This past week, the Connecticut General Assembly had two pieces of legislation introduced on a rather dry topic: school district enrollment size and regionalization. Senate Bill 454, proposed by Sen. President Looney (D-New Haven), seeks to consolidate and regionalize school districts of towns with a population of less than forty thousand, while Senate Bill 457, proposed by Sen. Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) and Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Sprague), looks to regionalize school districts that have an enrollment of less than 2,000 students. However, these bills set aflame parents across the state, who fear that such regionalization could negatively impact their children’s education. However, these concerns stem from a misunderstanding of these proposals, and there are many potential benefits of regionalization in the state.
Firstly, many believe that these proposals would lead to school closings resulting in longer travel times to school; yet school closings are not mentioned in either of the two pieces of submitted legislation. Regionalization suggests that school administrations would be consolidated rather than the schools themselves. This means less superintendents and assistant superintendents, leading to cost savings through eliminating redundant high salary, six-figure positions. These savings could be redirected to increasing teacher wages, purchasing new technology, or expanding courses available to students.
Secondly, both of these bills have the potential to increase educational equity in our school systems. Since Connecticut public schools’ greatest source of revenue is property taxes, wealthier communities have an easier time financing their school systems, while working-class towns and cities miss out on this potential source of revenue. Having a larger and more diverse tax base to raise revenue can help strengthen the education system of school districts that need it most, and the fact that funds are divided between multiple communities means that they all have an incentive to provide oversight to prevent inefficiency and corruption.
The increase in educational equity and the consolidation of school districts also provides further motivation for adjacent towns to care about not just themselves, but their neighboring communities as well. Since the success of the shared educational system relies on not just the success of one town, but multiple, each town would want their neighbors to grow and prosper as well. This shared responsibility can lead to more joint commercial development projects, greater regional communication and the creation of a shared regional identity. As such, regionalization has benefits that span beyond the scope of education.
However, of these two Senate Bills proposed, I believe that Senate Bill 457 is the better proposal. Sen. Looney’s plan to consolidate education systems of towns with a population less than 40,000 is flawed on the fact that it doesn’t base the regional districts on student population and it is vague about the set size of the district. However, Senate Bill 457 clearly states that school districts with a student population of less than 2,000 must join an existing regional system, establish a new region or explain to the Connecticut Department of Education why they cannot regionalize. Overall, this is a very moderate proposal which will only impact towns with smaller school districts, of which many are already regionalized.
Connecticut needs to step forward and address its problems regarding inequity in a way that won’t further the state’s budget deficit. While regionalization is a great start, it is by no means the only step our state legislators should take this session. Recreational marijuana legalization as well as criminal record expunges for possession should be considered, in addition to truck-only tolling to help address our crumbling infrastructure. Through these methods we can get Connecticut back on track and create a state that works for all of its residents.
Cameron Cantelmo is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.