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Bristol Press Article on BOE Forum — October 10, 2015

Bristol Press Article on BOE Forum

BRISTOL — Candidates running for the Board of Education in the Nov. 3 election had the chance to weigh in on the state-imposed Minimum Budget Requirement at a political forum sponsored by the Bristol Federation of Teachers and the Bristol Parent Teacher Organization.

The MBR limits a municipality’s ability to reduce its school budget from the previous year.

David Hayes, BFT president, said the teachers’ union and the PTA together came up with nine questions. Two candidates from each party were randomly chosen to respond to each question and each candidate had two minutes to speak.

Bristol already spends less per pupil than most of the school systems in its District Reference Group, which includes districts of similar enrollment and family income, and other surrounding towns and its education budget has been flat funded for seven of the last 12 years, Hayes said.

“Some candidates have publicly declared that they would not approve increasing the education budget because of the minimum budget requirement,” Hayes said.

When asked what his stance is on MBR and where he sees the budget going for the next two years, Jeff Caggiano, a Republican, said, “I’m not really in favor of the MBR. I think our local decisions should be made locally and these state mandates create issues within our own Board of Education on the finance side,” he said.

Caggiano said the Board of Education has often returned money to the city at the end of the school year, so he wants to bring his business experience to examining the school budget.

In contrast, Chris Wilson, the incumbent Democrat, said he favors the MBR, having served on the legislative MORE (Municipal Opportunities and Regional Efficiencies) Commission, which debated the idea at length.

“MBR is a safety net for cities like Bristol,” he said. “If we don’t have MBR the city’s budgets will be balanced on the back of education and that’s just not sustainable.”

If the city doesn’t negotiate market competitive contracts for teachers and other staff, it will have a negative impact on the schools, he said.

The incumbent Republican, Jennifer Dube, said, “The reality is we are all asked to do more with less these days, and we are currently doing better than our DRG in terms of flat funding.”

Even with flat funding, the board has recently managed to add full-day kindergarten, reintroduce middle school interscholastic sports and improve the middle school music program, she said.

Hiring Gary Franzi as permanent district finance director has helped to quantify where the tax dollars are going in the budget, she added. “We need to be good stewards of what we are given and to be as efficient as possible with all of our money.”

Speaking against flat funding, Tina Taylor, Democrat, said hearing people say they would not increase the school budget “scares me” as a parent, a teacher, and a potential board member because money spent on schools is an investment in the city’s future.

Flat funding or reducing the budget may mean taxes go down, but in the long run families will not want to move here and property values will go down, she said.

It’s important to be fair to the taxpayers and not increase taxes needlessly, Taylor said, “but as a Board of Ed commissioner our job is to take care of the children.”

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-584-0501 ext. 1802 or

BFT Announces Endorsements — October 8, 2015

BFT Announces Endorsements

Concluding the BOE forum on October 6, the Bristol Federation of Teachers voted to endorse the following candidates for city offices:


Ellen Zoppo-Sassu

City Council

In the 1st District, Calvin Brown and Myra Sampson.

In the 2nd District,  Morris “Rippy” Patton and David Preleski.

In the 3rd District,  Mary Fortier and Bob Passamano.

Board of Education

Chris Wilson, Karen Vibert, Tom O’Brien, Karen Hintz, Joe Grabowksi, Jeff Caggiano, and Tina Taylor,

Hartford Courant Article on BOE Forum — October 7, 2015

Hartford Courant Article on BOE Forum

Bristol Republicans, Democrats Spar on School Spending

BRISTOL — Candidates for the school board offered a clear difference in views at a forum Tuesday night: Republicans proclaimed the city’s education system is getting better, while Democrats warned it’s veering off course.

Republican incumbent Genard Dolan said voters should keep the GOP in control of the board, arguing that the schools have created new programs and improved the graduation rate during the nearly four years since Republicans swept to power.

Democratic incumbent Tom O’Brien disagreed, cautioning, “I’m very concerned about the direction we’re headed … Social values, moral values and property values have been declining since we started a policy of flat-funding schools. We’re well on our way to becoming a second-rate city.”

At a forum sponsored by the local teachers union and the city’s parent-teacher organization, Republicans said more spending isn’t necessarily a solution.

