On Friday, March 29, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, and Education Committee Co-chairman Douglas McCrory will hold a forum about school district regionalization from 10 to 12. The meeting will be held in the legislative office building, Room 1A. It will be carried live on http://www.ctn.state.ct.us/.

The meeting was confirmed by Kevin Coughlin Thursday, communications director for Senate Democrats.

The 'Save the Date' received by The Darien Times upon request Thursday said:

"In Connecticut, we're proud of our excellent public schools. It's one of the key reasons families choose Connecticut as their home. And none of us want that to change.

But our economy and our declining student enrollment numbers have created a new reality. And our schools aren't addressing student needs equitably. We need to find efficiencies so that we can protect the schools we love and direct our education dollars to the classroom."

The regionalization debate heated up when regionalization bills were introduced early in the legislative session that would seek to regionalize school districts, but without specifics. Many Darien residents have expressed concern about their children's education future in light of these bills and the ideas behind them.

There was news last week that the two bills, SB738 introduced by  Looney, and SB457 sponsored by Duff, were dead because the Education Committee didn’t move forward on them.

On March 1, public hearings for the bills were heard by the legislature’s Education Committee. Busloads of residents, including students, testified in opposition.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) who represents parts of Wilton, Norwalk and Westport and sits on the committee, explained that the Looney and Duff bills were “concept” bills — full of ideas and concepts but lacking specific details.
“They were not fully developed bills,” she told The Wilton Bulletin. “If you hear a concept bill in a public hearing, after the hearing if you want to bring the concept bill to a vote, it needs to be fully drafted before being brought up. The chairs of the committee did not elect to get those bills fully drafted,” she said.

But regionalization language from Looney’s bill could come in through the back door by being tacked on to another bill. “If for example, Looney’s bill is attached to a budget bill, legislators can say they wanted to vote yes for the budget, and not explain voting for the Looney bill,” she said.
Gov. Ned Lamont’s bill SB874, which calls for the creation of a commission for shared school services, a bill which many saw as a precursor to school regionalization.
Last week, the governor’s office announced the bill had been revised to remove regionalization language from it.
But regionalization opponents shouldn’t rest easy on the “revised” language, Lavielle said, because the revision was merely advisory.
She said on April 1, it will be up to the committee chairs to decide whether to adopt the governor’s substitute language.
In response to the revised language on the governor's bill, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said "I believe the administration heard loud and clear the value of locally controlled schools in maximizing student outcomes and honoring community input."

"Municipal leaders and school boards should play an equally important role in determining what services can/should be shared with each other and between towns with the purposeful goals of promoting improved student outcomes, government efficiency and taxpayer savings," she said.

Those interested in attending the Friday forum should RSVP to dferct.org/sharedservicessharedopportunity.

Additional reporting by Wilton Bulletin assistant editor Patricia Gay.