Connecticut Costing-Out 2005

State Funding Context

From NCES (most current available statistics):

Pre-K to 12 Students, 2004-05: 577,390
Annual Public School Expenditures, 2003-04: $6.6 billion
% Eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, 2004-05: 26.3
% in limited-English-proficiency programs, 2004-05: 4.8

Study Title: Estimating the Cost of an Adequate Education in Connecticut


Date Completed: June 2005


Definition of Adequacy:  For the Professional Judgment methodology, adequacy was defined as meeting state and federal student test-score goals in reading, math, writing, and science, including compliance with the state accountability system and the “No Child Left Behind” Act, including all disaggregated sub-group proficiency goals, including reaching 100% proficiency by 2014. Despite this definition, the study backed off a little from 100 percent proficiency by instructing the panelists to understand “100 percent” as “as close as possible to all students but not necessarily every single student.” Proficiency targets included specific CMT scores in reading, writing, and math for grades 3-8, with the addition of science in grades 5-8, and CAPT scores in reading, writing, math, and science for grade 10.

 For the Successful School Districts methodology, adequacy was defined as meeting state test-score standards at the 2007-08 adequate yearly progress (AYP) proficiency level for total students only, that is, excluding all disaggregated sub-group proficiency goals. The consultants specifically state that this level of adequacy is merely “a ‘starting’…point from which to begin addressing the needs of districts.” AYP targets were based on Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) scores in reading, writing, and math in grades 4, 6, and 8, and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) scores in grade 10.


Calculated Base Costs: Professional Judgment
“Target” base cost per student:

 Small school districts: $9,207
 Medium school districts: $9,999
 Large school districts: $10,388

Special-needs additional weightings (fraction of base costs):

 Students in urban schools: 0.121
 “At-risk” students (eligible for free or reduced price lunch): a range from 0.28 to 0.62, based on percent of students at risk in the district (see Additional Findings below)
 English Language Learners: 0.76
 Special Education: a range from 1.06 to 4.88, based on district size and level of special education needs (See Additional Findings or Graph V-2 in the study)

Successful School Districts
“Starting” base cost per student:

 Small school districts: $6,846
 Medium school districts: $7,614
 Large school districts: $8,003

Note: The consultants’ results list school districts in nine different size categories, and cost-out separately K-12 districts and districts where multiple K-8 districts feed into a single high school district. For simplicity, this fact sheet lists results for districts of only three different sizes and for K-12 districts only. For very small school districts – those with under 2,000 total students – per pupil costs increase slightly as district size decreases.

Calculated Additional Costs:  Professional Judgment: $2.02 billion to reach target goals by 2014, and approximately 31% increase in expenditures.

Editorial comment: We doubt that the dollar amounts recommended in this study represent the full costs of reaching 100 percent proficiency, as required by NCLB. Achieving 100 percent proficiency is unprecedented and, experts argue, unattainable. Robert Linn, co-director of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, calls the 100% proficiency standard “unrealistically high” and unattainable. That the consultants instructed panelists to determine the resources necessary for proficient scores by “as close as possible to all students but not necessarily every single student,” shows their acknowledgement of this difficulty to some extent.

 Successful School Districts: $462.1 million to reach adequacy “starting point, an approximately 7% increase in expenditures over 2003-2004 levels.

Major Recommendations:  Increase funding to target amount (the additional $2.02 billion) by academic year 2010-2011. The consultants suggest increasing funding by a constant amount each year between now and 2011, plus adjustments for inflation.
 The special-needs weights determined by the study can provide a “rational basis” for adjusting the weights the state currently uses in determining state aid to various school districts.
Additional Findings:  With the current distribution of funding, some districts receive more than adequate funding, while many receive less than adequate funding. Ninety-one of 166 districts were below the “starting point” funding levels identified by the Successful School Districts study, and 145 districts were below the target funding identified by the Professional Judgment study.
 Generally, special-needs weights decrease as district size increases, due, the study says, to economies of scale. For example, a student requiring moderate special education in a large school district has a weighting of 1.45 and a student with the same needs in a small district has a weighting of 2.11. Similarly, the weighting of each low-income student goes down as the percentage of low-income students in the school increases.
 Personnel costs make up the vast majority of school district expenditures, and the consultants compared the number of required personnel identified by the panelists to studies APA has done in other states. In the seven states listed in the comparative study, Connecticut’s personnel needs ranked fifth, very close to the personnel requirements that professional judgment panelists identified in Maryland.
Methodology: Professional Judgment Approach:
 The study used six panels. Two “school-level” panels addressed the needs of schools. Three “district-level” panels reexamined the work of the school-level panels and added non-school-based district expenses. An overview panel reviewed the work of the other panels, resolved inconsistencies, and examined preliminary costs. The panels together comprised 44 professionals.
 Panelists were presented with hypothetical schools of various sizes and demographics and were told to identify resources deemed necessary for a specific list of inputs and outcomes (provided in Appendix B of the study).
 The consultants later calculated the costs of the designated resources. Resources that panelists identified included: Personnel, professional development, instructional supplies, non-traditional programs (such as before-school, after-school, pre-school, and summer-school), technology, and various other operational costs, excluding the costs listed below.Successful School Districts Approach:
 Successful School Districts were defined as those districts meeting the 2007-2008 AYP Proficiency level for the three consecutive years prior to the study. Thirty-five out of 166 municipal or regional public school districts met these criteria.
 Costs for this part of the study were based on actual base costs of successful districts, defined as the cost of educating a student with no special needs (special-education, “at-risk,” ELL). School expenditures were corrected by discounting the costs of services to special-needs students, based on Connecticut Department of Education data.
 For the calculated base and additional costs (listed above), the weightings for special-needs students from the Professional Judgment portion of the study were applied back to the Successful School District base costs.
 Editorial note: Based on a cost-of-living index and the Geographic Cost of Education Index – an index created by Jay Chambers for the National Center of Education Statistics, the school districts identified as “successful” are much more likely to be wealthy and to attract better teachers on average. These districts also likely educate much lower percentages of low-income and ELL students and, perhaps, somewhat lower percentages of special education students. This raises the question whether using these districts to estimate costs for districts with dramatically different student demographics is appropriate.
Special Features:  This study did not consider capital, transportation, food service, adult education, or community service costs, which are ordinarily excluded from adequacy studies.
 The professional judgment component of the study did consider costs of preschool and programs for low-income and ELL students.
 The study did not include geographic cost-of-living or cost-of-education variations. Given what the consultants deemed the “reasonable commuting time” between high and low cost-of-living areas and both the close clustering of the cost-of-education figures for Connecticut’s school districts and other criticisms of the cost-of-education index, the consultants “did not feel comfortable” modifying district costs based on these indices.
Public Input: None.


Implementation: None.


Prepared for: The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding
Prepared by: Augenblick, Palaich and Associates, Inc.

Fact Sheet prepared by Matthew Samberg, October 4, 2006.