Submitted by Joe Angland, Greenwich Town Committee Chair
Recently, Greenwich’s Republican Town Committee chair made the laughable assertion that local Republicans support our public schools. The facts prove otherwise.
Republican First Selectman Fred Camillo just axed money to fix up the impossibly old Old Greenwich School last week. That comes after months of deliberation by the school building committee, which called for architectural work to commence on disability act and fire code compliance, flood prevention, and improved school security.
Camillo also lopped $10 million off the Board of Ed budget to rebuild Central Middle School. No explanation offered.
The Republican First Selectman contends we can only afford “to do one project at a time” when it comes to our schools. As for non-school projects? No such limits. This year there is:
- Money for rebuilding the ice-skating rink
- Money for sprucing up Roger Sherman Baldwin Park
- Money for building the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center
- Money for renovating the Holly Hill waste station
These are all worthy, but are they all higher priority than improving our schools? Republicans think so.
It was the Republican-controlled BET that cut funding for architectural work to renovate and expand Julian Curtiss school, a building which does not have adequate space to meet the needs of its students. The cafeteria, media center, and rooms for Special Education or Advanced Learning Program classes are inadequate. Julian Curtiss also lacks proper ventilation and modern security, and it is not ADA-compliant.
It was the Republican-controlled BET that refused to pay for an engineering study of the structural integrity at Central Middle School. Thankfully, the Board of Education found federal money to do that, and the crumbling walls it revealed prompted inspectors to order the school closed immediately.
In fact, in the five years since the 15-year GPS Facilities Master Plan was published, not one shovel has hit the ground for the major projects in the Plan. Instead, the Republican-controlled BET instructed the BOE to conduct a study to determine whether any of our public schools could be closed and consolidated.
And it’s not just school buildings Republicans have neglected. It’s school programs too. For over a decade the Republican-controlled BET has imposed operating budget guidelines on the Board of Education that fail to keep up with inflation. Offering just 2% annual increases on average since 2012, they starved the parts of the school budget that are not contractually bound: supplies, field trips, electives, and professional development.
Moreover, this isn’t about Republican “fiscal discipline”. The Republican controlled BET voted against a bond resolution with a twenty-year maturity rate which would have lowered our annual debt service repayments. It could have provided a cushion to begin the many long-neglected capital projects our schools require, instead of “one project at a time.”
Finally, let’s make the budget hearings accessible. Republican BET budget committee chair Leslie Tarkington refuses to allow recordings of budget hearings to be posted on the Town YouTube channel. Most other Town department public meetings are available for streaming. It is unfair to keep parents in the dark on an issue about which they care deeply.
The Greenwich Democratic Town Committee believes that the residents of Greenwich deserve better: safe, sewage-free, and modern learning environments with access to fields, good air quality, accessibility, and up-to-date security standards, and we believe that our leaders can and should provide them.
We hope you will vote for all six Democratic candidates for the BET this coming November so that our students can thrive in the learning environment they deserve.
Chair, Greenwich DTC