Stamford High students pepper local pols with questions, focus on education

January 8, 2014

Article published in The Hour

STAMFORD — Stamford High School students got a chance to meet, and question, local government representatives Tuesday morning, and much of it focused on education.

At a Cablevision Meet the Leaders event, sophomores, juniors and seniors in advanced placement Government, advanced placement Microeconomics and honors Civics peppered State Sen. Carlo Leone, D-27, State Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-36, and state Rep. Gerald Fox III, D-146, with questions.

“Usually we take a look at government as the president and Ccongress and what’s going on in Washington, D.C.,” said Stamford High Dean of Students Rafael Escobar. “The luxury of having the representatives here (is that we can focus on local government).”

The conversation, moderated by Cablevision host David Smith, ranged from why Leone, Frantz and Fox got into politics to their proudest accomplishments in Hartford. A large portion of the conversation focused on education, as students wanted to know about the Common Core State Standards and state education spending.

Fox said Gov. Dannel Malloy’s education reform bill, passed in May 2012, was smaller and less comprehensive than he would have liked but “still a good one.”

He told the students he wants to see best practices adapted around the state.

“I’d love to see, not only more resources put into education, but I would like to see some great examples of great success stories in Connecticut, mainly in the public school system in urban areas where it’s difficult to teach kids and actually get them to come to school, and use them in other parts of the public school system,” Fox said.

When it came to the Common Core, a set of education standards adopted in 45 states across the country coming to Connecticut schools this fall, Frantz expressed some trepidation over their implementation, but Leone was in favor.

“I believe that having those standards in place does sets a minimum bar that you can only improve upon,” he said. “If you’re below that bar then what that means … you might not be in a position to move toward college and have the best education possible.”

The Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula was a topic on which all three legislators agreed. The ECS formula calculates how much funding each school district receives from Hartford and emphasizes property values as a measure of poverty, rather than a statistic like free and reduced lunch.

“The ECS formula is not fair to the City of Stamford,” Frantz said. “We basically all agree, unless we launch a lawsuit, the money headed to Stamford (will not be equitable).”

Leone agreed.

“(We) haven’t always received what we should be receiving,” he said. “Our job is to fight for that.”