven.  She has my vote for governor,,,,,,of any other state but Connecticut.

After more thought Lemar’s proposal may be the best thing for us because you will have to be high to deal with all this BS and dull the pain.

Hey Roland!  Remember Puff, Puff, Give!!!!!!!

posted by: Renewhavener on January 5, 2017  2:05pm

@Statestreeter… First off, hilarious Friday reference.  Secondly and seriously though related to the pot issue: With Mass saying yes, we are kind of stuck, and will be forced by inertia to come along for the ride.  The problem is if we do tax it, it will mask some of the underlying structural issues with the CT economy, just as the introduction of casino money and jobs did years ago.  Here’s a link to a Fred Carstensen opinion piece in the HBJ from before Christmas that lines up that point:  http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/article/20161226/PRINTEDITION/312209954

This is my beef with taxing vice overall.  The dems keep turning the screws on users of tobacco, alcohol, they double down on a join venture hartford casino, now we got the pot thing looming.  All it does is create new revenue at the expense of real changes needed to make the very revenue they are after more consistent on an annualized basis and make us more competitive as a state overall.  A consistency and competitiveness that Malloy hopes for, but will likely not produce.

Equally if not more alarming from the article / speech, “Malloy pointed out that the state provides $5.1 billion in aid to municipalities and 81 percent of that spending, or $4.1 billion, is for education. That number doesn’t include what the state spends on school construction financing, which is roughly a quarter of the state’s bonded debt.”

Wow.  That’s a lot.  Especially when the smartest and most talented among those educated here move out to work elsewhere, say like to Boston to work at GE.

posted by: 1644 on January 5, 2017  2:37pm

Perspective: Here are the 2015 per student figures for all CT towns: http://ctschoolfinance.org/spending/per-student
As you suspected, New Haven spends more than most towns.  Also, most of the money is spends is other people’s money (state & federal dollars), rather than its own.  The folks cited in this artcle act as if the current ECS and other formulae did not already give the cities the greatest share of state and federal aid.  New Haven provides only $4,200 of the over $17K it spends per student.  In contrast, Woodbridge provides over $15K of the $16K it spends per student. The article also ignores the court’s opinion that the state spends too much on special education and wastes money by compensating teachers based on seniority and degrees rather than a competitive evaluation system.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on January 5, 2017  4:29pm

@ 1644
but you also have to remember how many of the students in our schools are from surrounding city’s.  Not sure what the percentage is. Many of the people that live in the suburbs have their children go to New Haven schools. They take a lot of the full day kindergarten spots and full day grammar schools. They are in the magnet HS. And that is why the state funds are higher. Not sure how it all works but I know that is one of the factors for the state money and the federal well this is one of my personal grips. We get more federal because we have kids that are not achieving. I remember one city finally got all there kids at an achievement level and the following year they lost all the federal money (I think it was ansonia, it was one of the valley towns). So I sometimes feel that New Haven does not push for REAL achievement because of these funds!

ok I know that was a bit of a rambling rant.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 5, 2017  4:45pm

Freshman New Haven State Rep. Al Paolillo Jr. said his interest was piqued by the points the governor made about the equitable distribution of aid, education and economic growth. He pointed out that New Haven educates more than 21,000 children. “I think we do a good job, but obviously accountability is an area of interest,” he said.

Get ready for the rubber Stamping.Al is good at it.

posted by: 1644 on January 5, 2017  6:11pm

Cedar: I doubt suburban kids are more the 10%.  Remember, too, that the suburbs have a lot of NH kids with Project Choice.  (I know it seems like there are a lot of suburban kids when you kid can’t get in because NHPS is keeping seats empty in the hope of suburban kids transferring, but the magnet schools weren’t built for poor, black kids.  They were built for wealthier, white kids to address the racial imbalance between districts.). The lion’s share of aid is ECS, which is divided up roughly according to a formula for district “wealth” and need.  It is a function of grand list, average income, and free lunch, with Grand List and income proxies for wealth, and free lunches proxy for need.  It does not include ESL/ELL, which were reasons the legislature diverted from the formula last year to give more to West Hartford and Branford. (In addition to swing Gen. Assembly district status.). I believe there are also federal programs that target aid to “needy” districts, which would penalize success, just as the Grand List variable penalizes towns that promote economic development.  I am also pretty sure that my citation’s “town share” includes PILOT funds, because they go into a town’s general fund rather than being fenced for education. In that case, the actual local dollars going to NHPS would be even less.  BTW, back in the Sheff days, Ansonia was regarded as the worst district in the state.

posted by: TheMadcap on January 5, 2017  11:37pm

Woodbridge:
The median income for a household in the town was $137,216, and the median income for a family was $155,694. Males had a median income of $105,632 versus $70,286 for females. The per capita income for the town was $69,179.[1] 2.3% of the population and 1.4% of families were below the poverty line.

New Haven:
The median income for a household in the city is $29,604, and the median income for a family is $35,950. Median income for males is $33,605, compared with $28,424 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,393. About 20.5% of families and 24.4% of the population live below the poverty line

So yeah its kind of not a surprise Woodbridge can provide a greater share of its education budget when per person there is considerably more wealth concentrated to be used. Not to mention these are almost all kids from upper income families that have more to spend on their kids and are usually more stable-ish. Meanwhile in New Haven we have to worry about kids going hungry during the summer because lack of school lunches, need bilingual education, have tons of kids from broken homes, ect, ect, and half the freakin town property cant be taxed

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 6, 2017  8:03am

posted by: 1644 on January 5, 2017 2:37pm

The article also ignores the court’s opinion that the state spends too much on special education and wastes money by compensating teachers based on seniority and degrees rather than a competitive evaluation system.

