Kyle Langan, a candidate for City Council in the West Side 132nd District, teaches 8th grade literature at Achievement First Bridgeport, a charter school. In this commentary he laments recent Board of Education decisions regarding school resource officers and the city’s Lighthouse afterschool program.
As a teacher in Bridgeport, if you were to ask me what would help my classroom and my school provide a better education for our young people, nowhere on that list would you find “more police officers in the schools. Yet that is exactly what will be happening as a result of the recent deal between the City of Bridgeport and the Board of Education (BOE). This “deal,” which was agreed upon by the BOE in a 5 to 4 vote (Baraka, Walker, Pereira, Gardner against) requires the education system in Bridgeport to accept a federal grant providing 9 student resource officers (police) into the schools for four years. The first three years these officers will not cost the schools anything but in the fourth the BOE will be responsible for paying 50% of these officers’’cost to the tune of $400,000+.
In this negotiation, the Board of Education was requesting money from the years that the Lighthouse Program (a summer and after school program run by the city) operated in their schools without paying for any building expenses: custodial staff, electrical costs, food costs etc. In times of financial distress, this is not a crazy ask. Not to mention the fact that while the Lighthouse Program collects money from Bridgeport families, there hasn’t been any convincing evidence from the city as to where this money goes. So if the BOE was forced to take on officers from a grant it did not request the city must have compromised on the highly debated Lighthouse Program money, right? Wrong.
The only place in this deal where the BOE can possibly regain ANY funds is through an allowance by the city for the BOE to shop their snow removal contract. This could potentially yield tens of thousands of dollars, but nowhere near the $500,000 compromise the BOE was looking for from the city for the years of nonpayment from the Lighthouse Program. A motion was made by Mr. Gardner to return to the negotiating table and propose the city take over all expense for waste removal moving forward and the Lighthouse Program debt would be forgotten while being allowed to continue to operate for free in the schools. This, Gardner said, would be enough to recover the cut Kindergarten aides and would be a more amenable deal for the children of Bridgeport. Unfortunately this was voted down.
What is really unfortunate about this whole proceeding is that the BOE and the superintendent (whom the board recently hired) were made to look like the villain if they delayed the Lighthouse summer programs for kids while this negotiation ensued. That is not a fair assessment. This negotiation, that is now over, is going to have a devastating impact for 21,000 kids in September as opposed to the 2,600 that participate in the summer program. Everyone wanted to have the summer program for kids. But in the wake of this deal the school system, which should have recovered some money, is saddled with nine cops it didn’t ask for and a $400,000 expense in four years that will mean more cuts in resources that our kids desperately need.