WNPR

Teachers Union Takes Governor To Court As Some State Money For Schools Is Distributed

Oct 16, 2017

It's only a matter of time before Michael McCotter says he'll lose his job.

"On the list of seniority -- even though I've been teaching for four years -- I'm probably about fifth from the bottom,” he said. “I haven't received any notice yet, but based on prior board of education meetings when they were determining our town budget, it would be safe to say."

McCotter teaches at Southwest Elementary School in Torrington. He's one of three teachers who have joined a lawsuit against the state, asking for an injunction.

They claim that Governor Dannel Malloy's executive order is illegal because it's not funding school districts according to what they got last year.

Eighty-five school districts got zero dollars from the state when the first round of money was sent to towns earlier this month. Many other districts received much less compared to last year.

Connecticut has what's called a minimum budget requirement, which makes it difficult for towns to decrease its school budget from the year before. Usually this law applies to towns and cities, but the lawsuit argues that the minimum budget requirement also applies to state money.

Don Williams, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, said the state's budget crisis is hurting schools more than anything else.

"We are very concerned that at this critical moment that Connecticut takes care of critical services,” he said. “And at the top of the list is education for our children."

The towns of Brooklyn and Plainfield, and the city of Torrington, are also party to the suit. These places have relatively high levels of poverty and are experiencing significant cuts. Torrington was expecting around $24 million from the state, but is getting less than $5 million.

State money is usually sent out in three chunks throughout the year. The first chunk went out earlier this month. Torrington got about $7 million less than what they'd budgeted.

Williams said that Stratford might also be added to the list of plaintiffs, and other towns have expressed interest in joining. The total October 3 payout to towns across the state was just over $365 million.

Governor Malloy has said the real problem is that the state still doesn't have a budget, which forced the severe cuts he put in his executive order. A Hartford Superior Court judge will hear from both sides in early November.