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District Funding, Teacher Quality Linked in Conn. Finance Study

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A study by the Connecticut Department of Education has found a strong correlation between districts' per-pupil expenditures and the quality of their teaching staffs, as measured by levels of experience and education.

Prepared to aid the state board of education in formulating policies on equal educational opportunity, the study of 85 districts showed that high-spending districts have significantly more teachers, administrators, and support staff per 1,000 students than poorer districts; that they have more teachers with master's degrees; that their teachers are, on average, four years older and have three years' more experience; and that those teachers are paid about one-third more.

Furthermore, the study found, high schools in higher-spending districts offer an average of 5.8 advanced-placement courses, compared with 2.3 in low-spending districts, but the number and range of courses offered was generally found to correlate more closely with school size than with per-pupil spending.

"Anyone could tell you that high spending is partly a function of higher salaries, and that's true," said Theodore S. Sergi, the author of the study.

"What this shows is that there's more to it than that--that what you get for those dollars is people with more education and more experience. Educators could debate how important that is. We left it to the state board of education to decide whether it makes any difference in educational opportunities."

Guaranteed Tax Base Program

In 1979, two years after the Connecticut Supreme Court found the state's school-finance system unconstitutional, the state legislature enacted a new system, called the Guaranteed Tax Base program. The program has narrowed the spending disparities between districts, but the plaintiffs in the case, Horton v. Meskill, have resumed the litigation, contending that the new formula is not working as intended and has been underfunded.

The state board's study is related to the Horton case only in that they both address aspects of equal opportunity, Mr. Sergi said. "The disparity question goes on forever," he added. "The work of this department is to continually work to reduce disparities. As of today, there is a relationship between how much you spend and how many staff you have. That is not to say it wouldn't have been greater if we hadn't had school-finance reform."

"There are a lot of ways you could construe what equal educational opportunity means," he pointed out, mentioning, as three measures, dollars per pupil, equal access to resources such as staff and time, and student outcomes.

The report recommends that the board consider staff resources, the range of high-school course offerings, and the size of high schools in developing its equal-opportunity policy.

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