Some problems “require us to simply tighten our belts,” Dolan agreed. “It’s a favorite pastime of Democrats to spend other people’s money.”

Democrat Karen Hintz countered that the schools have offered retirement incentives, cut staff and reduced programs.

“We’re at a tipping point in our city,” she said, warning that Bristol schools are falling behind neighboring districts because of too many no-increase budgets.

“You’re going to pay for these kids one way or the other,” she said. “You can pay for jail or welfare programs down the line.”

Democratic incumbent Karen Vibert agreed, saying, “Young adults are moving out to communities where the people who hold the purse strings show they value education.”

Republican incumbent Jennifer Dube said the schools aren’t being singled out.

“We’re all being asked to do more with less … we need to be good stewards of what we’re given,” she said.

Democrats argued that being too tight with spending can’t succeed in the long term.

“Yes, our taxes may stay the same, but our property values will go down,” Democratic challenger Tina Taylor said.

The sharpest disagreement came over privatizing school cafeterias. Republicans have been pushing that controversial idea for several years while Democrats have resisted it.

“Everyone should understand we’re very compassionate,” said Republican Larry Amara, board chairman. “This is a compassionate way for a win-win for our kids.”

The board protected its current workforce when it developed a contract for a private company, he said, adding that the schools already successfully outsourced crossing guards.

Eliminating the cafeteria’s operating deficit — and raising money by selling the kitchen equipment — will help students by taking pressure off future budgets, he said.

“It’s not a business, it’s a service,” replied Democratic challenger Joe Grabowski, who added that it would be “foolish” to take the jobs of the more than 50 city residents who work in the cafeterias.

Copyright © 2015, Courant Community
Public Forum for BOE Candidates on Tuesday! — October 4, 2015

Public Forum for BOE Candidates on Tuesday!

On Tuesday, the BFT is sponsoring a public forum for Board of Education candidates to answer questions submitted from the BFT and PTA. The event starts at 7 PM at the BEHS auditorium. For each question posed, two candidates from each party will respond. The event will be recorded and broadcast on public access TV in the near future.

All BFT members who reside in Bristol are encouraged to attend.

AFT Endorses Hillary Clinton — July 13, 2015

AFT Endorses Hillary Clinton

This week, the AFT executive council voted overwhelmingly to endorse Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president.

Excited to join the fight? Get your AFT for Hillary social media badges and show your support now!

This is a crucial election. Who we elect can make the difference in reshaping our economy and reclaiming the promise of public education.

We’ve seen what happens when we get involved early—like in Pennsylvania, where early engagement helped change one of the most anti-public school administrations in the country and elect one that’s championing the issues of working families and public education. That’s why we’re getting in now.

We’re the first national union to endorse. Over the coming months, we’ll have the chance to help Hillary shape a powerful platform and focus the conversation on the issues that matter to our members and the students, families and communities we serve.

Ready to join the fight? Get your AFT for Hillary social media badges and show your support now!

Since February, we’ve engaged members and leaders in the most extensive outreach we’ve ever done leading up to a primary endorsement.

We conducted a phone survey calling more than 1 million members, commissioned a second major poll, and solicited your input online and in person. We wanted to know what issues mattered to you, which candidate you thought shared our values and who you believed could win.

The message we heard from you was clear: By huge margins, you wanted us to endorse in the primary, and to endorse Hillary Clinton. Our members support Hillary by more than 3 to 1. She’s seen as the strongest candidate by an 11-to-1 margin, and 79 percent of those who will vote in a Democratic primary want us to endorse in the primary.

It’s no wonder. In vision, in experience and in leadership, Hillary Clinton is the champion working families need in the White House. She is a tested leader who is prepared for a tough fight on behalf of students, families and communities. That fight defines her campaign and her career.

And it’s not just that she shares our values. Members told us loud and clear that they believe Hillary is the right candidate—not just to earn the nomination, but to win the White House and continue the fight to reclaim the promise of America.

Show you’re in—get your AFT for Hillary social media badges now!

It’s important that we get in the fight now. We know what happens if we sit back and wait for others to define the debate.

