Choosing Sides On The Charter Question, Excel Bridgeport: Vote Yes–Child Advocacy Coalition: Vote No

In the battle of messages to decide the future of how Board of Education members are chosen, a new school reform organization Excel Bridgeport is urging city voters to support Mayor Bill Finch’s charter revision proposal to appoint them. The Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition, an established organization, says hold on a minute, there’s greater accountability in electing members, the current way of doing things. Excel says there’s evidence of progress in an appointed body before the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned state control of schools while BCAC argues school board elections produce greater public input.

On November 6 city 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?”

Both orgnizations have started their public outreach to influence the ballot question. See their respective arguments below, starting with Excel Bridgeport:

Why does this matter for Bridgeport kids?

We can go back to the same failed leadership that made our school system the absolute worst in the state … that was so ineffective that it could not do its job … that wasted millions of your tax dollars.

Or we can build on the real progress we have made under Superintendent Vallas–and build a school system that offers opportunities instead of excuses.

What can you do about it?

By voting yes on the charter revision on November 6, you’ll ensure we have effective, accountable leadership for our schools–and a system that works for our children.

These reforms have delivered results in Hartford, New Haven, and other cities around the country. They will work in Bridgeport too–if we make the right choice.

You can vote no–and choose more failed leadership, more struggling schools and more wasted tax dollars.

Or you can vote yes–and choose better opportunities for our children and a better economy for our city.

Just look at the results achieved over the last year:

• Closed a $19 million budget deficit without having to lay off teachers and guidance counselors or slash high school sports programs

• Created 130 new Pre-K seats, more than any other district in the state

• Delivered new textbooks to every school and improved the curriculum across the district

• Grew the number of high quality high school options that enable students to take college courses for free

These are your schools.

This is your choice.

Choose progress.

Vote YES.

The BCAC argument:

On November 6th, Bridgeport voters will be asked to vote on the following 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?”

Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition (BCAC) Position

• BCAC believes that the Board of Education should be elected. When officials are elected, they are more likely to be neutral and objective.

• BCAC believes that it is important that the city has an election process that allows and encourages Bridgeport residents to run for the Board of Education if they are interested.

• BCAC is very concerned about how the charter revisions are written. Many of the recommendations are not clearly stated, especially policies about conflicts of interest or ethics. For example, there are no policies that require officials to excuse themselves from voting on an issue if they personally benefit, such as a vote that may affect their own salary.

Whether one supports an elected or appointed Board of Education, BCAC is concerned about a number of the proposed recommendations to the city charter about education. These concerns include:

• There does not appear to be a way for the community to be involved in the appointment process for Board of Education members.

• The qualifications for serving on the Board of Education are very detailed. This means that residents who do not have those specific qualifications, but have other related qualifications and have demonstrated a commitment to education, may not be considered. At the same time, the recommendations do not clearly state that the Board of Education members must be city residents, or racially and ethnically diverse.

• According to the recommendations, the Mayor will appoint a Board of Education Member Qualification Advisory Council. The Advisory Council will evaluate and approve the Board of Education candidates selected by the Mayor. The charter revision recommendations do not explain how the Qualifications Advisory Council will review potential Board of Education members. We believe the community should know what the process will be. In addition, the charter revisions do not state that the Mayor must follow the Advisory Council’s recommendations.

• The charter revision recommendations do not explain how the Qualifications Advisory Council members will be selected, or that they must be city residents, and racially and ethnically diverse. The Advisory Council members do not have limits on how long they can serve. BCAC believes members of the public should be able to apply to be on the Advisory Committee if they are interested. We also think there should be limits on how long members are on the Advisory Council.



  1. *** I certainly don’t like the BOE infighting that’s already started but I also don’t like the tricky question factor to try to get the “yes” vote! However since the Mayor will still have some control over the “cookies in the BOE jar” regardless of which way the votes go, I will be voting “no.” *** ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS THE SOUL ***

  2. BCAC has roughly a 20-year history of objective research and reporting on the status of childhood and education issues in Bridgeport. Their reputation is impeccable. Excel Bridgeport is the new name for BPSS which is the organization that conspired and succeeded in the state takeover of Bridgeport schools. Their history is anything but objective, transparent or impeccable. They are well-meaning folks who think they know better than the voters of Bridgeport and are therefore, thanks to the funding they have by a bunch of really rich out-of-town folks, entitled to dictate to Bridgeport residents how we educate our kids. The arrogance is astonishing–actually breathtaking if you look at their self-entitled behavior.

    However ugly and frankly, sometimes irresponsible, the dissident behavior has been, it at least is honest and open. None, none of this behavior warrants a wholesale giveback of our democratic rights.

    Are we really going to roll over and give up our rights of representation??? I can’t believe we would.

  3. I think the big question is who can the voters most easily hold accountable if education struggles, not necessarily which scenario allows us to vote for more people. If education in the city continues to struggle and the mayor is totally responsible for the makeup of the board, will his ownership of the issue be enough to sink him in the next election? That’s the question.

    If it will, then city residents can probably have a stronger impact on education if the mayor appoints the board.

