School Chief Aresta Johnson, Others, Implore Council’s Budget Committee For More Education Dough

council public hearing 2017
Council chambers for public hearing.

On a night the public was invited to speak about Mayor Joe Ganim’s $542 million proposed budget, most delivered passionate appeals for additional education spending including the city’s new school chief Aresta Johnson who told the City Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee “We want (school children) to have the same things other children have whether Hartford or Westport.”

Aresta Johnson council
Aresta Johnson implores budget committee for more school funds.

About 60 members of the public attended the public hearing Tuesday night reserved for discussion on the general budget but most addressed the council on education even though a public hearing on the education side of the spending plan is slated for next Tuesday, 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers.

Johnson implored the council to add millions more in education funding to Ganim’s budget that calls for no tax increase but falls well short of what she asserts is necessary to achieve even the basics. She declared the education portion of the budget, as presented, is “a path to destruction for our children,” adding “it’s about the vibrancy of the community.” Johnson said the budget must cover critical positions such as social workers and child psychiatrists.

budget committee 2017
Budget committee prepares for public hearing.

Later, Johnson said, Ganim hasn’t even taken the time to meet with her about his flat-funded school budget.

Ashli Giles-Perkins who graduated from Central High School about six years ago said “We’re suffering because we’re not investing in education … We’re asking for things that seem common sense.”

Education parent JoAnn Kennedy told the budget committee, “Children aren’t political people … You’re gonna have to answer to God almighty for decisions you make.”

One of the first speakers Niels Hellman, a financial analyst, wondered whether the growth of the budget over the past several years is keeping pace with the things residents want. He cited the largest percentage increases within police, fire, benefits and City Attorney’s Office, but education spending growth has lagged behind, adding budgets are “gypping the area that’s most important to residents.”

Board of Education member Maria Pereira said “No municipality contributes less to public schools than Bridgeport.” Her colleague on the school board Howard Gardner said the “mayor is pulling the plug on life support.”

City resident Paul Butcher who identified himself as an accountant protested the voluminous budget document as “incomprehensible drivel,” drawing the largest laugh of the evening.

The public hearing, as these things go, did not generate a large crowd, but wider than the two lonely city residents that occupied the council chambers for a likewise public hearing one year ago.

The council’s budget committee, co-chaired by Scott Burns and Denese Taylor-Moye, will cram a number of meetings in the coming weeks before making changes, voting on the budget and sending it to the full City Council for a vote. It then goes back to the mayor for possible veto action and then setting of the mil rate in June for the budget year starting July 1.

City finance officials are crossing fingers that what’s mostly proposed in the budget will materialize as they await the passing of the state budget that sends hundreds of millions to the city.



  1. Kudos to all the speakers last night! All gave intelligent, valid points which seems to make Scott Burns a little red under the collar, either from anger or embarrassment. Ball is now in the city councils court. Will they show political courage and buck JG2’s budget or will they roll over (again) and continue to be sheep? To quote JML “time will tell”

    1. DC Faber, you said, “Kudos to all the speakers last night! All gave intelligent, valid points,” but outside of the 60 people who did show up who knows anything about those “intelligent, valid points?”

      1. Ron,
        I got there early last evening. My 800 words were prepared and sent to OIB with a 7:00 PM embargo time.

        I hope that they will be posted as they summarize many issues especially around the Capital budget and City bonding about which there is little discussion.

        If there were a total of 15 speakers, at least 80% made mention of the neglect of youth in the Mayor’s budget for operating revenues. But the range of viewpoints of City fiscal went to the numbers, the process and the capacity of the City Council to act as a “check and balance” of any sort when it comes to taxpayer money. It was impressive in my opinion, and there were other folks in the audience, including some legal and financial professionals. This was not a tax reaction defensive mob. The comments and viewpoints were sound and asked the Council to look at the values their constituents embrace and see whether the votes they make, support those values? A great reminder in an election year. Time will tell.

  2. I’m not willing to give even an extra nickle in taxes for this board of Ed. Multi-million dollar budget managed by people I wouldn’t trust with $10 at a McDonald’s drive thru window.

    1. Brick I agree with what you said. The BOE spends money on some of the dumbest shit out there.
      There is a program out there and in use when kids are given a color which reflexes there feelings for the start of the day. If a person is upset and cranky he/ or she can go out to the hallway and try to find their happy person Now realize this problem kid is unsupervised

        1. Ann, Andy posted “the BOE spends money on some of the dumbest shit out there” implying the school board was funding the “Ruler Program” out of its Operating Budget.

          I have heard mixed reviews on it, and I am not taking a position of support or against the program itself.

  3. Andy, the “Ruler Program” is being funded by Yale. Fran Rabinowitz created this partnership with Yale, and I was not on the BOE when the partnership was created.

    It is in its second year and was just rolled out to the highschools. I don’t believe there is enough information to determine whether it is, or is not, effective.

    This is not funded out of the BOE Operating Budget. It is important to post accurate information.

  4. Is this some of the extra money Joe is counting on from the state?
    Speaker Aresimowicz said he warned Bridgeport not to plan on receiving an additional $19 million from the governor’s budget. “I told them that was a mistake,” Aresimowicz said in his Capitol office.
    From the Connecticut Post

  5. What cowards that City Council is.
    At least when I was on the council and we had a public hearing on the budget, it was before the FULL COUNCIL not just four members and the president.
    What a disgrace!

  6. Of the 30 ish schools , How many Principals and teachers showed up to speak on behalf of the students?

    I agree with Andy Fardy on the mood meter. I do not care who is paying for it. It is absolutely disruptive and nonsense in the classroom. Better , remove the emotionally challenged children from the classroom and stop punishing teachers with disruptive , mentally challenged students that disrupt the full potential of children that have a shot at making something of themselves. If parents were to spend time in the classroom , they would be absolutely shocked at what happens in the classroom and the language and conversations of third graders. I have spoken to 8 teachers in 3 different schools that told me in confidence that they will not be returning in the fall- They have had enough!

  7. They’re in classrooms and they’re trained teachers. This particular program seems to be more about teaching students to talk about their emotion than a concept of learning, per se recall. Which is the heart of what is perceived as one’s intelligence. The ability to recall.

    To quote Einstein “if you judge a fish on it ability to climb a tree it will life it whole life out believing it is stupid.” So it doesn’t matter how many books you have read or if you can recall every chapter and verse in every engineering book ever written. It will not help you understand or deal one’s emotion. Or the strongest of emotion of all LOVE for it doesn’t just attacks the heart but the mind also.

    Like any thing in humane nature to much is to much. Yes teach students to understand humane emotions and how it affects your behavior, choices, and how do deal with it in a not aggressive way when your life is not in danger. but remember to much is to much.

    Case in point. the emotion of a Trump’s election victory, Even Ron is not that emotion detached or should I say overly emotional in tune with oneself. Disappointment is a fact of life, love lost as will. Everything in moderation.

    civilization doesn’t need this or this

    If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one your with.


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