Cutting school programs, laying off teachers and administrators, diminishing resources, and increasing class sizes. These are just some of the actions school districts across Connecticut have already taken to prepare for the start of the school year without a state budget.
Today, outside Maloney High School in Meriden, CEA, AFT, teachers, parents, students, and a coalition of superintendents, boards of education, and school business officials held a news conference. They detailed how students are being hurt by the budget impasse and the chaos it is creating as schools prepare for a new year with tremendous uncertainty and without critical funding.
Groton kindergarten teacher and local Association President Beth Horler said her district has already cut its school budget by $3 million, closed an elementary school, cut 22 teaching positions and four administrators, and reorganized the para support for the neediest students.
In Bridgeport, local Association President Gary Peluchette said ten literacy coaches have already been eliminated, as well as an alternative education program for at-risk students.
Horler said additional funding cuts would be beyond devastating, not only to Groton, but to the entire state. “Further cuts in Groton would result in extremely large class sizes, cuts in sports programs, cuts in afterschool programs, and the elimination of pre-kindergarten.”
Horler and Peluchette joined other teachers, education stakeholders, and the What Will Our Children Lose Coalition calling on legislators to pass a budget that invests in children and education.
“Connecticut’s system of funding public education does not work and hurts our children—especially our must vulnerable students in the state’s poorest communities,” said Peluchette. “We need an identifiable, stable, and reliable source of funding the state’s constitutional obligation to provide educational opportunities to all of Connecticut’s public school students.”
Peluchette said the state must create CARES, the Connecticut Achievement and Resource Equity in Schools Commission, to provide ongoing analysis and recommendations regarding funding public schools.
Middletown teacher Steve McKeever said something must be done because continually trying to balance the budget on the backs of students, teachers, and school districts is never a good idea.
“Districts can’t absorb millions of dollars in cuts and would be forced to lay off teachers, and that would have a negative impact on students. We are not talking about other children. We are talking about every single child in our state,” said McKeever.
“We need to move forward on a good budget for our children,” said Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents. Rabinowitz conducted a survey of 30 school districts and found that 67 positions have already been eliminated and 372 have been placed on hold.
“It’s not about a job, it’s about our students and families,” said Meriden Public Schools Superintendent Mark Benigni. “We are concerned that we may have to collapse classes, cut teachers, and move students around during the middle of the year. This should not be happening.”
“It’s time for Connecticut to understand that schools are the most important thing we can invest in, and that’s what we need the legislature to move forward on and do,” said Chris Wilson, the chairman of the Bristol Board of Education.
The stakeholders told legislators that it is time to come together, fix this problem, and create a budget that invests in public education.
“Schools can’t rely on what’s been happening, they need certainty, stability, and a basis on which to plan for now and the future. The later the budget is, the more our schools will suffer. We need to have a budget,” said Connecticut Association of Boards of Education Executive Director Bob Rader.
Michelle Harrold, a Tolland parent of three school-aged children and Board of Education member urged legislators to work together.
“Please pass the budget. Get in a room and talk to each other and figure this out.”
Watch a video with excerpts from the news conference below.