GOP Arguments Against Saving Teacher Jobs Fade With Real Numbers
GOP arguments against saving teacher jobs in New Britain schools began to fall apart last week in the aftermath of a Democratic Town Committee open meeting on the issue.
In attempting a rescission (not a veto) of $1.5 million from the education budget — part of the relatively small difference between his and the Common Council plan — Mayor Stewart has insisted that the threat of teacher layoffs were just a scare tactic. He has insisted that the schools would be nowhere short 100 teachers by September.
Official estimates from the Board of Education, however, reported that 104 teachers and teacher positions will be gone and that class sizes will continue to increase (a 25 to 1 average in early childhood rooms). These were the “improved” numbers after the BOE pruned from other parts of the budget and factored in concessions from administrators (furlough days) and several other bargaining units. Supt. Doris Kurtz, using Stewart administration numbers, had wanted to cut 125 teachers. All day kindergartens were saved by applying state set asides. Talks with the teachers still loom for a furlough deal that could save more of the classroom jobs by September. Overall 128 positions have been axed from the school budget if you count secretary positions and a computer repair technician in a $107.5 million budget, of which $73.9 million comes from the state Educational Cost Sharing funds to the city.
Team Stewart came into the DTC’s open meeting on the budget and schools loaded with a contradictory rationale for stiffing the schools. Republican Chair Dwight Blint, among others, imply that the Superintendent and BOE are withholding budget information from the public by not providing a line-item budget. In the same breath, the GOPers insist that the BOE is guilty of, in Blint’s words, “wasteful spending and a lack of accountability.”
The charge is made and keeps getting repeated that waste is rampant over at the schools from people who say they don’t know what is in the education budget in the first place. Presumably, Blint could back up his “wasteful spending” charge by consulting the former Republican Chair and current BOE member Paul Carver. Carver, the spouse of Mayoral Chief of Staff Lisa Carver, happens to be the BOE’s Finance Chair. To his credit, Paul Carver has not joined in the partisan and overblown rhetoric about school spending that is the stock-in-trade of Stewart, Blint and Salvio. As a good Republican, however, he halfheartedly blames Democratic legislators for not delivering more state help. These are the same Democratic legislators who prevented state aid cuts to education aid this year and who’ve worked to attain fifth highest ECS amount among 169 cities and towns — a 27% increase over the period in which Tim Stewart has been Mayor.
Former BOE Board President Fran Wolski, in a recent Herald letter to the editor, pointed out just what a broken record the GOP’s anti-school spending rhetoric is.
When I was a member of the school board, it was stated by various elected officials that the school budget had “hidden money” in it. My response was that they, as an elected official, have a civic, legal and ethical responsibility to point it out so that it could be addressed and/or corrected. I have never received a response pinpointing such a “windfall.”
At the July 7th DTC forum the refrain that school costs are hidden was debunked by several speakers. BOE Member Aram Ayalon said that administrative costs in New Britain rank near the bottom as a percentage of the school budget compared to other cities and towns. The schools’ budget narrative with costs is available to anyone, according to League of Women Voters’ member and teacher Ann Speyer. You just need to take the time to examine it, she said. The same might be said for the Mayor’s and Council’s 258-page line-item budget. That budget provides less of an explanation as to how the city spends despite being a line by line accounting of city finances.
Most important, the Republicans have yet to list the specifics on the “wasteful spending” they love to cite as a reason for supporting the Mayor’s more severe cuts to schools.
Nothing was resolved at the meeting of New Britain Democrats last week. But the open dialogue exposed a misinformation campaign that serves neither school children nor taxpayers.
CPOA FOI Results: Schools Spend $100,000 on Public Information
Citizen Property Owners Association (CPOA) President Mike Wanik, a prominent GOP commissioner, went after the school district’s expenses for public relations for the year ended June 30th last week and got his answer quickly.
The “New Britain Educator” publication, inserted into the newspaper in June, cost $18,000. Overall the school district spent $100,000 for pubic relations during the year — a line item that has been eliminated for the current year, according to Wanik based on his exchange with the Superintendent.
This expenditure — the only one cited thus far by opponents of saving more teacher jobs — represents .00093 of one percent on spending of $107.5 million.
The issue also represents a double-edged sword for the Board of Education which may now face criticism for not providing enough information to residents on school choices and programs.
Shocking News: Sleuthing GOP Chair Helps Expose Dems As Advocates For Quality Education!
Republican Town Chair Dwight Blint is taking his role as chief flack for Tim Stewart and the Party of No seriously these days. Armed with a handheld camera device, he doesn’t miss a chance to expose Democrats and other citizens for what they are: shameless advocates for public education and keeping class sizes down.
Blint’s latest expose’ occurred last week as the GOP Tracker-In-Chief braved stifling heat to video a rally of teachers, parents and town committee members ahead of the DTC’s open meeting on the schools and municipal budget. Blint has also extended his self-appointed watchdog role to Common Council meetings where, handheld extended, he tracks the debates to use as fodder in propaganda against Democrats. For those without a Blackberry or camera, you can watch all the proceedings at home on Nutmeg TV.
Blint’s latest videography can be seen over at the Republican Town Committee’s website where you can also find links to blogs with anonymous, hateful comments about local pols out of favor with NB Republicans and aggregations of hate speech directed at President Obama, among others.
Chairman Blint, who unsuccessfully ran for alderman as part of Team Stewart’s “independent”, non-Republican slate last year, gave up the independence quickly to become chair of the local GOP Committee.
At the very least let’s give Mr. Blint a shout out for being a citizen watchdog and for calling to account those elected officials and residents who favor quality schools and a budget compromise to minimize classroom cuts. Now at least we’ll know who to vote for in the next election.
Absentee Ballots Available for Primary on July 20
The August 10th Primary is less than a month away and residents who may be out-of-town or unable to get to the polls next month may apply to the Town and City Clerk’s office for an application. Applications are also available on-line at the Secretary of the State’s website a
The ballots will be available July 20th and persons certifying their absence from the town should be able to vote at the Clerk’s office ahead of the Primary. Ballots will be available Tuesday, July 20th
Voter Registration Deadlines:
August 5, 2010 is the mail-in voter registration deadline for the Primary election. Mail-in applications of new voters must be received by the registrar of voters on this day. Special exceptions apply if applications are mailed in by a voter registration agency or the Department of Motor Vehicles.
August 9, 2010 at noon is the in-person voter registration deadline at your town hall for the Primary election. If you were previously registered with a major political party, please note that there is a 3 month waiting period before you can vote in a primary from the time you change your party affiliation.
District 11 Polling Place Returns To 180 Clinton Street
Voters in District 11 will be able to return to their old polling location for the August 10th Primary. The poll location for all Voting District 11 voters will be the Human Resource Agency (HRA) of New Britain building located at 180 Clinton St (formerly Ben Franklin Schools. The entrance to the polling place is located on the side and toward the back of the building on Fern Street.
More information is available by calling the Registrar at 860-826-3310.
Tell the Mayor and Common Council To Restore Funds For Education!
Mayor’s Office: 860-826-3303 E-mail: tstewart@NewBritainCT.gov
Council Office: 860-826-3392
Link to members of the Council