The people who want to sell off our public schools, squeeze profits from our hospitals, privatize services and slash higher education are already hard at work to elect their champions. We need to shape the debate now so we’re not left chasing it later.

Hillary’s shown that she’s ready to work with us to confront the issues facing children and families today, including poverty, wage stagnation, income inequality and lack of opportunity. Hillary is the champion we need to help us reclaim the promise of America.

In unity,

Randi Weingarten, AFT President
Lorretta Johnson, AFT Secretary-Treasurer
Mary Cathryn Ricker, AFT Executive Vice President

Getting Involved in the 2014 Elections — September 30, 2014

Getting Involved in the 2014 Elections

Opportunities abound for BFT members to get involved in local or state elections.

– a phone bank for Rob Michalik, running for state senate, will happen on Oct 21st at his campaign headquarters from 4:30-7:30 PM

– AFT Connecticut Union Phone Bank at AFSCME, New Britain: 10/14 from 4:30-7:30pm and 10/27 from 4:30-7:30pm

-Labor Walk -on 10/18 from 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM at the Bristol Labor Council office at 61 East Main St, Forrestville

– PRE-DEBATE RALLY, Thursday, October 2ND, 5:30 PM Rally, UCONN, In front of Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts

Tom Foley’s “Market Approach” Vision for Education — September 28, 2014

Tom Foley’s “Market Approach” Vision for Education

Published in the Hartford Courant

Reported by Jenny Wilson

Education became a dominant theme in the governor’s race this week, as Democrats launched an attack against Republican candidate Tom Foley for education proposals they say would slash funding from schools that need it the most.

At the core of Foley’s education plan is in-district school choice and “money follows the child” — two policies that, combined, will result in students leaving low-performing schools and then those schools being stripped of per-pupil funding. Foley has proposed implementing an A-through-F grading system for schools that would allow parents, whom he has described as “the best decision-makers” to choose where they want to send their children.

Malloy’s campaign points to the governor’s investment in low-performing schools and cites figures that show progress in education — like higher test scores and graduation rates, and a narrowing of the achievement gap. At a press conference Wednesday, allies of the governor said Malloy continued to support education, even as federal recovery funding vanished.

Campaigns released dueling television ads about education this week, with Foley promoting his plan and Malloy touting his record. Recent polling shows that despite some bumps this year — both in the areas of charter school management and the rollout of the Common Core State Standards initiative — Malloy still leads in polls on education. A Quinnipiac University survey released earlier this month found that 46 percent of respondents thought Malloy would do a better job on education policy than Foley, compared with 40 percent who said the former U.S. ambassador was better-equipped to handle the issue.

Throughout the campaign, Foley has criticized the governor’s approach to education, and described it at an event earlier this summer as “heavy-handed” and “arrogant,” saying he tried to fix areas where schools were not broken. He defended his education policy proposal at a press conference Wednesday.

“What I’m hoping is … the marketplace starts to exert pressure on schools,” Foley said. “Right away schools are on notice that if I’m governor, I’m going to make sure that this gets passed and implemented — so they should start being better schools right away.”

The Greenwich Republican said he drew on his business experience to formulate his approach to schools, admitting that his policy would result in schools being reconstituted.

“Institutions that aren’t performing lose — that’s kind of the way the private sector works, and it ought to be the way the school works, too.”

Foley said he was not worried about over-migration to high-performing schools because while the grading system was intended to be objective, “a lot of parents won’t agree.” Most parents are inclined to think that the school their children attend is a good school, Foley said.

The Malloy campaign — which has attacked Foley for making business decisions that hurt middle class workers at the Bibb Co. in Georgia, a company Foley owned that later filed for bankruptcy — countered that “you can’t leave our children’s education to the whims of the free market.”

Malloy campaign spokesman Mark Bergman said Foley would “treat public schools and public school teachers just like he treated mills and workers in the private sector — closing them down and putting them out of work when he decides they have failed and are inconvenient for him.”

The Malloy ad released this week praised the governor, saying he “faced the Great Recession as others did not, refusing to cut education and instead taking the hard route, making tough choices so we can invest millions more in our local schools.”

According to the governor’s office, nearly $260 million has been invested in the Alliance district program, which directs investment to Connecticut’s lowest-performing districts. Forty percent of Connecticut students attend school in a low-performing district.

