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Connecticut To Link Aid, Test Scores

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Connecticut will become the first state to use students' test scores as a basis for distributing aid to districts, under legislation given final approval this month.

The measure, which follows the recommendations of a state study commission that proposed the new formula last fall, would provide aid to districts based, in part, on the number of students who score below the remedial level on the state's mastery tests.

Improvement Bonuses

That provision is aimed at targeting aid to districts with severe educational need, the bill's sponsors said.

The legislature also added to the commission's proposal a provision that would award bonuses to districts that show improvements in test scores.

"We want to recognize absolute need, and reward educational success,'' said Senator Kevin B. Sullivan, Senate chairman of the joint education committee.

As the study commission had proposed, the legislation would create a new formula, combining general state aid with funds from the 1986 Education Enhancement Act, which provided aid to allow districts to raise teacher salaries. (See Education Week, Nov. 18, 1987.)

The formula, which will be phased in over four years, beginning in the 1989-90 school year, will set a minimum foundation level of spending at $4,800 per pupil in 1992-93, the first year of full implementation.

In order to help poorer districts reach that level of spending, the legislature agreed to boost state aid to $841 million in 1989-90, or $81 million more than the previous aid programs would have provided. The state is expected to provide $1.12 billion in aid by 1992-93.

Suburban Support

Several Republican lawmakers, noting that state revenues are expected to grow less rapidly than they have in the past few years, objected to the spending increase and warned that it may lead to higher taxes.

But the measure, which had the support of most major education groups, was overwhelmingly adopted over the Republicans' objections.

Sponsors also had won the support of legislators from some 40 suburban communities, who feared that under the new formula, their towns would receive a smaller increase in aid than they would have under the existing formula.

An amendment approved by the legislature ensures that these towns will receive no less than 5 percent above their existing aid levels.
--RR

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