Finch: Students Deserve Stellar Education Regardless Of Zip Code

In a commentary that also appears in the CT Post, Mayor Bill Finch describes public education as “the most important civil rights issue we face today.” In two weeks registered Democrats will go to the polls to select three among six school board candidates as nominees for the November general election. Finch essay follows:

I grew up the son of a steelworker. My parents had very little formal education but held on to a dream that I would have access to opportunity, the same access to opportunity that all children should have. Though I was only 7 years old when I watched Dr. King make his famous speech, I can still vividly recall the response I felt on that fateful day. Inspired by the words of Dr. King and the work of President John F. Kennedy, I decided to pursue a career in public service.

Fifty years ago, Dr. King and the incredibly brave men and women who marched alongside him peacefully took a stance against the many injustices plaguing America. On this 50th anniversary we acknowledge the great strides our nation has made since the March on Washington: the Equal Pay Act, Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act were all passed during Dr. King’s lifetime. His legacy lives on, inspiring social justice and civil rights advocates to carry on his work, because we all recognize that there is still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done to fully realize Dr. King’s dream.

We should also recognize local leaders such as Charlie B. Tisdale of ABCD, Inc., who helped to organize busloads of people of all faiths and creeds–Catholics, Jews and Protestants throughout the Bridgeport area traveled to the March on Washington. For the first time in history, on a national platform, people of different races, religions and ethnicities put their differences aside and came together as a united front to bring about a change that would make us a stronger nation.

As we stand here today, we take great pride in the contributions of the civil rights movement. However, we must, once again, put our differences aside and come together to work on the most important civil rights issue we face today–improving our public education system.

The current state of our public education system is still a far cry from the equality Dr. King spoke of and marched for. His march included equality in the form of jobs and freedom–neither of which can be truly attainable in a lacking school system. Urban education reform is and must continue to be a mainstay on the national public agenda toward a better future. We have to put our adult agendas aside and come together to provide high-quality learning environments to reverse the educational access gap in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.

Here in Bridgeport, the sheer number of students falling behind in the school system or opting to drop out and head into a workforce that has no room for unskilled workers reminds us that there remains critical work to be done.

Fifty percent of Bridgeport students drop out of our high schools, and half of the dropouts find their way into our prison systems. Of the 50 percent of the students who do graduate from high school, many leave with the skills of an eighth-grader. Only one of four elementary school students is reading at grade level. As you can see from these overwhelming statistics, we can’t continue to wait for others to give us the change we need.

We have taken steps towards improving our schools by building several new school campuses, including Discovery Interdistrict Magnet School and the three new high schools located on the brand new Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Campus. These interdistrict schools bring urban and suburban students together, in the spirit of Dr. King’s vision of desegregation.

We’re partnering with local universities to give our students free and early access to college, removing another barrier to higher education. Under the current leadership, our school system has made great strides but more work needs to be done. We must put our affiliations aside, and come together like so many Americans did on Aug. 28, 1963, and fight for the common goal of improving our schools and improving our nation’s future.

As a mayor, I know that education is the civil rights issue of our generation. Access to quality education isn’t just a civil right … it is human right.

One day every Bridgeport student will have the opportunity to receive a stellar education regardless of his or her race, socioeconomic status, religion or Zip code. As mayor of the city, I recognize that we have to do better. Our nation as a whole must come together in manifesting the incredible dream verbalized by Dr. King a mere 50 years ago.



  1. Do all Bridgeport parents have the same rights as you do to send their children to Black Rock School? Just wondering, because it seems like a long drive from your neighborhood, Mr. Finch. I think I would like to send my children there as well. Maybe we can carpool. Can you let me know how to enroll them?

    1. Yes. All Bridgeport parents have the same right as Mayor Finch. Ask the BOE for a “controlled transfer.” If your child/the student fits the criteria, you can transfer your child to whichever school you prefer to send them to.

  2. *** Anyone who believes these new schools are about the spirit of desegregation and not merely long overdue or politics and saved city benjamins in the long run is drinking too much city government kool-aid! Also, if not for my parents and friend’s parents, also school teachers at a young age, I would have not paid as much attention as I did to Mr. King’s civil rights movement! It’s not something a very young boy would be really focused on unless you were black or lived in the south and/or told to pay attention to, no? *** DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE! ***

  3. Valkyrie,
    Your point is true but most people aren’t preaching one thing while doing something else like Mayor Finch. In addition, most poor parents don’t have the ability to transport their kids to a school across town every weekday.

  4. Amy Carter was the last president’s child to go to public school. Amy Carter lived in the White House for four years from the age of nine. She was the subject of much media attention during this period, as young children had not lived in the White House since the early 1960s presidency of John F. Kennedy. The first children of comparable age to live in the White House since Carter are the two daughters of Barack Obama. Amy Carter attended Washington DC public schools, including Stevens Elementary School and Hardy Middle School. However, Carter struggled to make friends at the schools she attended, and she was not allowed outside for recess because the school’s playground was too near the street. The next First Family to decide where to send a child, Bill and Hillary Clinton, chose to send their daughter to a private school.

  5. I think we are all in agreement. We need to check Finch and all the other Bird Brains from their power grab. Please get involved in this important BOE primary. Education is a Civil Right, it is not an economic opportunity for the political connection machine!

  6. I find it strange and not honest when I read, “In a commentary that also appears in the CT Post, Mayor Bill Finch describes public education as ‘the most important civil rights issue we face today.'” This is the same Mayor Finch who TOOK the voting rights away from the voters in Bridgeport so they couldn’t vote for whom they thought should be on the Board Of Education, it took a judge to correct this injustice 50 years after MLK Jr.’s speech.

