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Urging Federal Officials “Level Up,” Not Shift Away Education Resources

In her letter sent November 7 to U.S. Department of Education (DOE) Secretary John King, Randi Weingarten warned that “robbing Peter to pay Paul will not work.” At issue is whether states will be able to continue substituting federal “Title I” funds for local resources to bridge the gap between well-funded and cash-strapped local schools.
 
“The only real way to achieve equity without taking money away from schools that are meeting their students’ needs is for states and districts to ‘level up’ funding,” Weingarten said in her letter. She added that doing so would aid under-resourced schools by ensuring their levels “match or exceed funding at well-resourced schools.”
 
Click here for the letter sent to the U.S. DOE secretary.
 
The signatures from AFT members nationwide reflect the real concerns of teachers, paraprofessionals and other education staff about the potential impact of the regulations as originally written.
 
“Our members have long wrestled with how to get resources to communities struggling with poverty,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. “That’s in part why more than a decade ago our union joined the coalition pursuing a legal remedy to our state’s historically unfair funding formula. Educators here certainly don’t want to see a federal mandate that makes our already bad situation worse, not better,” added Hochadel, who previously served as president of our affiliated State Vocational Federation of Teachers.
 
Hochadel’s comments refer to the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) and their 11-year old lawsuit to fix the state’s broken Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant system. A superior court judge in September issued a sweeping decision in the case that failed to solve the crisis and instead recommend changes that contradict the new federal law.
 
Click here for Hochadel’s analysis of the judge’s decision.
 
“The consensus among union members across the country mirrors opinion here at home,” said Patti Fusco, AFT Connecticut’s jurisdictional vice president for PreK-12 educators. “Federal and state officials should ‘level up’ — not shift away — funding to achieve equity. That’s the only way to assure all kids — regardless of where they live — can have truly equal access to a great public education,” added Fusco, a member of our West Haven Federation of Teachers.
 
Click here for press coverage of the announcement of — and initial reaction to — the DOE’s proposal.
 
“Taking away funds from some districts in favor of others will only hurt what should be a united effort,” said Vice-President for Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel (PSRPs) Shellye Davis. “I say that as an educator in a district where 85% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunches and struggle with deep poverty,” added Davis, who also serves as co-president of our Hartford Federation of Paraprofessionals.
 
In urging federal education officials fix the draft supplement-not-supplant rules, Weingarten’s letter laid out three specific objectives echoed by union members’ petition signatures:
  • “leveling up” of state and/or local education funds; 
  • giving districts more time to design plans for achieving equity; and 
  • ensuring that the necessary resources, including staff, are allocated to ensure stability for students and the workforce.
Click here for our previous update on efforts to assure equity in implementation of the new law.
 
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