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Faith Leaders Commit Lamont To Equitable Education Funding

Nick Ut
Studies show a disproportionate number of schools serving mainly students of color recieve less funding per student in Connecticut.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont told dozens of faith leaders that despite pandemic budget challenges, he does not plan to cut funds for schools that serve Black and Latino children next year. Lamont took the pledge on Tuesday at an online meeting with a coalition of church leaders, parents, and students called Faith Acts. The statewide group, which is dedicated to racial justice in education, also recently got more than a dozen state lawmakers to pledge to address more equitable funding in education.

Breah McCullough is a Faith Acts member and an English teacher at Central High School in Bridgeport.

“While the pandemic has touched every school district in Connecticut, there is no doubt that districts that serve predominantly black and brown students, such as Bridgeport, have borne the brunt of this crisis," McCullough, whose father Rev. William McCullough runs the Faith Acts coalition, said. "Because these communities have been underfunded and underserved for generations, the impact of these disparities have been magnified in times of crisis.”

Lamont agreed. He said he worked to get laptops and internet access to families in need to bridge the digital divide, but students of color disproportionally had fewer options for in-person learning during the pandemic.

“The schools in the suburbs stayed open. The schools in New Haven never opened and that broke my heart," Lamont said. "Those kids in New Haven, overwhelmingly Black and Brown, have not had the opportunity to go to a classroom to be with a teacher for I think eight months at this point. That’s one of the worst inequities I can see.”

Lamont said in his budget proposal, he will fully fund disadvantaged school districts as much as the Education Cost Sharing formula allows. The formula was recently updated by lawmakers to try to even out the disparity between school funding in wealthy suburbs, versus cities and rural towns.

The Connecticut School and State Finance nonprofit finds districts that mainly serve white students spend about $2,500 more per student than districts that mainly serve students of color.

Lamont said quality education for all is his priority.

“I want great local schools in Bridgeport, in Hartford, in New Haven. I want the best schools that there can be so that these kids have every opportunity they can," Lamont said. "That’s what I commit to do.”

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.