Each year, Dr. Pascarella, the Danbury Superintendent, prepares a budget to operate Danbury Public Schools; it is approved by the Danbury Board of Education and sent to the Danbury City Council for approval. The City Council refers it to a committee that makes a recommendation back to the Council for funding. The Committee is conscious of the City’s fiscal restraints and often does not approve the full amount. After many cuts over the past few years, Danbury Schools operate on a barebones budget.
In addition to the yearly costs of running the district, the state has imposed many mandates on school districts. Some of those mandates are directly related to the mission of public education and many of them are not. All mandates not directly related to the mission of the public schools have constituted a considerable mission creep that has diverted staff time, attention and financial resources and hampered district efforts to accomplish their basic mission.
Unfunded mandates, such as the TEAM mentoring program for new teachers, now constitute a major impediment for school districts. Danbury strongly urges the state government to refrain from imposing any additional mandates upon us until the present mandate structure has been studied and reformed. Danbury also requests that state government establish a process for considering new mandates that includes district representation in exploration committees, sunsetting mandates when funding is eliminated and conducting a cost analysis to determine fiscal impact on local districts.
Children with special educational needs should have those needs effectively accommodated in public schools. School districts across Connecticut routinely make every effort to accommodate these needs but are hindered by four factors: financial, regulatory, statutory and interagency responsibility. Recommendations include: remove the funding cap on the Special Education Excess Cost Grant and redefine excess cost to be three times a district’s per pupil expenditures.
Danbury is an Alliance district that uses its grant to implement strategies aimed at increasing student achievement. For example, when districts are insufficiently funded, basic operations such as class size are adjusted upward and student achievement is negatively impacted. This situation is a symptom of the fact that the Connecticut system for funding public education needs systemic reform. Recommendations include: the Alliance District Program should continue to be fully funded in 2018-19; Alliance funding should be sustained in relation to proposed new school funding formulas; and Alliance funds should be sent directly to school districts rather than to the general fund.
There will be opportunities to voice your opinion and support of the proposed Danbury school budget. Board meetings, City Council meetings and forums are all routes to advocate for a better budget. If you would like to better understand the budget process, feel free to reach out to me or to any board member at http://www.danbury.k12.ct.us/district/board_of_education/board_of_ed.
Anne E. Mead, Ed. D., is the administrator for the Early Childhood Education and Extended Learning Programs of the Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her at 203-830-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.