Last I look teachers are paid base on union contract.So what does the union contract say.

posted by: Perspective on January 6, 2017  8:26am

@1644-Thank you for the link. Very enlightening data

As a person who was educated in the NHPS system I find the ‘rationale’ that education is lacking in the NHPS is due to there is not enough money to be a convenient excuse.  Ironically,  the classes and opportunities I was afforded in the NHPS system were actually greater than my peers who lived in some of these ‘lucrative’ towns that NH continues to compare itself to. I was able to obtain a high quality education in the NHPS and observed many of my classmates as well going on to higher levels of education and career success while others did not.  The real question should be why are some students more successful than others within the town itself.  I think you will find these ‘reasons’ are probably similar to reasons some towns are successful and others are not——and its not the amount of money being spent .

posted by: 1644 on January 6, 2017  5:46pm

3/5’s: Yes, teacher pay scales are the result of collective bargaining.  The unions, of course, represent the teachers, not the children.  The court ruled that those agreements do not serve the children, and are an inefficient use of education funds.  So, if we want to use the funds we have to best serve our kids, perhaps we should eviscerate collective bargaining rights for teachers.  In Wisconsin, good teachers, and teachers with in demand skills, are jumping from district to district earning top pay after only a few years on the job.  They are rewarded based on their individual worth to the district, rather than on a one-size-fits-all pay scale.  Meanwhile, highly paid, experienced but ineffective teachers are being let go. http://projects.jsonline.com/news/2016/10/9/from-teacher-free-agency-to-merit-pay-the-uproar-over-act-10.html
Madcap: Yes, most would agree that New Haven should get more state aid than Woodbridge.  But the folks in the article speak as it that is not already happening on a massive scale, which it is.  Malloy has also mentioned more accountability from the cities.  If the money to educate New Haven kids is coming from outside the city, should the control not be from outside the city?  And as Perspective suggests, perhaps NHPS is fine, and offers opportunity for those who want it.  It does do a good job with 14% of its kids.  Maybe, the problem is not with the teachers, administrators, etc.  Maybe the problem is outside the school system, and we should not look to the school system to fix every problem (hungry kids, overworked, detached, or absent parents, etc).

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 7, 2017  1:34pm

posted by: 1644 on January 6, 2017 5:46pm

3/5’s: Yes, teacher pay scales are the result of collective bargaining.  The unions, of course, represent the teachers, not the children.  The court ruled that those agreements do not serve the children, and are an inefficient use of education funds.

And last I looked parents represent children.In fact that is what the PTA is for..


So, if we want to use the funds we have to best serve our kids, perhaps we should eviscerate collective bargaining rights for teachers.

Removing collective bargaining rights from teachers may be discriminatory. Other public employees have collective bargaining rights, firefighters, police, etc. Removing these rights from teachers, because they are public employees, while allowing them to remain for other public employees is difficult to defend as non-discriminatory.Also The problem is that the public, and many administrators, don’t draw a line, holding the teacher wholely responsible for that student, in spite of failed parents.


Stop blaming the union.

posted by: robn on January 8, 2017  11:40am

New Haven has a spending problem. Stop spending! Slash the budget and lower taxes!

posted by: 1644 on January 8, 2017  12:21pm

3/5’s: I don’t blame the union.  The union and its members are doing what unions and union members do:  get the most money for the least amount of work.  What’s good for the public or kids is not their concern.  I blame the state legislators who allow public unions to exist.  Yes, the primary cause of the failure of NHPS’s kids to get a good education is the parents, who brought the kids into this world, often without the means to provide for their children’s most basic needs of food and housing, let alone being able to support their education.  (Indifferent parenting is hardly confined to the poor; many rich outsource their parenting with boarding schools.)  Moreover,if there were one group of public employees for whom I would eliminate collective bargaining, it would be police, not teachers.  Far too often, police unions and their CBAs protect cops who pose an unreasonable danger to the general public.  It should be far, far easier to fire cops.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 9, 2017  9:23am

posted by: 1644 on January 8, 2017 12:21pm

3/5’s: I don’t blame the union.  The union and its members are doing what unions and union members do:  get the most money for the least amount of work.  What’s good for the public or kids is not their concern.  I blame the state legislators who allow public unions to exist.

The reason why public unions exist is you had the spoils system which was also call the patronage system in which a political party, after winning an election, gives government civil service jobs to its supporters, friends and relatives as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party—as opposed to a merit system, where offices are awarded on the basis of some measure of merit, independent of political activity.

Yes, the primary cause of the failure of NHPS’s kids to get a good education is the parents, who brought the kids into this world, often without the means to provide for their children’s most basic needs of food and housing, let alone being able to support their education.  (Indifferent parenting is hardly confined to the poor; many rich outsource their parenting with boarding schools.)

More B.S.Let me tell you something.My peeps are Caribbean.Caribbean and most Immigrants do not play when it comes to education. Those failing schools you talk about I came out of them as other Caribbean and most Immigrants did.Hundreds of research studies show that when parents get involved, children do better in school.

Part one

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 9, 2017  9:32am

Part Two

Moreover,if there were one group of public employees for whom I would eliminate collective bargaining, it would be police, not teachers.  Far too often, police unions and their CBAs protect cops who pose an unreasonable danger to the general public.  It should be far, far easier to fire cops.

More B.S.Lawyers accept bad clients and get them off the Hook.Bad police and even teachers have been fired.All the union does is make sure they get a fair hearing.