If it wasn’t already obvious, Bridgeport Board of Education members Sauda Baraka and Howard Gardner made it astoundingly clear that they are more concerned with political showmanship then what’s best for the children of Bridgeport.
Though neither are members of the Bridgeport Board of Education’s Finance Committee, the pair spent the greater part of Monday evening’s meeting railing against a plan to meet the full Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR) in cash.
The Minimum Budget Requirement, or MBR, is the minimum amount of money a municipality must allocate for education funding. Since Bridgeport is an alliance district, the state also requires the city to increase its education spending by one percent for four consecutive years starting in 2013.
Longtime readers of the blog may remember that back in 2013 the city struck a deal with the state to allow them to count in-kind services toward the MBR. Without this deal, the district stood to lose $3.3 million in funding for the 2014 school year.
This didn’t sit well with members of the BOE, especially Baraka, who repeatedly demanded that they wanted the city to move the in-kind services back into their budget and give them the cash instead – which is exactly what this new deal does.
Keep in mind that the services we are talking about – snow removal, crossing guards and garbage disposal – were all paid for out of the BOE’s budget up until 2011. The only reason those services were moved into the city’s budget was to help the BOE, which was facing a massive budget gap.
The memorandum of understanding that was on the table at Monday’s finance meeting would move all those services back to the BOE budget, with the city giving the district $2.3 million in cash to cover the cost of those services and additional $1.5 million to cover the MBR.
Here’s what’s important: While the state has yet to calculated the MBR, the deal discussed Monday would guarantee that the district would receive the full MBR in new money. The city agreed to decrease the amount they bill for moved services if the MBR is higher than expected.
Here is district CFO Marlene Siegel explaining the details:
Rather than jumping for joy that cash-strapped Bridgeport would fully fund the MBR in cash, Gardner and Baraka used the opportunity to take political pot shots at the Mayor, because of course, the MBR issue was always just about their irrational grudge against the mayor.
Gardner called the plan a “farce,” arguing that the city wasn’t actually giving the district a “dime in additional money.”
After CFO Marlene Siegel explained the benefits of the plan, he then proceeded to question her loyalties.
Following Gardner’s outlandish claims, Baraka called the proposal illegal, only to be informed by the Superintendent that the district’s lawyers had participated in the drafting process.
Despite their interference, the finance committee approved the plan, which won’t be finalized until the full board votes on it at next Monday’s board meeting.
Here’s to hoping that Baraka, Gardner and their cabal of anti-Finch zealots think about the children of Bridgeport rather than their political agendas for once and vote to approve the MBR on Monday.
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