Late last night, the Connecticut State Senate passed their FY20-21 budget by a count of 20-16, following passage in the Assembly earlier this week by a count of 86-65. The budget now moves to Governor Lamont’s desk for signing in the days ahead.
Connecticut State Budget— The Big Picture
This two-year $43 billion budget increases education funding for local communities by approximately $120 million over the next two years; it does not include previous proposals on tax hikes for high income earners, cancels sales tax exemptions on a range of goods and services, and avoids a capital gains surcharge. The budget does not include funding related to tolls, paid family and medical leave, or from the legalization of marijuana.
Connecticut State Budget— The Impact on Your School(s)
This budget maintains the $5.3 million initially restored to the state charter school line item by the Appropriations Committee in May, as we previously shared in last month’s update. The finalized budget includes a total allocation of $245 million to the state charter line item ($120,622,500 million in FY20 and $124,678,750 million in FY21) and $1.29 million to the local charter line item ($600,000 million in FY20 and $690,000 million in FY21.) There are currently 10,396 public charters seats funded across the state, and these proposed allocations represent an increase to 10,722 seats in FY20 and 11,082 in FY21, but fall short of the enrollment projections across the sector in the next two years. SDE will allocate these seats to schools over the course of the next weeks or months. We will be closely tracking this process and will be communicating with individual schools.
Another shortfall in this budget is the lack of funding for Danbury Prospect Charter School as well as Norwalk Excellence, which received academic approval by SDE in October 2018. While Norwalk Excellence does not plan to operate during this budget cycle, we are disappointed that Danbury Prospect was not included in this budget. It’s very unfortunate that this process has become highly politicized and does not reflect the urgent need for additional school choice opportunities in Connecticut.
While we applaud the legislature and our supporters for their commitment to our kids, this budget clearly falls short of what is necessary to meet the needs of Connecticut’s public charter schools and their students by limiting the number of seats available to existing schools as well as denying a high-quality program to open its doors in Connecticut. This budget also does not include any systematic changes to the funding apparatus for public charter schools or any per pupil funding increase to close the equity gap for public charter schools.
Since the beginning of this year, families, staff and supporters have come together in their districts and at the State Capitol to advocate for our public charter schools. Our supporters have called, written letters and posted to social media, hosted school tours and lobbied at weekly charter advocacy days. With your help, we all together engaged 80 elected state leaders over 250 times.
We are hugely grateful to those legislators who recognize the importance of your work and are committed to all public school students in Connecticut. It is worth underscoring that the $5.3 million increase in this proposed budget is truly unprecedented, and speaks to the level of engagement that’s taken place during this session.
What Happens Next
So what happens now? From here, the budget goes to Governor Lamont for his signature. The Governor can sign the bill, veto the bill, or take no action. The Governor has 5 days to sign the bill during legislative session or 15 days after adjournment from the day it was presented to him.
NECSN will immediately begin to work with both the Office of Policy Management and SDE on seat needs, the renewal process, funding equity and generally improving policies and processes. We will need your collaboration and feedback to ensure that we are best serving your needs and priorities.