Local officials are responding positively to Gov. Dannel Malloy's plan to bolster Educational Cost Sharing grants by $50 million across the state, which specifically would net Newtown a little more than $29,000 in additional funding, or less than a percentage point of what the town already receives.
That breaks out to an additional $5 a pupil – the town has 5,478 students – according to the governor's office.
"While not a great of money, every little bit helps fund the programs and personnel in our K-12 system," Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra said in an email. "This legislative session will be very interesting with a great deal of potential change in educational policy and funding approaches. I am cautiously optimistic that some of these changes will make a difference in the achievement level of our most challenged districts as well as reduce somewhat the financial burden felt at the municipal level."
The bulk of the additional money would go to the state's 30 lowest-performing school districts, which are being referred to as Alliance districts, on the condition they implement education reform. Newtown is not an Alliance district.
An additional $4.5 million in competitive funding would be available to all districts, with preference to Alliance districts.
"From my perspective, additional monies to support the basic implementation of our educational efforts is a good thing as long as there is accountability that comes along with how those dollars are being spent," Rep. Chris Lyddy (D-106, Newtown) said in an email. "This is why I also support measures to track how our education dollars are being expended while also holding our school and district leaders accountable for the outcomes they are charged with getting.
"In turn, I believe the highest performing schools and districts should be given more autonomy to develop the practices and programs that work while the state focuses its efforts on ensuring those lowest performing schools are scrutinized at a higher level in order to identify areas in need of change."
Lyddy also said would like to see more reforms particularly in determining how the money is doled out. Many officials, including Malloy and legislators from both aisle have said the formula needs to be revised due to inequalities.
"I do not think this new number fixes the equation to fund education, but it is a good first step," Lyddy said of the additional money. "I look forward to additional efforts by the administration and the ECS Task Force to come up with a fair funding formula that supports our reform efforts."
Rep. DebraLee Hovey (R-112, Newtown, Monroe) said "I held my breath" when the ECS numbers came out. She said she was relieved to see that the funding to Newtown and Monroe did not decrease. Monroe also had its funding increased by about $21,000, which also represents an additional $5 a pupil.
"While I am painfully aware that my towns do not get what I would believe to be a 'fair' share of ECS money, especially in light of what they send to Hartford," Hovey said in an email. "I am relieved they did not take a loss, especially in light of the fact the Governor has made it public knowledge that he plans on focusing and giving more money to those schools that are non performing."
Of particular interest, Hovey said, was indications Malloy would be willing to address a long-standing complaint legislators and local officials have with state mandates that cost municipalities money.
"I listened very carefully to the Governor and if he stays true to his word some of the mandates that cost Newtown money will be set aside and they should give some fiscal relief," she said. "Along with working in the Education Committee on implementation of Educational Improvements and reforms I will also be advocating for mandate relief for my towns."