Opinion: Without fully funding education, we cannot create lasting change

As Connecticut school districts decide how to allocate their US bailout funds (ARP), without the promise of fully funding education, we wonder what will happen once the federal dollars are over. exhausted.

Daniel Pearson

Last year, the Connecticut credit committee approved a needs-based formula, aimed at closing the $ 639 million racial funding gap statewide. However, as it stands, the benefits will not reach our most disadvantaged students for six years. This continued gap will create obstacles in the implementation of mental health, socio-emotional learning and mentoring programs, as well as create problems in hiring new staff. If there is not enough money to support programs or pay salaries for new roles after ARP funds are depleted, these resources will again become inaccessible to students in low-income neighborhoods.

The School and State Finance Project reports that “districts with higher percentages of BIPOC students generally serve students with greater learning needs but spend less per student, while school districts with higher percentages of BIPOC. White students serve students with fewer learning needs but spend more per student. “This disparity in spending translates into overcrowded classrooms, a lack of extracurricular activities, and a lack of learning and mental health resources for students in low-income communities.

According to the CDC, in 2018, one in five children had suffered from a serious mental illness. We know that number has only increased due to the pandemic, distance education and constant change. While students statewide will have to prioritize recovery from personal trauma, students in districts with a higher percentage of BIPOC students will receive less help and guidance due to this lack of funding.

To ensure all students are supported, districts should hire more educators to reduce class sizes and increase personalized attention, hire counselors, and implement programs to address trauma and behavior issues. and fund extracurricular activities to provide students with a safe and productive space to study and grow outside of the classroom. But these actions come at a cost, and if those costs cannot be met, the needs of students will not be met. However, if we close the racial funding gap now, we can use those federal dollars to address structural issues within our districts and work toward classrooms that offer educational enrichment, emotional support, and opportunities for learning. necessary learning.

Educators say schools do not consistently meet the needs of their vulnerable student populations in areas surrounding programs, staff and professional support. By fully funding education now and closing the racial funding gap, schools could solve these problems immediately, without worrying about funds expiring or the inability to pay staff.

“The disparities in spending between districts create an environment for my students in which they don’t get the education they want or deserve,” said Claudia Tenaglia, college social studies professor at Dwight-Bellizzi Dual Language Academy in Hartford. “Our classrooms are overcrowded, we do not have enough staff and the needs of our students are not being adequately met. “

ARP funds are for programs to mitigate learning loss, provide mental health support, increase staff, and update district technology – all ongoing costs that need to be sustained long after retirement. depletion of federal funds. However, the reality is that traditional annual school funding is often used for physical repairs to dilapidated or neglected school buildings. With schools using ongoing funding to cope with these changes, there will not be much left to maintain the necessary programs and new salaries for new employees after the initial implementation costs, leaving full funding for education as our best option to ensure that all needs – physical and academic – are met.

Even before the pandemic, many of our students had late grades and struggled emotionally, our educators were still overworked and understaffed, and COVID only exacerbated these issues. Even with $ 1.1 billion in funding for Connecticut schools this year, students and teachers are unlikely to see meaningful change without the promise of fully funding education and closing the racial funding gap. .

Community members must continue to call on our lawmakers to fully fund education before ARP funds expire. All students deserve the opportunity to receive a great education, and our educators cannot do it alone.

Daniel Pearson is State Director of Educators for Excellence.

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