Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Rell's education proposal...

The governor made her presentation to the legislature's Education Committee today, explaining her proposal to increase statge funding for education. Here's an except of the governor's testimony at the public hearing...

"My education plan will provide important, long-overdue changes to the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant. I am proposing an increase in ECS grants by $1.1 billion per year over the next five years with each community receiving a minimum 3% increase over its prior year grant. Every town will benefit. The overall ECS Foundation will increase from $5,891 to $9,687 by the end of the five-year phase in and the ECS cap will be eliminated the first year. This plan will finally achieve the 50/50 education cost sharing between the State of Connecticut and our cities and towns.

"Early childhood education continues to be one of my priorities. Over the biennium, I am proposing that more than $40 million dollars be invested to finance one-third (about 4,100) of the unmet pre-school needs for children living in the poorest communities in Connecticut. I am also proposing to phase in universal preschool for 13,000 children from low-income families. Supporting initiatives to reduce racial isolation and improve urban education is critical; therefore, I am increasing financial incentives for the OPEN Choice Program and for enhanced academic support for primary and middles school students.

"To properly prepare our students for higher education, I am requiring more math and science courses as well as a high school graduation exam. If students are prepared for college, money should not be a barrier for them to attend; therefore, I am recommending a $25 million dollar increase in student financial aid for both public and private colleges. These are critical steps if we are to make progress in closing the achievement gap.

"As for accountability, I am calling for a number of new measures ranging from empowering the State Department of Education with a series of increasing interventions for districts that fail to meet adequate progress to more discrete programs that deal with specific issues such as truancy.

"Every year we talk about reducing crime, about reducing violence in our cities, about reducing the drop-out rate and about properly investing in education. The more things have changed, the more they have stayed the same and the only long-term solution is education.

"Fourteen months ago I convened a bi-partisan “Commission on Education Financing” charged with identifying better, fairer ways of distributing state funds for local education.

"The commission issued its final recommendations last December. My education proposal was largely based on the findings of this group of education financing and education accountability experts who spent a year studying the issues and developing their recommendations. The time is right to implement them - let’s get it done.

"Connecticut’s future continues to be knowledge. We must invest in our children from the ground up or our economy will decline. I firmly believe that we can secure our future with this unprecedented commitment to education. I respectfully request your support for this bill and look forward to working with you to build the best education system in America.


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