The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Education spending faired better than some state leaders expected in Connecticut’s 2005 legislative session, which included debate on a proposed junk-food ban in schools and a lawsuit over the No Child Left Behind Act.
Thanks largely to a surplus generated by healthier-than-predicted state revenues, Connecticut’s budget for pre-K-12 education is set to climb from $2.1 billion in fiscal 2005 to $2.2 billion in fiscal 2006, a 4.8 percent increase. The state’s total budget for fiscal 2006 is $14.1 billion.
Most of the additional money will go toward serving high-need students. The new budget adds $31.5 million to the $1.56 billion that the state gave out this past year through its Educational Cost Sharing grants, which is Connecticut’s main school aid program and is structured to reduce funding inequities between schools.
Districts serving special education students in need of high-cost services will see spending rise by 19 percent, from $67.1 million last fiscal year to $83 million in fiscal 2006, the largest hike in several years. State spending on magnet schools in the new fiscal year also is set to rise from $67.9 million to $84.5 million, mostly to create more seats.
Lawmakers nixed a plan by Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, to spend $15.5 million on a laptop-computer initiative that sought to hone students’ skills using software that evaluates writing. She also proposed an increase of $10 million for early childhood education in fiscal 2006, but wound up with $2 million over the $44.6 million level allocated in fiscal 2005.
Gov. Rell vetoed a bill that would have prohibited the sale of candy, soda, and other junk food in elementary, middle, and high schools. She signed a bill authorizing the state attorney general to file suit over the No Child Left Behind Act, a threat that he made good on last week. (“Connecticut Files Court Challenge to NCLB,” this issue.)