  7. This piece is right up there with Finch’s best. Truths with untruths, throws in a couple of dead icons as his heroes even though he was 5 or 6 or so when he claims he found his calling, educational imperatives and schools he has built, commitment to education–civil rights issue of our time. Really? A million years (too many) in public service and he has never cared or done anything about education–not quality, not funding, not access–until he learned there was money in it for his campaign coffers and PACs and he could control it for his political benefit. On top of it all, he takes advantage of a failing school regulation (and he is the mayor of the failing schools), enrolls his kids in Black Rock School, drives them across town in a taxpayer-paid-for car and no doubt gas too and then arrives and attempts to create class warfare between families who go to Black Rock and families who send their kids to the parochial schools and then when he thinks no one is listening trashes the rich people in Black Rock. It would be virtually impossible to find anyone more dishonest than Finch. Ganim may have robbed the city but he didn’t try to pit it against itself and by the way, he produced. Finch has produced nothing but discord and embarrassment. And relentless intimidation of everyone who opposes him.
    Oh, forgot. He has produced. Taxes. Lots of increased taxes. Gotta run now to check the mailbox for my $600 tax refund. Must be next to the chicken in every pot.

  8. This guy is totally delusional. Next we will hear he was at the speech and he was the one who yelled out “Tell us about the dream, Doctor King.”
    He will inform us he was aboard PT 109 and helped JFK rescue the crew even when JFK couldn’t go on after hurting his back.
    The he will inform us that he was indeed in Washington’s rowboat as it crossed the Delaware.
    And finally he helped Moses carry the 10 Commandments across the desert.
    There is help for people with are grandiose delusional but they must first admit they have a problem.

  9. Some bloggers are being way too kind to Mayor Finch.
    Yes, Finch’s children go to an out-of-district school. Forget controlled transfers. If he is going to say regardless of zip code, then get your kids in YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD school.
    If Finch is going to say regardless of socioeconomic status then he should tell HIS PRESIDENT of the Board of Education, the self-proclaimed millionaire, to get his kids into Bridgeport schools or to get off the BOE.
    If Finch is going to say access to quality education isn’t just a civil right it is human right then let’s drop all of this charter school nonsense and treat all students in the city of Bridgeport the same and provide the same level of education.
    If Finch is going to talk about civil rights or human rights he can start with saying he will forever stop trying to take away an individual’s voting rights by trying to appoint his own Board of Education.
    If Finch is going to talk about zip codes let’s not forget his failed effort to get the state to take over Bridgeport’s BOE resulted in an ethnically and racially unbalanced board and the first time representatives from other cities, and yes, another state served on a Bridgeport board or commission.
    Now add to that Finch refused to increase the city’s financial commitment to education for four years forcing the budget crisis that led to the failed state takeover.
    Lat night I had a dream. And I dreamed starting with this year’s elections and continuing on for the following two years, the voters in the city stood up and said no more. We are taking back our Board of Ed, we are taking back our city.
    The dream can begin to become reality on September 10th.
    Don’t miss out on the opportunity.

  10. Sheep,
    I think you have an old copy here. The new one says:
    A Controlled Transfer will be granted under the following conditions:
    1) The students’ father is Mayor of the City of Bridgeport
    2) To accommodate medical disabilities as documented by a doctor.
    3) To allow a student in a terminal grades (8/12) to complete the school year in that school, with principal’s
    4) Upon the approval of administrative personnel
    5) A Controlled Transfer may be granted into classrooms where the current enrollment in grades K and one (1)
    is less than 23, in grades 2 through 8 with enrollments less than 28 students and in grades 9-12 based upon capacity. Students will not be placed in a class which has reached class size limits.

    Maybe this is why all of a sudden the city is in a hurry to expand Black Rock School.

  11. There may be a few people in OIB land who feel I provide too many words and numbers in writing about Bridgeport issues. Sorry about that. Let me strive for brevity in connecting serious concerns about Mayor Finch’s claims regarding support of public education in the City.
    1) It is clear Finch annual educational budgets presented to the Council were not providing enough local support for a number of years. (The funding of ghost positions for several years and allowing police overtime to run large deficits for many months before initiating specific management action are examples of LOST sources for millions of dollars of local education funding that were missed purposely and/or by mismanagement.) Accountability for taxpayer dollars and ‘educational support’ come into question, don’t they?

    2) Finance officials had word from the State in mid-March 2013 they would need to add $3.3 Million to local contributions for the 2013-14 budget year to meet the MINIMUM BUDGET REQUIREMENT but they ignored that ADVISORY MEMO when the budget went to the City Council and was ultimately approved. The school system is counting on that sum of money to balance its books this year. Failure by the City can also bring negative consequences from the State. Perhaps the Mayor will comment on that? What’s the story here?

    3) There is much energy and activity engaged in ‘turning around’ a school system. Such reform can be confusing, or require corrections at times, no doubt. Inspiration by a leader telling his story is wonderful, but when story time has been abused because of too many stories (including The $650 Tax Credit) proving false, the best course may be sticking with the facts. Where is the City contribution to the ‘minimum budget requirement’ for 2013-14?

    Time will tell.

  12. Central High 174 out of 192 High schools in State
    Harding High 187 out of 192
    Bassick high 190 out of 192
    WHO IS TO BLAME as long as the money is coming in with no accountablity and no repercussions? Keep those children down and in the dark.


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