By Meredith Crawford
In a recent discussion at Evans Hall, the 22 senior-level public education leaders in the Fellowship for Public Education Leadership at The Broad Center at Yale SOM learned how the Connecticut-based Education Justice Now Coalition is working to end discrimination in education funding. The panel discussion was part of the latest weeklong residency in the 10-month program, which exposes education leaders from across the United States to leading management research and skills that can be applied to advance equity and excellence in the public schools in which they work.
The session offered fellows the chance “to zoom out to consider how resources are allocated at the state level to school systems,” and how this resource allocation can drive inequity, said Hanseul Kang, assistant dean and executive director of The Broad Center and a lecturer in management.
In Connecticut, the panelists explained, a fragmented structure of local government coupled with a reliance on property taxes to fund public schools has created and sustained racial and economic segregation and inequality.
“Connecticut is one of those places where, if you choose to live with people who look like me, you will live in a place with schools that aren’t great,” said Subira Gordon, a woman of color and executive director of the education advocacy group ConnCAN.
Added Ruben Felipe, executive director of the Connecticut Charter School Association and former deputy chief of staff to the mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut, “Most of the parents in our community have to become bureaucrats” to navigate the public education system to get their kids into programs or schools with better resources.
Following a community organizing model, the Education Justice Now Coalition advocates for more funding in the state education budget for under-resourced schools. Ultimately, though, the coalition aims to decouple school funding from property taxes. “We are interested in blowing up the system and starting from scratch,” said Lisa Hammersley, executive director of the School and State Finance Project.
Fellows said that the panel discussion proved an enlightening complement to the residency’s schedule of coursework, case studies, and networking.
“The presentation gave me a deeper understanding of the politics related to school choice and charter school funding and support that don’t carry the same weight in my home state [of Oregon]. Further, it helped me understand how leaders for education can organize and shift policy, funding, and resources for schools,” said fellow Iton Udosenata, who serves as assistant superintendent of Salem-Keizer Public Schools.
During the week they were in New Haven, the fellows took courses including Introduction to Managerial Controls with Professor Thomas Steffen, Smart Decline in Urban Regional Economics with Professor Kate Cooney, and Behavioral Insights with Professor Deborah Small. They also explored case studies, participated in role-playing exercises, and candidly exchanged stories and experiences.