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As the May 8 referendum approaches, the topic of the Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR) in Clinton often surfaces. Critics have suggested the MBR be the level at which our schools should be funded. Funding Clinton’s schools at the bare MBR would be a mistake.
The MBR is a firewall created by the Connecticut General Assembly to prevent towns from underfunding their schools by establishing minimum funding requirements. The fact that there is pressure in our community to drive our budgets down to a point where it trips what is essentially a legal circuit breaker to prevent irresponsibly low educational funding is embarrassing. We shouldn’t need an adult, in form of the State of Connecticut, to force us to keep our heads above water.
The State Department of Education calculates the MBR using a formula based on the number of resident students and the prior year’s budget. The penalty for failing to meet the MBR is a reduction in the Education Cost Sharing grant, money received from the state to equalize funding among towns. The penalty is twice the amount of the shortfall. There is a reason the penalty is so significant and even the most ardent budget slasher isn’t foolish enough to tease the budget below it.
The penalty is significant because funding education is critical. When schools are well funded, students can receive technology they might not otherwise get at home and a larger variety of course offerings. Teachers have manageable class sizes, allowing them to provide better feedback, as well as engage and challenge all students. Coaches have access to resources for training aids and video analysis.
Our district needs an educational environment that is well funded, not minimally funded. I thank the Town of Clinton for voting “Yes” to a reasonable education budget on May 8.
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