The latest column from Keila Torres of the CT Post centers on the wording of the charter revision question to voters:
Who would vote against education governance reform?
Probably not many people in Bridgeport, given the number of failing schools in the city. And that’s exactly what it seems city officials are counting on come Nov. 6.
The City Council on Monday night approved a charter referendum question that will ask Bridgeport voters on Election Day: “Shall the city of Bridgeport approve and adopt the charter changes as recommended by the Charter Revision Commission and approved by the City Council, including education governance reforms?”
Education governance reforms can mean anything. I don’t think you can get more ambiguous than that. Those who haven’t been paying attention to what the changes are get no answers from this question.
And those who have been paying attention could easily be confused (tricked, really) into voting yes. Because based on test scores and graduation rates alone, the city definitely needs to reform its governance over education.
But it’s an entirely different thing to ask voters something specific like: “Shall the charter of the city of Bridgeport be changed so that the mayor and City Council, with the help of an advisory committee, be given the right to appoint Board of Education members instead of Bridgeport residents voting to fill those seats?”
The first question might elicit a quick “Yes!” from me if I dwelled on the last part and forgot the first, which is likely to happen. The second would make me pause and reread.
Bridgeport residents should absolutely have the right to vote for the people who make the policies in their children’s schools. But turnout at recent Board of Education elections have shown most people here don’t vote in these elections.
Is giving the mayor and City Council more power the solution to this problem, though? I’m not convinced. They’ve had power for decades over many other issues that this city is still struggling with, like economic development.
I would have loved for the city to choose a hybrid board proposal, with some appointed and some elected seats. A chance for both city officials and residents to have a vote and for board members to be accountable to both parties, not just the mayor.
This mayor doesn’t have a great record when it comes to education. This is a mayor who had a publicly acrimonious relationship with both the BOE and the superintendent of schools and flat-funded the school system every year during his first term.
This is a mayor who publicly lambasts his city’s only four-year public university.
This is a mayor who kept the planned dissolution of the former elected Board of Education a secret for months before it was quietly executed as his constituents watched it all unfold in confusion.
This is a mayor whose solution to making the dissolution stick was to appoint a Charter Revision Commission that voted in record speed to approve the changes exactly as he wanted.
And it seems this is a mayor who thinks these strategies–keeping his constituents at bay, giving as little information as possible and working only with those he likes–are worth repeating. The mayor should follow his own advice. Keep adult politics out of this.
Residents should know exactly what they’re voting for on Election Day.