    If it won’t, then the best way to get the mayor to do better by education is to elect people who will mix it up with the Democrats.

    With an increasingly disinterested electorate, especially in municipal elections, maybe tying it to the mayor would actually give voters the most bang for their buck. But I hate to choose the less democratic option.

    1. Hey Willy, the answer to your question is an elected board! How stupid are you?
      The public can vote to change members of the board every two years and not have to wait four years.
      The mayor by not increasing funding for three or four years has proven his disdain for the children of Bridgeport!
      Willy, you better get back to City Hall or Mario’s and collect your gold star for your pro-Finch posting.

  4. Proponents of a YES vote keep talking about effective accountable leadership, and point us to our Mayor, or future sitting Mayors, as a way to get to accountability in education matters.

    This Mayor during his five years in office:
    ** has removed internal audit staff and failed to tell the public about how and why this was done.
    ** has worked out issues for long-term post employment retirement income and health benefits without sharing the “details” or status with the public, or with the Budget & Administration committee of the City Council.
    ** approved the presentation of $215 Million education budgets three years in a row–flat budgets in the face of increasing personnel, benefit, utility and other expenses. How does the Mayor explain this behavior as “accountable?”
    ** pumps out initiatives and activities that require Contracts, Ordinance Changes, added Capital Budget changes, etc. and fails to provide full and timely information in handouts to the City Council committees routinely. And frequently the public has no copy of this information, having to wait until it gets posted in the City Clerk office, by which time the City Council may already have voted upon it.
    ** has ignored overall response to certain Charter and Ordinance directives that would provide for more OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT process, especially around fiscal matters.

    I realize a number of those in favor of a YES vote are City employees, or elected and appointed Board/Commission members who need to stay “on the team.” However, for some parties who are new to living in the City, they may not have been confronted with how narrow and closed City governance has become. A YES vote means ACCOUNTABILITY is once every four years (just like electing a President). A NO vote (with enough citizens attending meetings, staying informed, and voting) will place choice of Board members with City voters into the future. I favor the greater number of times for citizen input. The out-of-towners, especially the younger ones, pushing the YES now are compromised by their financial backing! The young people in the schools today, born and raised in Bridgeport, the ones who attend regularly, strive for grades, want the college experience and who will stick around to provide generations of teachers, healthcare professionals, workers in financial services, technical employees, etc. will want to exercise their selection more frequently in order to express their wishes in the future. Why should they give up a right that their History and Civics classes have shown them has been hard fought to earn and preserve? Time will tell.

  5. UNFORTUNATELY, Bridgeport is a one-party town. The two other cities that are referred to with the Mayor appointing all of the Board of Ed members are New Haven and New York City. In New Haven, the mayor has been in power a very long time but their city council is composed of more than one party and they have a Board of Financial Review and Audit that is chaired by a Republican! In NYC there is a strong two/three party struggle.

    I just can’t support an all-appointed board of Ed for Bridgeport. I will be voting no on the charter reform question. It will not serve the children well.

    Now, if there would seriously be a two-party system in Bridgeport, it would change things. The secretary of the state put out a listing of the total registered voters in the state. The Working Families Party had fewer than 500 registrants statewide Not a two-party system in my book. I am voting no.

  6. As a proponent of Realpolitik, I come down on the side of giving the mayor control. If we had a community that actually got out and voted and was informed about Board of Ed issues, I would feel differently.

  7. The “accountability” argument, in favor of the appointed board, is nonsense. All of the other city boards have memberships that are mayorally selected, and there is certainly no accountability on those boards for any activity that is detrimental to Bridgeport–even illegal activity, such as frequently occurs on the Planning and Zoning Commission/Inland Wetlands Commission. Just think about how utterly unaccountable Mayor Finch has been for the many, many bad board decisions that have occurred under his tenure (if not by his backroom initiatives).

    In actuality, mayorally appointed boards allow the mayor to avoid almost all accountability. When controversy over board decisions becomes too hot, politically, for the mayor, he just throws a board member under the bus as a political sacrifice and deflects the controversy in the direction of the hapless board member, who was only doing the Mayor’s bidding in the first place. If that doesn’t work, he starts the standard Bridgeport rumor the bad decision came out of Mario’s kitchen–a facility filled with Teflon utensils (and people), so nothing ever really sticks (except, perhaps, the al dente pasta to the walls).

    No, an appointed board will only provide the mayor with nine more replaceable stooges to throw under the bus when things go wrong (for the people), and will prevent good, passionately interested, honest brokers from Bridgeport from having the opportunity to help turn our schools and our city around–to the right direction–for the future.

    An appointed BOE will further erode civic/voter participation at a critical juncture in our municipal evolution and will put us further under the thumb of suburban hegemonists who actually run Bridgeport, and their political goons who comprise the Political Machine that conducts the destructive, closed-shop politics that define Bridgeport’s “failure to thrive.” (Even with the sad turnout in the September 3 special BOE election, it was infinitely better that 5000 people elected the board rather than having one very biased person appoint the board.)

    VOTE NO!!!–Vote for Bridgeport’s future!–on November 6.


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