In less than a week voters will be headed to the polls to decide which legislative candidates will have a ‘D’ next to their name in November. In Bridgeport, this usually translates to who ultimately makes it to the state house.
State primaries may not have the fanfare of the national presidential race, but when it comes to education, they can have a big impact. That’s because it’s largely the state legislature that determines how education funding is spent.
This year’s primaries are of particular importance considering who’s running and what’s at stake.
While the prevailing narrative in Bridgeport this primary season has been “insiders” versus “outsiders,” there’s another story that hasn’t been focused on. Many of the races are between candidates with vastly different views on education.
No primary race illustrates this more than Connecticut’s 126 State Assembly District, where incumbent Rev. Charlie Stallworth is being challenged by current Bridgeport Board of Education member Maria Pereira.
Pereira, a self-described “rebel rouser” known for her unapologetic candor — for example, just last week she mocked newly appointed board member Annette Segara Negron, a cancer survivor, for her choice in hair color — says she wants to be the “voice” of public education on the Bridgeport delegation.
What she actually means by “public education” is very narrow in scope. Pereira is a staunch critic of charter schools. During an interview with WTNH News, she went as far as to say she’s “like to see them [charter schools] banned.”
Pereira flaunts her anti-charter stance on facebook
Pereira has also been an outspoken opponent of other school reform efforts, including the Commissioner Network, a state program which gives additional money to low-performing districts. Last year, she’s lobbied against House Bill 5551, which would have expanded the program, removing the cap the number of schools a district could have in the Network.
While Pereira has framed herself as the “outsider,” in some ways her opponent better fits that description.
An Alabama native, Stallworth entered the political scene in 2011, when he ran for state representative, after his predecessor, Chris Caruso, was appointed by Gov. Dannel Malloy to a position in the State Department of Labor.
Unlike Pereira, Stallworth isn’t running an education platform, but he’s been no less an outspoken advocate.
In 2012, Stallworth spoke at Student’s First’s National Faith Leaders Education Policy Summit in support of education reform efforts, including the Malloy’s 2012 reform bill. He’s supported the state expansion of pre-school and, last year, co-sponsored a bill, that ultimately became law, that established the Minority Teacher Recruitment Taskforce.
No matter what your opinion is on school choice and reform, there’s no denying that depending on how this primary goes, Bridgeport could end up with a delegation that either supports or undermines it.
Stay tuned for more on the legislative primaries…
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