BET Republicans: Strong Republican Leadership on Schools

Submitted by Republican BET members Nisha Arora, Mike Basham, Bill Drake, Karen Fassuliotis, Dan Ozizmir and Leslie Tarkington

Over the last decade the Republican led Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) has funded 99.8% of operating funding requests from the Board of Education (BOE), for a total of $2 Billion dollars. Annually the schools returned unspent monies. These expenditures exclude an additional $200 million in Capital Spending and hundreds of millions in State pension costs. In addition, the BET funded two consultant studies to improve capital project management and Special Education.

Over the last decade school spending and appropriations, including benefits have increased every single year. We have never cut a budget year over year. In fact, the only major cuts to Greenwich school funding in the last decade were made by a Democratic Governor and the Democratic controlled Legislature in Hartford when they cut educational grants to Greenwich. The Republican led BET fully made up for these cuts with Greenwich taxpayer funds that amounted to tens of millions of dollars, these funds prevented teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and programmatic cuts.

Greenwich spends more per pupil than our peer communities. Based on the Connecticut State Department of Education website, the most recent data for the academic year 2019-2020, shows that Greenwich spent the most at $22,645 Per Pupil Expenditure (PPE) per year. High performing towns such as Darien ($21,805), New Canaan ($21,985), and Wilton ($22,384) spent less even though they have higher per capita income than Greenwich. Compared to towns with similar demographics such as Fairfield ($19,596) or West Hartford ($17,865) Greenwich school funding is even more generous.

Greenwich teachers are the highest paid in Connecticut. For example, in 2000, the starting salary for a new teacher right out of college in Greenwich was $56,111. In Westport that number was $49,096. After 14 years, which is our highest level of seniority and pay the difference is even greater, $110,810 versus $85,061. This doesn’t include benefits, pensions and additional stipends. Greenwich has the resources to recruit the best educators for our students.

Generous funding is necessary, but funding alone doesn’t guarantee high performing schools—It takes much more. We are facing significant challenges; enrollment has fallen by almost 500, an unprecedented amount, many schools are significantly underutilized, student achievement is lagging, and the special education program is in need of focus. There is much the school leadership and BOE can do to address these issues and improve academic achievement.

Greenwich has a long tradition of a bi-partisan consensus for well-funded and high achieving schools. We know from the past that we can work together, and we know the benefits from doing so – Better schools and higher student achievement. As the incoming Republican BET members, we pledge we will do our part to assure that Greenwich Public Schools continue to be well funded and our children get a quality education. We will collaborate with all stakeholders to make this happen. Greenwich students deserve no less.

Nisha Arora, Mike Basham, Bill Drake, Karen Fassuliotis, Dan Ozizmir and Leslie Tarkington are the Republican candidates for election to the Board of Estimate and Taxation this November 2.