Haskell op-ed / Here’s how I’m protecting our schools
This last month, I’ve heard from hundreds of constituents who are concerned about school regionalization. I’m passionate about it, too.
There’s nothing more important than making sure we provide students with a high-quality education that prepares them to succeed in the 21st century. As a state senator, I’m eager to equip every community in Connecticut with the tools they need to invest in students’ success.
The schools in our district are some of the highest performing in the state. We make sure we’re efficient in having the right services and staff to suit our students, with little funding from state government. As a proud graduate of our public schools, let me be clear: I will continue to actively oppose any measure that would force schools in the 26th district to regionalize.
When I disagree with members of my own party, I’m never afraid to say so and I didn’t hesitate to speak out against a broad-brush regionalism proposal introduced by a leader of my own party.
I share my constituents’ concerns about the fiscal mess that plagues Connecticut. Due to decades of irresponsibility, we’re facing a difficult budget. The towns in the 26th Senate District paid $752.1 million to Hartford in 2017 — that’s almost 10 percent of all income tax revenue collected that year. We invest in the state of Connecticut and we deserve to know our money is spent wisely.
That’s why I’m frustrated about very small districts, scattered throughout the state, that spend too much money outside of the classroom. Taxpayers in the 26th district cannot afford to subsidize towns that operate inefficiently and spend on back-office administration.
Some districts less than one-tenth the size of Wilton’s student population receive millions more from the state in education cost-sharing grants. If small districts want to maintain local autonomy, I support their freedom to do so. Connecticut taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize them.
On March 1, the Education Committee will hear public testimony concerning school regionalization bills. I’ll be testifying against forced regionalization, instead proposing incentives for very small school districts to build economies of scale. It’s crucial that no matter where you stand on the issue, you understand no one’s proposing closing school buildings or asking parents to send children to different school communities. This conversation is about sharing superintendents and administrative staff — something that many communities have already decided to do. I hope you’ll join me in Hartford to share your perspective on this crucial issue.
We’ve built wonderful schools that benefit students, families and every resident. The high property values in our area are the result of smart investments in education. The state should focus on improving the classroom experience of every student, not altering efficient and effective districts like ours. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that we keep our schools safe without compromising state education. I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent you in Hartford.
Will Haskell is a state senator representing District 26, which encompasses the towns of Bethel, Redding, Ridgefield, Wilton and parts of Weston, Westport and New Canaan.