Friday, May 19, 2006

Citizen's Network Alert!

Susan Eastwood, our fine Democratic candidate for representing the 53rd District just passed along this important message;

Tony found this info about an upcoming forum on
educational funding. The Citizens Network of the Capitol Region is hosting a community conversation Thursday 6/8 at 7 pm in W. Hartford.They have had a study group working on the issue and their full report can be found at the link below.

For your information, this is from the email attachment from the Citizens Network of the Capital Region, Inc.

In part it states:

From March until June of 2005 a Citizen Study Committee of the Citizens Network of the Capital Region studied the issue of local education finance in Connecticut. Following community consultation, this report was finalized. The full report and information on the Citizens Network is at: www.citizensnetwork.info

In Connecticut we have tied our highest public priority, public education—a major and fast growing expense item—to the slowest growing and most highly visible source of revenue—local property taxes. Nationally we are near the top among the states in educational expenditures, but at the bottom in the percentage of education funding coming from state revenues.

This is a prescription for problems as can be seen in failed local budget referenda, constrained educational investment, ... [-snip-] ...and the increasing competition among communities for property tax funds that accelerates consumption of irreplaceable land...

Conclusion 1: Local Property Tax Burdens In Connecticut Are High And Increasingly
Problematic In Meeting The Education Funding Challenge:...

Conclusion 2: State Support For Local Education Is Inadequate To Meet The State’s
Obligations and Local Need...

Conclusion 3: The State’s Tax System Is Regressive In Paying For Local Education...

Recommendation 1: The State should pay its fair share of local education expenditures...

Recommendation 2: A variety of state and local sources of revenue should be used. Employing a balanced, diverse range of income, sales, and property taxes, with a broad base and appropriate proportionality will reduce the current heavy reliance on property taxes for education funding.

Recommendation 3: Local control of education should be a priority and should be maintained in so far as possible. Connecticut towns prize their local discretion and self-determination. In achieving finance reform, a balance must be struck between the need to increase the state’s share of funding (and corresponding greater state control of public education) and the need to retain local autonomy over education. Furthermore, increased state financing of education should not produce a mere shuffling of revenues at the local level with educational revenue gains offset by losses in funding for municipal services.

Action Steps

To advance the “fair funding” agenda of this report,... Here are some suggestions.

Governor and Legislative Leadership

The Governor announced the creation of an Education Finance Commission in September 2005, charged with reviewing the current status of the ECS formula. In addition, the Governor and General Assembly should consider steps to address broader education finance issues in the state. The Governor and General Assembly need to have before them a menu of options for correcting our current over-reliance on the property tax to fund public education, a set of transition mechanisms for implementing reforms and an implementation timeframe.

Business Leadership

The business community must provide leadership if the state’s share of funds for local education is to increase to at least 50 percent. A good business climate in the state requires healthy communities that cooperate with one another rather than compete against each other. Tomorrow’s workforce must be well educated if it is to provide the employees needed to attract and retain business in Connecticut. Improved public education also will reduce the need for prisons and social services.

Local Town Leadership

Mayors, First Selectmen, Council members, Selectmen, Finance Committee members and Board of Education members should provide leadership in developing efforts to gain additional state resources for pre-K to grade 12 education in Connecticut. They also should support the recommendations in this report by sponsoring forums, passing resolutions and otherwise speaking out on these issues.

The Citizens Network of the Capital Region, Inc.

The Citizens Network ... strategy and activities include the following:

• A strategy to heighten citizen engagement throughout the Capital region around the issue of finding a better way to fund local education and a citizen-based campaign to state and local elected officials urging that a better way to finance local education is in the public interest and should be adopted by the state.

• Activities to implement this strategy include: a public relations campaign involving media, including a news conference, press releases, newspaper opinion pieces, letters to the editor, public affairs television programs on network and local access; presentations to civic associations; town citizen forums across the region as done with the Connecticut MetroPatterns report; meetings with key elected officials in a bipartisan approach; and meetings with community leaders who have experience in promoting policies that are in the public interest.

The Citizens Network of the Capital Region. The Citizens Network (www.citizensnetwork.info) is a grassroots organization composed of citizens from across Connecticut’s Capital region. Our members study pressing issues for the region and deliberate to find common ground and a collaborative agenda for the good of the region and the state. In early 2005, based on several electronic polls on issues of regional significance to over 500 residents of the region, the issue, financing local education, was selected for study.

Contact information. Courtney Bourns, info@thegatheringplace.us;
860-278-4090 or 860-983-7894; www.citizensnetwork.info.

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