During his campaign, Mayor Joseph Ganim touted that he would fight for increased funding, would find creative ways to appropriate new funding and do what he can to decrease class sizes.
So far none of that has panned out.
Fast forward only six months later and the Mayor is proposing a 2017 city budget with a zero percent increase for Bridgeport Public Schools, at a time when Bridgeport schools are facing a $15.1 million rise in non-discretionary expenses.
Essentially, Ganim’s done the exact opposite of what he campaigned on. By proposing a budget that flat funds Bridgeport schools, he’s ensured that the district will be forced to increase class sizes and make deep cuts to core services.
From Ganim’s campaign website:
To be fair, not all of this should be laid at the feet of Mayor Ganim or the city.
More than anything the current situation facing Bridgeport is a result of another broken promise: the state’s disjointed, illogical school funding system.
The Education Sharing Grant (ECS) formula, which is supposed to be used to calculate the main state grant given to traditional public schools, was originally developed to equalize education funding. The problem is that since 2013 the state has stopped following the formula, and instead has held districts, no matter their need, “harmless.”
As the Connecticut Mirror reported last year, the result is that the state is overpaying affluent districts like Fairfield and Westport, while undercutting poorer districts. Bridgeport schools are hit particularly hard because, unlike Fairfield and other nearby affluent towns, Bridgeport has seen increased enrollment, which hasn’t been adjusted for.
None of this means that the city is off the hook.
Without the infusion of more funding the district will be forced to make devastating cuts. The superintendent’s office has already proposed closing Edison and Hall schools, the elimination of non-mandated paraprofessional and school counselor positions, the elimination of the Talented and Gifted program and the reduction of high school electives, and several other cuts.
While throwing money at a problem is certainly not a cure all for troubled districts, some of these potential cuts would impede the district’s ability to provide basic education and would roll back the progress Bridgeport schools have already made.
To say the seven members of the city council appropriations committee have a tough job ahead of them over the next few weeks is an understatement, especially considering the state budget remains up in the air. However right now, Bridgeport students really need their help.
Don’t allow this upcoming city budget be yet another broken promise.
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