From the Chair
The Democratic Town Committee (DTC) will meet Wednesday, July 7th at 7 pm at New Britain City Hall for an open dialogue on the municipal budget and the schools. All are welcome.
The discussion will focus on the projected teacher layoffs and classroom cuts in the 2010-2011 year. Of primary concern is $1.5 million for education appropriated by the Common Council but rejected by Mayor Stewart during June’s final budget deliberations. The Council’s budget and the Mayor’s have similar bottom lines with the Council spending $1 million less overall but providing more for schools and senior property tax relief. School officials have indicated that restoration of $1.5 million would save 30 teacher positions in a year when the loss of as many as 125 classroom jobs are contemplated — a number that is well over 10 percent of the teaching workforce.
The Council, seeking an opinion of outside counsel, is challenging the mayoral veto that cut into the education line item selectively. Democrats maintain that Stewart’s overreaching action did not constitute a legitimate veto under the charter that requires rejection of entire line items. As expected Mayor Stewart has vetoed the Council move to obtain legal help — an action that can be overturned by an override vote (10 votes).
With tax bills going out this month the Mayor’s 4.7% property tax increase is set and will not change regardless of the outcome of the charter dispute. The Mayor falsely asserted that the Council challenge would bring government to a halt in his latest veto letter.
Amid inflammatory GOP rhetoric and the dispute over process, the budget impact on the schools has begun to emerge. Assertions by the Mayor and GOP that 100 teacher layoffs will not happen by September and that the school brass is using “scare tactics” to “blackmail” him and the Council in the new fiscal year have been contradicted in the last week by stories in the Herald and Courant.
Education advocates point out that even before any of the cuts take effect this year New Britain has one of the highest student-to-teacher ratios in the state and operates the largest enrolled high school – a school just emerged from accreditation trouble because of management issues and insufficient funds, according to the regional accrediting association. Democrats contend that the Mayor’s intransigence will escalate the flight of families seeking quality education.
The DTC, which voiced support for the Council budget in June, maintains that students are being held hostage to the property tax system and the Stewart administration’s unfair budget priorities.
It’s time to cut through the diversionary trash talk and threats and remind the Mayor and Common Council that education matters.
The DTC meeting will be held on 7/7 at 7 p.m. in room 504 of City Hall.
Something Everyone In New Britain Should Agree On? U.S. House Moves To Send Funds For Teacher Positions
It may represent the U.S. cavalry coming to the rescue of cities such as New Britain to save teacher jobs and prevent (in New Britain’s case) the largest classrooms in the state from getting worse. But will it come in time for fiscal year 2011?
U.S. Rep, Chris Murphy (D-5) voted this week for federal appropriations that would do just that. Late in the week the House passed H.R. 4899 that includes a provision on teacher jobs:
The 2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act creates a $10 billion Education Jobs fund to provide emergency support to school districts to prevent layoffs and keep 140,000 school employees on the job next year. The Department of Education will administer the fund and distribute the money to states through a formula based on total population and school age population. States will distribute the funds to school districts through their primary funding formula or through the Title I formula. The bill includes strict provisions that requires states to use this funding only to preserve, rehire or hire new employees in elementary and secondary education. The money can’t be used to supplant state education spending.
The federal bill is especially significant for New Britain because it earmarks dollars for direct hiring of teachers and cannot be used to “supplant state education spending.” Given City Hall moves to deny state funds intended for the schools in past years, the federal investment targeted to teacher jobs will represent the direct aid needed, reducing reliance on property taxes.
“Connecticut teacher jobs will be saved with this vote. Without this infusion of federal dollars, the state wouldn’t be able to support critical teaching positions, putting our kids’ education in jeopardy. This was the right thing to do for teachers, for kids and for the future of our state,” said Murphy, who pointed out the bill does not add to the deficit but shifts available funds to meet urgent needs. The bill will go the Senate where Republicans will try to block it.
Malloy To Take In “Great American Boom” July 4th
Dan Malloy, Democratic candidate for Governor in the August 10th Primary, will take in New Britain’s “Great American Boom” at Stanley Quarter Park near Central Connecticut State University on Sunday July 4th with New Britain supporters. The meet up time for Malloy volunteers is 5:30 p.m. DTC members will also have voter registration cards to sign up new voters at the event. To participate e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The 16th Annual Great American Boom at Stanley Quarter Park on Sunday, July 4, 2010 (rain date: July 5) sponsored by the city Parks and Recreation Department. This giant 4th of July celebration begins at 5:00 p.m., with a concert by The Spectacles and culminates with a spectacular fireworks display at approximately 9:15 p.m