Education Committee
Appropriations Committee
February 3, 2023
Presented By: Kathleen Callahan, MSW

Dear Honorable Education Chairpersons Curry and McCrory, Ranking Members Berthel and McCarty, Vice Chairs Leeper and Winfield, Appropriations Chairs Osten and Walker, Ranking Members Berthel and Nuccio, Vice Chairs Exum, Hartley, and Paris, and all other Members of the Education and Appropriations Committees of the Connecticut General Assembly:

My name is Kathleen Callahan, a resident of Stratford, and a co-chair of the National Association of Social Workers Connecticut Chapter’s Education and Legislative Action Network (NASW/CT ELAN). I am testifying on behalf of the chapter which represents over 2,300 members. We call upon the Education and Appropriation Committees to advance student-centered funding and support HB-5003: An Act Concerning Education Funding in Connecticut.

The legislative agenda of NASW/CT always begins by emphasizing advancing racial, economic, and social justice by promoting culturally responsive practices in all aspects of community life. Education, particularly, provides an opportunity to prevent and intervene early. While we appreciate all the work you have done toward eliminating inequities and disparities related to race, class, gender, ethnicity, and exceptionality, the financing of our K-12 public education system remains disjointed, inadequate, and inequitable.

We need a more just and student-centered system that provides learning opportunities for all Connecticut public school students.

What does student-centered mean through the eyes of a social worker? Funding all students based on their learning needs. This bill does this. It fully funds the Education Cost Sharing formula – specifically for underfunded districts who can no longer wait for funding to phase in; elevates public schools of choice as viable options; and creates a task force to study accountability related to funding that improves student outcomes.

Connecticut’s public school districts remain highly segregated with inadequate funding gaps that favor districts with predominantly white student populations.[1] The lack of adequate resources in our highest-need, lowest-wealth districts existed before Covid-19. And the past three years have presented a stark reminder of both the resilience of our students and the state’s obligation to provide equal education opportunities for all Connecticut public school children.

We believe that equitably funding our districts is critical to the success of our students and communities, now more than ever. We cannot expect their resilience will come without a cost, nor should we test that theory. It is beyond unfair and fails too many of our children. Paired with the work of last session, fully funding our high need districts will help address ongoing impacts from the pandemic on student learning and mental health.

We all know that education plays a pivotal role in an individual’s economic and social mobility. Our students continue to recover from extraordinary, challenging times and it is our responsibility – as the adults supporting our students, our children – to support their learning opportunities. Equitable funding is essential for access to resources and improved outcomes. This bill would help realize the intent of equalization aid in education, leading to a more just and student-centered system which provides learning opportunities for all Connecticut public school students.

In closing, NASW-CT urges the committee to vote in favor of HB-5003.

With respect and gratitude for your service and consideration,

Kathleen Callahan
Stratford, CT

[1] School and State Finance Project. (2020). Fact Sheet: Racial Disparities in Connecticut Education Funding. New Haven, CT: Author. Retrieved from https://ctschoolfinance.org/resource-assets/Racial-Disparities-and-Educational-Funding-Fact-Sheet.pdf.

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