“Tom Foley proposes to slash dollars to schools that need it the most,” said state Rep. Andy Fleischmann, who said the A-through-F grading system would “stigmatize schools and communities while failing to address their challenges.”

Connecticut House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz said Democratic policies have proven results. At the press conference, the lawmakers cited this year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress test, also known as NAEP, which showed a narrowed achievement gap in 12th grade.

“All of the work that we’ve been doing is starting to bear fruit, and the achievement gap is starting to close… that’s something to be celebrated, not attacked,” Fleischmann said.

But Foley did not hesitate in attacking that claim. He said NAEP measures achievement in 12 categories, and that, because the achievement gap had narrowed in only some of them, “we’re not doing better and we’re not making progress.”

AFT Connecticut Endorses Malloy for Re-Election — June 13, 2014

AFT Connecticut Endorses Malloy for Re-Election

Rocky Hill – Elected leaders of the 29,000-strong AFT Connecticut last night voted overwhelmingly to support incumbent statewide elected officials with strong records of respecting workers’ rights on the job. The labor federation’s executive committee voted in favor of formal endorsements of candidates for congress and state constitutional offices that will appear on the November 4 General Election ballot.
The candidates include Connecticut’s current delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives; John Larson, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, and Elizabeth Esty. Also endorsed were Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, Attorney General George Jepsen, Treasurer Denise Nappier, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, and Comptroller Kevin Lembo.
“Our executive committee has spoken,” said Melodie Peters, a retired state senator and president of AFT Connecticut. “Last night’s vote is the final step in our democratic process for considering candidates for statewide office. It follows a long-established policy of providing a voice for our diverse, large membership through their local unions,” she said.
Members of the federation’s legislative and political action committee met last week to discuss the incumbents’ records and consider possible endorsements. They forwarded their recommendations to the executive committee, which includes 26 members of AFT Connecticut affiliated unions and reflects a balanced representation of all constituency groups within the federation.
“We have chosen to support candidates who will act to prevent a ‘Wisconsin moment’ here in Connecticut,” said Stephen McKeever, who was a Middletown High School science teacher for 17 years and now serves as AFT Connecticut’s first vice-president. “We need leaders committed to preserving the rights of all workers to collectively bargain and not gutting union members’ benefits to score political points,” he said.
McKeever’s comments refer to remarks that Connecticut Republican Party-endorsed candidate for governor Tom Foley has made to the press. Foley in June, 2013 told The Courant “I keep talking about ‘when is the Wisconsin moment going to come to Connecticut,'” referring to the 2010 takeover of Wisconsin’s statehouse and legislature. That state’s governor and lawmakers in 2011 rammed through legislation stripping public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights and slashed state funding for public education and local services.
“The stakes are too high to make the wrong choice,” said Jean Morningstar, who recently retired after 27 years of service as a public employee at the UConn Health Center in Farmington and is AFT Connecticut’s second vice-president. “We understand that we need a voice at work and a seat at the table with elected officials to advocate for ourselves, our families, and our communities,” she said.

Governor Dan Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman Receive Support of 29,000-Member Union for Respecting Workers’ Rights

 Hartford, CT – Today, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Connecticut announced its endorsement of Governor Dan Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman for re-election.

 “AFT’s support is a testament to the progress we are making together in education, health care and public services,” said Governor Dan Malloy. “I firmly believe that teachers, health care professionals, and all workers should have the right to collectively bargain — for good wages and benefits, due process and a voice at work. From the picket lines to the Capitol, we’ve stood together to protect workers’ rights and that won’t change. We won’t let Connecticut go down the dangerous path that GOP governors are leading states like Wisconsin down. I want to thank AFT for their support and for their hard work, day in and day out, to move Connecticut forward.”

 “I am grateful to be working with AFT as we protect Connecticut’s working families. Honoring and supporting the voice of organized labor is a big part of how we continue to empower our working families, build our economy and provide our children with the best education possible,” said Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman. “We have more work to do, but we will continue to support our educators, health care professionals, public service employees, and all Connecticut workers as we continue our state’s progress. I am honored and thankful for AFT Connecticut’s endorsement.”