Bridgeport · In the State

Are We Really Back Here Again? Fighting Over City-Run After-School Program Boils Over

Does this scene look familiar? It should.

(video above is from a tweet by Connecticut Post report Linda Lambeck’s)

As you can see, this exchange has happened before.

Bridgeport Board of Education member Maria Pereira has been fighting with former City Attorney Mark Anastasi (and the city as a whole) for years. It came to a head once again, on Monday night, over Lighthouse, an after-school and summer program run by the city. More specifically, over the school board demanding that Lighthouse pay the district $500,000 in rental fees or the program will have to find a new home.

The Connecticut Post has the story:

“Some 2,600 city children will be without a day camp program this summer unless a stalemate between the city and school board is resolved by Monday.

The school board and city-run Lighthouse program have been at odds this entire school year over a $500,000 rental fee the board has levied against the after school and summer program for use of 24 city school buildings. The city refuses to pay.

If they don’t pay up by May 15, the program will be locked out of schools on June 30, just as Lighthouse’s five-week summer session is set to start.

The stalemate won no sympathy from parents like Jenicese Turner who with children in tow, flooded a city school board meeting on Monday, to plead for the program’s survival.

“You cut this program and I have to cut back my hours working or my child becomes a latchkey kid,” Turner said. “My neighborhood is not a great place for my seven year old to be walking home by herself.”

Kids Caught In The Cross Fire Of Politics

Ultimately the school board decided against rescinding their prior decision to charge light house $500,000. This means either the program will have to find a new home (unlikely) or the thousands of city students will go without summer and after school programming.

I’ve written about this before — the toxic feud between Bridgeport’s school board and the city over public funds has been an on-again-off-again occurrence for at least as long as I’ve been covering Bridgeport politics. Probably longer.

This has been Bridgeport’s merry-go-round. Where both sides pick politics over children.

On one side, certain members of the school board refuse to work with the city, making unilateral decisions to cut joint programs and services. While the city (in particular, the Mayor) refuses to increase funding for schools. This is nothing new. The problem is this fight doesn’t benefit kids.

In a city where there aren’t many after-school and summer options, the school board’s decision is a major blow for families.

Hopefully, the city finds a way to cover costs, but either way, the board put kids and families on the line in order to have a bargaining chip.




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