Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater

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By Alan Addley, Ed. D., Granby Superintendent of Schools
Like many other Connecticut residents, my eldest son is currently planning to leave the state and relocate to North Carolina for a more prosperous future. Meanwhile, here we are again, another month has passed, school is up and running and, at the time of this article going to print, the State Legislature and Governor have still not been able to pass a budget. Given the Governor’s promise to veto the most recent Republican budget proposal, which passed in the Senate and House with bipartisan support, by default, the Governor’s Executive Budget Order will be in place come Oct. 1.
Under the Governor’s Executive Budget Order, Granby’s (municipal and school) state aid will be reduced by approximately $1 million to $1.5 million, depending on how special education is funded. In addition, the Governor’s budget will require the town to pay an additional payment of $340,000 to compensate for the state’s continued mismanagement of the teacher retirement fund. In contrast, the Republican budget, which the Governor promises to veto, reflects a 2017-2018 deficit of $388,000 or Granby with no additional teacher retirement contributions required by the town.
Both the Governor’s budget and the Republican budget proposals have some potentially far-reaching language. Examples include the ability of some towns not to have a Superintendent of Schools; a municipality’s ability to override arbitration decisions; the elimination of a minimum budget requirement for a town’s spending on education; the transfer of a Board of Education’s decision-making authority to municipal officials; a state educational funding formula that transfers significant funds from the towns to the cities; and, the transfer of teacher retirement payments to the town.
Notwithstanding the individual merits of any of these individual ideas, it makes no sense to throw them all into the budget at the last minute without considering the possible unintended educational and legal consequences of these decisions. Less educational funding and such legislative language threatens to jeopardize the progress Connecticut school systems have made over recent years. It took the state many years to get into this financial mess. It would be sensible to implement a more measured and inclusive approach to get out of it. Yes, we understand and agree that things need to change, but at least allow the towns and school districts to thoughtfully plan for the future.
I also fear that the teaching profession will bear a lot of the blame for the state’s financial crisis and that Connecticut’s public support for the profession might wane. That would be disappointing, as we know that one of the main and most important characteristics of any quality school system around the world is the community’s respect for the profession.
If the Legislature and Governor cannot agree on a reasonable budget, the Governor’s Executive Budget to be enacted October 1st will be potentially devastating, not only to Granby, but to many towns and school districts across the state. It really is a shame.
While we are in the “wait and see” mode, the Boards of Finance, Selectmen and Education are collaborating in the best interests of the taxpayers and students. As we have always done, the school district will be creative and innovative in order to provide the best quality education possible for our students…and I will look forward to visiting my son in North Carolina.