As Election Day Approaches The Education Ballot Question Heats Up

The battle over the Nov. 6 charter question is coming into focus. Voters will decide this question:

“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?”


On one side is Mayor Bill Finch who’s putting his prestige on the line urging voters to advance him the power to appoint school board members. If you’re going to hold me accountable for schools, says the mayor, give me the power to appoint. In nearly every public speaking appearance in recent weeks the mayor has pointed to the progress that took place under an appointed school board: no fighting, a balanced budget, school construction money, new relationships with area universities, new school security plan. City schools had been under the supervision of an appointed Board of Education for roughly one year until the September special election ordered by the Connecticut Supreme Court after it invalidated state control.

Joining the mayor in pushing for an appointed body is Excel Bridgeport, a one-year-old school reform organization backed by a coalition of Fairfield County business interests and community parents highlighting what they claim is progress made the past year. While Finch is leveraging his mayoral pulpit, Excel Bridgeport has organized a group of city parents in an effort to build support. “Parents for Progress” will conduct a rally on Monday, Columbus Day, at 11 a.m. in front of City Hall on Lyon Terrace. Parents are expected to highlight progress the past year under Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas, the turn-around specialist, brought in after the elected school board in the summer of 2011 voted for state intervention.

But now an elected board is back in place with a coalition of supporters arguing the best school board is one selected by the people.

The teacher’s union Bridgeport Education Association, Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition and the Working Families Party are all forging a voter outreach urging a no vote to the Nov. 6 ballot question. How much money will they have to make the case?

The Finch political organization knows how to raise money. It will likely be well financed, led by the business community, to make its case. This ballot question will come down to the strength of the organized opposition. Is it there?

The wildcard in this effort, the larger turnout of voters in a presidential cycle who don’t normally pay attention to local issues. Will they care?

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8 comments

  1. None of the charter changes sought by Finch are there to benefit the kids.
    Finch and other mayors have actually controlled the BOE for years. The Democrats who are elected to the board are selected by the town committee and whoever the town chairmen is. They are there to basically do what the sitting mayor wants. This was illustrated this past year when the board dissolved itself at the behest of the mayor.
    The mayor and his financial guru Sherwood control the BOE funding by the budget process. The mayor in four out of five years granted NO increase to the BOE budget.
    What are the politicians fighting for? That’s simple, they want to control the many school contracts that are awarded every year. They want to make sure these contracts go to friends and supporters and contributors. This is also a good spot to hide politically connected hires.
    Don’t think for one minute this is about the kids.
    Message to Excel, stay in freaking Westport.

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      1. The future started yesterday. To say things “have gotten worse across the board” is to express your opinion of current conditions in America. To blame everything on the Mayor is to show a misunderstanding of the city you live in.

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  2. I got a call from a survey company asking about the charter revision question–nothing mentioned by them to support an appointed Board was compelling–all of the improvements implemented by Vallas could have been done with an elected Board–don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater–the Dems always had control of the Board even with the supposed three dissenters–and you could end up with three appointed dissenters instead of elected dissenters.

    Bottom line–the arguments for an appointed board have not been compelling enough to support a change.

    If the mayor wanted accountability, he could have changed the Charter to have mayoral approval of superintendent hiring or Council approval or ratification–then the buck stops here!

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  3. And here is another thing that didn’t happen when the appointed board was in place. There were no independent members questioning anything. Here is one example of Vallas’ poor management skills a result of which teachers are spending valuable time barcoding books instead of teaching duties … I will post a link here; Jonathan Pelto explains it very well.
    jonathanpelto.com/2012/10/02/oct-2-2012-team-vallas-continues-to-take-bridgeport-teachers-off-teaching-duties-to-apply-textbook-barcodes/

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  4. Common Good,
    Lots of people have been getting those calls. What is the name of the “public relations” or educational firm really attempting to find out by surveying the feelings currently about the Charter question? Who is paying for this service? Private or public money? My spouse got a call over the weekend and told them she wanted her BOE vote so would be voting NO. Wonder what response they are getting? Time will tell.

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  5. *** You could read the city’s long charter revision past and future recommendations, etc. on the web site and still come away confused after reading the unclear tricky education ballot question for Nov! *** VOTE NO! ***

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