State Rep. Harry Arora: School funding, curriculum mandates, construction grants

Posted on April 11, 2022

Thank you to all who provided feedback on my last email regarding zoning bills advanced by the Housing and P&Z Committee. This week, I outline the key bills that the Education Committee has favorably reported to the General Assembly.

HB 5038, the administration’s  education bill modifies education grants formula amongst other provisions. The state provides school operating funding and construction grants to towns. The operating grants are based on an Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula, which allocates the $2 Billion of state grants between the various school districts. This bill make changes to allocations and increases funding to districts with economic disadvantage. Lower Fairfield county towns like Greenwich get less than 1% aid while cities like Hartford get over 70%. There is an urgent need to increase accountability of these state grants to ensure they are leading to improved outcomes. The ECS formula does not link funding to the performance of schools. For example, the Hartford school district which receives the maximum grant continues to show low student performance levels. I will not be supporting this bill because it does not make the much needed reform to ECS formula to improve fairness and accountability. Click here to see how much each town gets of that $2 Billion.

SB 428 and SB 429 are bills that address various aspects of school construction grants. Each year the state legislature authorizes approximately $500 Million of debt for school construction projects. This bill tries to improve accountability while addressing school safety and allowing such funding to be available to magnet schools. While this bill still does not provide construction funding to charter schools that I would have liked, it is overall a good bill I will support.

SB 5285 requires school districts to cover various topics in the curriculum, including climate change, genocide education and awareness, and other subjects. The state-mandated curriculum is something opposed by many parents. While I may agree with teaching many of these topics, I cannot support this being a state decision. I firmly believe that the state should stay out of mandating curriculum and leave it to local school districts.

Click here to review all bills the education committee has favorably reported to the assembly.