Duff, Leone and Blumenthal: Allow school bills to go through public discourse and process
The 2019 General Assembly is now in full session. As your legislators, we are hard at work reviewing and managing the thousands of bills that have been proposed.
Each legislative session brings a new opportunity to tackle our state’s challenges. On the campaign trail, we heard loud and clear the call for structural change to address those challenges. Structural change requires that we be open to hearing new ideas.
Roughly 5,000 proposed bills have been filed to answer that call. Often, the most controversial ideas initially gain the most attention. But at this point, they are just that—proposals. The public hearing process and constituent comments are essential to determining whether to proceed with a proposal, change directions, or apply the brakes. Your voices are critical to allowing the process to work as designed. Many ideas, especially controversial ones, proceed slowly to ensure all are heard and we get the best input. If they do not attain widespread support, they do not move forward. This process unfolds every session.
One bill addresses challenges some school districts with fewer than 2,000 students face in providing educational opportunities. It proposes combining the administrations and bureaucracies of these small districts—not their schools—within 5 years. The goal is to create better educational opportunities for students and efficiencies for taxpayers without closing any schools. We have seen this work right here in Fairfield County, where the Easton-Redding school district has achieved not only real cost savings, but most importantly, excellent outcomes for its students.
Another bill proposes to consolidate school districts in municipalities with fewer than 40,000 residents. This idea is meant to be a starting point for outside-the-box discussions. Unfortunately, however, some leaders have rushed to judgment without any details (because this is just a proposal, no real details exist yet) or letting the process work as designed. These hasty condemnations have served only to cause unfounded fear that the bill is on the verge of becoming law. In fact, it is very far from that point. As leaders, we owe it to our constituents to take a deep breath and allow public discourse to take place. Of course, constituent feedback is essential to that process.
As three of the four Legislators who represent Darien, we understand the concerns Darien residents have about these bills. We will be closely watching them (as well as many others) and will continue to work with the Darien community to ensure that our labors serve to improve the education of Darien’s children and all children in the State of Connecticut.
This is a time when the mettle of all Connecticut’s elected officials will be tested. Rather than attacking early proposals or our colleagues across the aisle, we must work together to have the difficult conversations. We must rise to the occasion, working to resolve our differences and find common ground that best serves all our residents.
There is no magic bullet to address our state’s challenges. Facing them requires all our elected officials to put ideas on the table, and then have open and frank discussions. There is no time to waste. We cannot afford to miss any opportunity to implement policies that would strengthen our great State.