Education Committee
March 4, 2022
Presented By: Kathleen Callahan, MSW

Dear Honorable Chairpersons McCrory and Sanchez, Ranking Members Berthel and McCarty, Vice Chairs Daugherty Abrams and Barry, and all other Members of the Education Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly:

My name is Kathleen Callahan, a resident of Stratford, and the 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 Committee to advance student-centered funding and support HB-5283: An Act Concerning the Education Cost Sharing Grant Formula and the Funding of Other Education Programs.

The legislative agenda of NASW/CT emphasizes advancing racial, economic, and social justice by promoting culturally responsive practices in all aspects of community life, including education. Additionally, NASW/CT supports legislation that specifically promotes elimination of inequities and disparities related to race. We believe a more just and student-centered system provides learning opportunities for all Connecticut public school students.

This bill funds all students based on their learning needs; fully funds the Education Cost Sharing formula; increases transparency around how schools are funded; and reduces the racial and economic disparities in Connecticut education funding.

Connecticut’s public school districts are 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. Fortunately, the three rounds of federal relief – the ESSER funds – continue to allow districts to cope with some of the academic and social emotional impact on students, teachers, and administrators.

The past two 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 are facing a fiscal cliff regarding the expiration of these federal funds. Any gap, let alone a devastating stoppage, would hinder fulfilling our obligation. Restoring a strong foundation for all our public schools cannot be built upon federal relief funding but upon continued state investment

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.

The testimony we provided on HB-5001 indicated NASW/CT strongly supports the grant program allowing school districts to hire additional student mental health specialists. We know that mental health concerns are an obstacle to students’ learning and school social workers and other school based mental health staff are essential to meeting the current and future mental health needs of students. A report from the ACLU prior to the pandemic stated, “Up to 80 percent of youth in need of mental health services do not receive services in their communities because existing services are inadequate. Of those who do receive assistance, 70 to 80 percent of youth receive mental health care in their schools. Students are 21 times more likely to visit school-based health centers for mental health than community mental health centers. This is especially true in low-income districts where other resources are scarce.[2]” We want social workers to meet these children where they are, as students in school.

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-5283.

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.

[2] American Civil Liberties Union. (2019). Cops and No Counselors. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/030419-acluschooldisciplinereport.pdf.

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