State Sen. Beth Bye and State Rep. Andy Fleischmann visited Wolcott Elementary School on Friday to see how increased state aid has helped reduce classroom size.
After securing a 16 percent Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant increase of $5.78 million in the new biennial state budget, State Sen. Beth Bye (D-West Hartford) and State Rep. Andy Fleischmann (D-West Hartford) toured several classrooms Friday at Wolcott Elementary School to show how the increased state education funding that they voted for has helped lead to smaller class sizes and improved student learning opportunities.
Bye and Fleischmann were joined by West Hartford School Superintendent Tom Moore, West Hartford Board of Education Chairman Dr. Mark Overmyer-Velazquez and Wolcott Elementary School Principal Dr. Jasdeep Singh.
“In a very difficult budget year, West Hartford’s Democratic legislative delegation was able to secure a substantial increase in state education aid for our public schoolchildren, and these smaller classrooms are in part a result of some of that increased state aid,” said Bye, who is Senate Chairman of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee. “We’ve been regularly increasing Connecticut’s investment in West Hartford education over the past decade, and this year we had the seventh-highest percentage increase in the state. We’ve still got a ways to go, but we’re definitely on the right track.”
“Over the past decade, West Hartford has seen a major increase in state Education Cost Sharing – $10.25 million more state aid in 10 years,” said Fleischmann, who is House Chairman of the Legislature’s Education Committee. “This additional state funding has allowed us to improve student-to-teacher ratios in town, protect key programs like high-quality special education, QUEST for talented and gifted students, Advanced Placement classes at Conard and Hall high schools, and numerous music and sports programs, all of which contribute to our district’s excellence. Families continue to come to West Hartford, drawn in large part by the great quality of our schools. Also, our increased ECS funding offers another benefit to every town resident – reducing the pressure on our local property taxes.”
Bye and Fleischmann noted that over the past decade, West Hartford has seen one of the largest percentage increases of state education aid of any town in Connecticut. According to the legislature’s non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, West Hartford ranks in the Top 10 towns in Connecticut that has seen its state education aid rise over the past decade, from 2006 to 2017.
This year alone, West Hartford saw the seventh-largest percentage increase of ECS aid of any town in Connecticut, moving up $5.78 million over two years, from $35.55 million in the Fiscal Year 2014-2015 biennial state budget to $41.34 million in the current FY 16-17 biennial state budget.
Moore said this year, West Hartford has the lowest elementary school class sizes in at least 25 years. For Wolcott in particular, between 2010 and 2012, class sizes averaged from 20.8 to 22.3; this year, the average class size is 19.7
In addition, Moore said, the largest individual class size at Wolcott is 22 children, and the largest size in grades 4 and 5 is 19 children.
“In a different time, without financial support, we would have possibly consolidated in eight different grades throughout the district,” he said, referring to the practice of combing two or more smaller classes into a single, larger one. He said lower class sizes in general “give the teachers more time with kids individually, and the parents are certainly happy with the class sizes.”
Overmyer-Velazquez is pleased with this year’s increased ECS funding. “We see the direct impact on our schools in a very direct way – we see fewer students in each class, and other educational benefits,” he said.
Wolcott School 5th grade teacher Jennifer Stanish said the 19 students in her 5th grade class this year is a “great number.” “It makes a huge difference,” Stanish said. “Most of my time at Wolcott – 17 years – I’ve had 22 or 23 students per classroom. I cannot recall a time when I had 18 or 19.”