The possible closure of one or both of the unnamed schools will result in layoffs (exact numbers unknown) and higher class sizes across the district. Here are some tips and talking points for how to prevent this:
- Attend the Board of Finance meeting at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, April 20. Since many teachers will choose to go directly from their after school meeting to the BoF meeting, the BFT will make arrangements with building reps to provide a light dinner for all teachers who plan to attend.
- Talk to family, friends, neighbors, and share this information with them. Encourage them to contact the BoF and voice their opinion.
- Send an email to the Board of Finance and City Council using the addresses below.
Here, for your copy and paste convenience, are the emails for all members of the Board of Finance and City Council. The combined group will eventually vote on the Board of Education budget.
firstname.lastname@example.org, KenCockayne@ci.bristol.ct.us, Derekczenczelewski@bristolct.gov, Mikefiorini@bristolct.gov, mikeLamothe@bristolct.gov, Johnsmith@bristolct.gov, CherylThibeault@ci.bristol.ct.us, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, MaryFortier@ci.bristol.ct.us, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Some facts and some talking points:
- It’s important that teachers understand the current BOE is only reacting to the situation the Board of Finance and City Council has put them in. This is the result of years of under funding, and a feeling among city leaders that the BOE can make things work no matter the budget.
- As members start to contact BoF members, know that 6 of the 9 are Republican appointees, many appointed by Mayor Cockayne. They are not elected officials.
- BoF members are likely to reply that “We just set the budget, we don’t decide how the money is spent, and we aren’t the ones closing schools.” This is a false argument since costs go up each year, and the increase in spending (including many years of flat funding) has not kept pace.
- BoF members are also likely to claim that it’s teacher salaries that are partly responsible for the increase in spending. However A) The City Council had a chance to reject our contract, they didn’t. Therefore, they knew the costs associated with salary increases. B) We negotiated with a Republican controlled BOE in the fall of 2014, and this current contract is the result; C) Our current three year contract (2015-18) includes a step freeze. The previous three year contract (2012-2015) included 2 step freezes, including a hard freeze. Going back even further, the 2009-2012 contact also included a step freeze. We have done our part. D) Using the online inflation calculator provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bristol teacher salary increases have not kept pace with inflation. E) It’s not our responsibility to subsidize education.
- The synthetic fields being constructed on school property are a city project, not a BOE initiative. The city is simply placing the fields on school property.
- Under funding of the education budget has become so common in Bristol, that Bristol has among the lowest per pupil expenditures in the state, far below others in our District Resource Group (DRG – districts of similar social and economic capability). The Hartford Courant has an interactive comparison chart.
- City Leaders are loath to spend on education and balk at the Board of Education budget each year. Yet, that same scrutiny does not seem to apply to their own budget, replete with pet projects and “pork.” Here is a recent example of a regular joint meeting of the BoF and City Council.