An Eye On Ackert, Part 4 Politics And Special Education

ackertState Representative Tim Ackert as a Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Joint Education Committee has educational issues on his mind.  One of those issues is the problem of funding for mandated State services added after a local budget has been approved.

Every year in Coventry and many other towns across Connecticut, funding for local education consumes more than 75% of the annual town budget.  A significant expenditure in the education budget is the allocation of limited resources for our investment into special education services.  The addition of one or more students can make a significant impact in many budgets.

Special education services are mandated by the State with only a portion of the cost being funded by the State.  This can create a financial hurdle when one or more students are added after the budget approval.  The financial impact can be multiple times higher for a single special education student than a student not requiring such services.

Representative Ackert has not only identified this as a problem, he is proposing something be done to address the problem.  Ackert is proposing in HB-5399 that the state be required to reimburse school districts one hundred per cent of the cost of special education for a student who enrolls in the school district in the middle of the school year.

The problem however occurs once a student enrolls after a budget is passed and not just by enrolling after the school year is half over.  The proposal will not totally fix the problem but it is a step in the right direction and may be a compromise to gain support for serious consideration.

In the present form the proposal represents a compromise of fairness between the State and local or regional school districts.  In proposing legislation, it is sometimes wise politics to take small steps to the greater goal than attempting to leap frog over the goal line.

This proposal should receive wide support from every Board of Education and they would be prudent to alert their own Representatives to strongly support HB-5399.  It would be equally sensible for taxpayers to pass this information along to friends across the State of Connecticut.  Activating support from every Board Of Education would be the right thing to do for every student of special needs and every Connecticut taxpayer.

Representative Ackert has voiced concern in the past for the financial burdens State mandates place on local budgets.  This proposal clearly shows he is not only thinking about it, but he is trying to do something about it.

Tim’s concern for taxpayers and the burden of state mandates is also reflecting in his proposal HJ-18 calling for a resolution to amend the State Constitution.  This amendment would require a vote of two-thirds of the General Assembly for municipal mandates.  The proposal would have major political impact and therefore will have little chance of passage at this time.  That does not however, diminish the value of the idea or character of the man making the proposal.

Standing up for your constituents is always the right thing to do; getting things done is not always so easy.  A good politician is the one that can get what he wants for the people he represents.

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