City Council members Karen Jackson, Kyle Langan and Maria Valle on Thursday participated in a forum hosted by the education reform group FaithActs for Education where they answered questions about the city budget and education funding. Video from event above. News release from organization follows.
Bridgeport students and parents, representing FaithActs for Education, pressed members of the City Council for more transparency, accountability, and partnership at a public forum hosted by the local non-profit.
Council members in attendance included Karen Jackson, Kyle Langan, and Maria Valle. The group fielded questions about the impact of the recently passed city budget, which attempted to offset a $13 million deficit in education funding by adding $1,039,000 to the city’s education budget.
City Council members were asked to commit to the following demands:
Do you commit to meet one-on-one with one Bridgeport Board of Education member to foster a working relationship between the council and Board of Ed and report back what you learned to FaithActs by August 31, 2018?
Do you commit to meeting with FaithActs members at least one time before August 31 to continue to build relationships with your constituents?
Do you commit to engage an experienced, independent budget analyst to aid in the City Council’s budgeting process for the 2020 fiscal year?
“Bridgeport schools have been underfunded for years, and city leaders again kicked the can down the road with their new budget. Our children are suffering and deserve better,” said Pastor William McCullough of Russell Temple CME Church in Bridgeport and founder of FaithActs for Education. “Parents and students stepped up tonight to hold council members accountable and push them to do more for our schools and our communities.”
Bridgeport native Jason Ayala urged council members to hire an experienced, independent budget analyst so they can decide for themselves how best to allocate the city’s resources.
“Everybody wants to maintain their status quo, but the status quo for our kids is borderline criminal,” said Ayala. “You have the power to change the budget, but how are you going to edit the Mayor’s budget when his staff are the people telling you where you can and can’t move money?”
Council member Maria Valle stated that meeting the needs of the community is always the City Council’s priority.
“A consultant came in to review the city’s finances and to advise us where and where not to make cuts. We take whatever is placed in front of us and act in the way that best helps the community and gets our schools the money they need.”
Council member Karen Jackson added that she supports bringing in another party to review the city’s finances.
“I support bringing in a forensic auditor. They would be more detailed than a consultant. We don’t know what the process for hiring the consultant was … Also, as it stands, no one is telling us what to do. All 20 council members are individuals and make their own decisions.”
Coryn Mendez-Barner, a 12-year-old 6th grader at Multicultural Magnet School, shared how disappointed she was at the lack of a working relationships between Bridgeport’s decision-makers.
“We also believe in the power of relationships, and know there is a lack of relationship between the City Council and Board of Education, which is hurting us kids,” said Barner.
Barner asked council members to commit to meet one-on-one with a Board of Education member and foster a working relationship between the two elected bodies.
In response, council member Kyle Langan said that increased communication between decision makers is crucial to meeting Bridgeport’s educational goals.
“As the co-chair of Education Committee, I feel it is my job to increase communication between our decision making boards. I have reached out to several Board of Ed members and people in the hierarchy to attend our next meeting and several have already confirmed they will be in attendance. We’ll be discussing capital budget issues, due to the fact that there was confusion between the Town Council and Board of Ed in the previous budget cycle.”
Ledon Velez-Caldwell, a Bridgeport parent, asked council members to continue the conversation and commit to meeting with FaithActs members again over the summer to strengthen community ties.
“Listening to you and allowing you to listen to us is the essence of community relationship,” said Velez-Caldwell. “Knowledge is power. Action is power. Accountability is power, and I thank God and FaithActs for my ability to learn and grow in power.”
In response, council member Langan echoed FaithActs For Education Executive Director Jamilah Prince-Stewart’s remark that “Power respects power.”
About FaithActs for Education
Founded in October 2014, FaithActs for Education is a grassroots community organizing nonprofit based in Bridgeport, Connecticut. We are people of faith building power to get our children the education they deserve. We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to graduate from college, take care of their family, and fulfill their God-given potential. FaithActs is more than 400 members and 50 churches strong. We’ve turned out hundreds of Bridgeport voters, demanded stronger governance from the Board of Education, prevented busing cuts for 2,300 elementary school students, and prevented cuts to education at the state and local level.