Senator Tony Hwang Fights “Forced School Regionalization”, Calls on Gov. Lamont to Eliminate Education Cost Shifts in State Budget

March 1, 2019

 

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Packed room where Rep. Gail Lavielle hosted a press conference with House & Senate colleagues to fight against Forced School Regionalization on March 1st, 2019

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State Senator Tony Hwang (R-28) released the following statements following the Education Committee Public Hearing on March 1st considering several bills (SB 457, SB 874, HB 7150 & SB 738) surrounding forced school regionalization and redistribution of teachers’ pension liabilities onto municipalities.

“These bills assume a one size fits all approach to regional school districts. Creating an arbitrary number of students or residents that trigger forced regionalization will not lead to best results. Depending on the size of the town and part of the state, regionalization could even result in higher costs and reduced efficiencies. For those towns where regionalization creates synergistic opportunities and cost efficiencies, consolidation is already happening and we should focus on breaking down barriers to natural regionalization.”

“We elect our school board members to do what is best for our schools. If those members think regionalizing with another town(s) is responsible and prudent, then it is their responsibility to make that case to the people they represent. That way would certainly lead to better results, where proposals to regionalize certain districts are vetted on a case by case basis instead of just creating a random threshold imposed by the State.”

“Ways to make our school systems run more efficiently certainly need to be encouraged and investigated, but our end goal is always the same: the best education for our students. Our town BOE’s should continue to investigate ways to improve our schools and make things more efficient, but they should not have the threat of forced regionalization hanging over their heads to do that.”

 

The proposed bills are:RegSchoolDistNew

  • SB 457 would force any school district with less than 2,000 students to regionalize (impacting an estimated 84 towns)
  • SB 738 would force any town with a population of less than 40,000 to consolidate with other towns to form new school districts matching the state probate court districts shown right (impacting an estimated 144 towns, see graphic to right)
  • SB 874 is one of the Governor’s bills, which would create the commission in charge of redistricting, outlines their duties, and enacts the penalties to any school that does not regionalize
  • HB 7150 is a broader bill implementing several of the Governor’s proposals regarding education including shifting 25% of teacher pension costs to municipalities, some cuts to services and programs, and accelerated reductions to some education cost sharing grants.

 

Senator Hwang also took the opportunity to discuss, for the second time, his serious concerns with Governor Lamont’s budget proposal and its effects on municipal and education aid.

“Furthermore, Governor Lamont has proposed penalizing small districts that ‘choose’ not to ‘re-district’ or ‘regionalize’. This is a false choice and this kind of heavy handed approach to forcing a quick and dramatic change to municipal organization reminds me of his predecessor, not the collaborative persona I have come to expect from the Governor.  This is not a carrot, it is a burdensome financial hammer!”

“And forcing 25% of teachers’ pensions, a state obligation, onto towns overnight? How does Gov. Lamont expect our municipalities to budget and organize for all these changes and new costs over one budget cycle? Our towns constantly struggle with the state’s unpredictable budget. And in the midst of all this uncertainty he is asking for more money from them as well, just as I warned he would in my letters to the leadership of towns in my district earlier this year and my recent letter to Governor Lamont.”

“I hope he starts to feel the pressure that I am hearing about, because our municipalities, our schools, and our constituents are saying loud and clear that this is unacceptable.”

While encouraging towns to share services is a laudable goal, each school and school district has unique needs and forcing towns and cities to regionalize without considering those needs creates a whole host of problems:

 

  1. Less time in the classroom and more time on the bus, especially in rural areas like Newtown, Weston and Easton where proposed districts would be very large geographically.
  2. Dramatic increases in busing expenses for towns and cities. While the state used to pay for busing costs, towns and cities are now solely responsible for those costs, and more time on the bus means higher costs to towns.
  3. Wasted taxpayer investments in new and newly renovated schools. If your town just invested in a new school renovation, it may now be all for nothing if the school no longer fits the needs of a regional school district.
  4. Potential new costs to build new schools to meet regional needs.
  5. Raises concerns about how to preserve quality of education.
  6. Loss of teaching positions. If towns are forced to consolidate, this could impact number of teachers and classrooms.
  7. Loss of local control over school decision making. Forcing regionalization leaves little room for towns, cities and local residents to have a say in what their children are learning.

 

“Many of you have already called and written to my office and your opinion is important. If you want to speak out about proposals about either ‘forced regionalization’ and/or ‘teacher pension redistribution’ please share your thoughts with my office at (860) 240-8805 and tony.hwang@cga.ct.gov or submit written testimony to the Education Committee at edtestimony@cga.ct.gov.”