Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal to encourage small Connecticut school districts to regionalize or else risk losing some state aid is raising concerns among some local leaders who argue that their towns are being unfairly penalized for just being little.
The legislation, starting fiscal year 2016, cuts state education aid — ranging from about $100 to $500 per student — for school districts with fewer than 1,000 students and per-student costs that are at least 10 percent higher than the statewide average. Malloy’s revised $20 billion budget plan sets aside $300,000 to help the districts in the meantime come up with ideas for regional cooperation and efficiency.
The Democratic governor argues that his proposal is a common-sense approach to sharing expenses and reducing burdensome local property taxes, which help cover the lion’s share of local education costs in many small towns. Officials maintain they’ve already considered regionalization and it doesn’t always make sense.
“School districts already have an incentive to look for ways to consolidate and reduce costs because their budgets are stretched thin,’’ said Betsy Gara, the public policy director for the Connecticut Council of Small Towns. “To penalize them simply for being a small school doesn’t make sense.’’