Every mayor has a legacy, good, bad or indifferent. Mayor Bill Finch is acting like a pol who will have no problem embracing school reform as his legacy. Right now it’s occupying most of his time and will continue at least up to November when voters will likely decide whether school board members will be elected or appointed or perhaps a hybrid of the two as part of charter revision initiatives.
The mayor’s number one advocate in education reform, new schools chief Paul Vallas, began unveiling on Tuesday a series of proposals for school improvement that includes more funding from the city and state. But funding is just one piece of this new vision for city schools. See CT Post story here.
City bean counters are putting the finishing touches on a proposed budget the mayor will submit to the City Council in about four weeks for the budget year beginning July 1. This will be the mayor’s first budget of his second four-year term that began last Dec. 1. This could very well be the budget Finch declares is a first step toward a greater city investment in schools. That would mean a tax increase. The question is how large. But so early in his new term Finch will not be occupied about the ramifications of a tax increase, especially if he rationalizes the school investment. Of course critics will argue that he flatlined school spending for three years, but the mayor will counter that the greater investment comes with a model of reforms established by Vallas who’s setting schools on a new course.
Irrespective of the Supremes invalidating the state takeover of schools, with Vallas in place and a majority vote among either a reconstituted or elected school board, Finch has a chance to make schools his legacy. And when was the last time a mayor could claim that?
And don’t be shocked, however this school board legal fight turns out, if down the road the city asks the state to seize control of schools the conventional way, with the appointment of a special master.