Submitted by Michelle Abt, Stamford
Last week, when the Stamford state delegation and city officials celebrated a massive infusion of public education infrastructure funding for our school system, their mood was as sunny as the weather.
The delegation had worked hard to include a new funding formula into the state budget and the result is transformative — $206 million for Westhill High School’s renovation and a 60% reimbursement for school construction for the next 25 years. The funding is critical to the city’s master plan for constructing or expanding four schools, including a possible new K-8 school in South Stamford.
As a long-time resident of Stamford whose three children were educated in the city’s public schools, I was celebrating too. But I also immediately noticed one key anomaly.
Why were Representative Kim Fiorello and Senator Ryan Fazio on the podium? They both voted NO on the budget that included this funding. They had no business taking credit for funding they didn’t support and voted against.
In fact, it’s worth asking whether Representative Fiorello in particular should be standing at any podium taking credit for education despite her position on the Education Committee.
If you omit unanimous votes, she voted against 8 of the 9 bills that came before the Education Committee this session. She was one of only 6 out of 39 members on the committee who voted against a bill to address COVID’s toll on the mental, physical, and behavioral health needs of students. (This legislation was such a priority that it received the symbolic label SB1.)
She also voted against a bill that would commit the state to a more equitable education funding framework that would help school districts like Stamford. And she was one of only two education committee members to vote against the Governor’s education budget, which focused on improving workforce training programs.
Instead of trying to help public school finances, she sponsored two pieces of legislation to help divert funding to charter schools, and she has been working to undermine the formula that preserves funding for public school districts even when students attend magnet schools.
I don’t know if Senator Fazio and Representative Fiorello were invited to this event or if they just showed up. But I do know that they had no right to be there. And if they were invited, they should have had the honesty and integrity to decline.
Michelle Abt is a long-time resident of Stamford