The State Board of Education yesterday voted 5-4 to take over the Bridgeport Public Schools. The vote came after the Bridgeport Board of Education – responding to a call from Mayor Bill Finch, Superintendent John Ramos, and Board of Education President Barbara Bellinger – voted 6-3 Tuesday to ask the state that the board be reconstituted.
The state will replace the elected school board with a five-member appointed panel, which now inherits the challenge of resolving the district’s daunting financial problems while improving the poor quality of public education in the state’s largest city.
While it’s the third time a Connecticut school system has been taken over by the state, it is the first time such an action came at the request of the district itself. And it came with stunning swiftness, only five days after the city school board president made known her intention to ask for the takeover.
This takeover is unprecedented for the state of Connecticut. CEA hopes that whatever action the commissioner of education takes will alleviate problems in Bridgeport, rather than complicate the situation. Hopefully any future action will not deflate the enthusiasm among students and teachers that is driving achievement on the Connecticut Mastery Test in so many Bridgeport schools.
In fact, a report on the Connecticut Accountability for Learning Initiative released this May by the State Board of Education showed significant improvement in more than a dozen urban districts, including Bridgeport.
At the urging of the Bridgeport superintendent, John J. Ramos, the school board has yet to adopt a budget for the new fiscal year after Dr. Ramos called for a $233 million plan, and the mayor and city council approved $215.8 million. District officials, who are operating month to month on last year’s budget numbers, have said the cuts would mean layoffs of hundreds of employees, increased class sizes, and decimated music and sports programs.
Below are links to recent coverage of the situation in Bridgeport.
New York Times
- Befuddled by School Board Actions, Bridgeport Parents Demand Answers
- Editorial: Many Questions on School Change
- OpEd: The Right Course for Bridgeport Schools – by Mayor, Board of Education President, Superintendent of Schools
- Bridgeport Schools Now in State’s Hands
- School Board Vote Asks for State Takeover
- State Board Votes 5-4 To Take Over Bridgeport Schools (includes video interviews)
- Rick Green Column: Takeover Is About More Than Bridgeport
- CT Confidential blog: Bridgeport’s Mayor Finch On State Takeover Of His Schools (video excerpts of interview with Finch)
- In ‘Unprecedented’ Move, Bridgeport Asking State To Reconstitute Its School Board
- Chris Powell Column: What Happens When it’s All Like Bridgeport?