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An uphill battle: dedicated teachers hoping for more state aid

NEW BRITAIN - The building shows clear signs of wear and tear but the spirit of the staff is still as enthusiastic as the first day of school.

Smalley Academy in New Britain is among the district's neediest schools, but the staff does its best to teach kids.

"How do we do it? We do the best that we all can collectively, and individually with what we can every day," said Elsa Saavedra, Smalley's principal.

Saavedra pointed out several deficient facilities including classrooms, floor tiles, heating and air-conditionin, parking, and school lunches. Teachers said they're trying to juggle the needs of many students in overcrowded classrooms. Sometimes, students needs' get lost in the shuffles.

"Many times we find ourselves unable to provide those children with early intervention because of a lack of staffing and a lack of budgets," said Saavedra.

On Wednesday, a superior court judge ruled the state's system of distributing educational funding was unconstitutional in the way the funds favor more affluent districts over poorer, more urban, ones. The hope of staffers at Smalley and countless other schools like it is that the funding can translate into better facilities, more teachers, and ultimately, a better educational foundation.

"It’s not just about throwing money," said Theresa Gouveia, a special education teacher. "It’s finding the specific resources that fits what each individual child needs and giving it to them and it shouldn’t be because they live in Farmington or New Britain, it should be because that’s what the kid needs."