LOCAL ACCESS VIDEO: Community Forum 04.21.10 broadcast
Time: 10:03 PM
LOCAL ACCESS VIDEO: Progressive Soup 04.21.10 broadcast
Time: 12:53 PM
LOCAL ACCESS VIDEO: Ideas at Work and Beyond 04.22.10
Time: 9:38 AM
LOCAL ACCESS VIDEO: Bethel Today 04.20.10 broadcast
Time: 6:07 PM
TOPIC: Bethel 2010-11 Budget
City Council Minority Leader Tom Saadi speaks out on public reaction to education budget proposals
Time: 4:18 PM
the city budget allocation to education.
City Hall 04.19.10. Photo by ctblogger
With the prospect of drastic cuts to the city's education program, for over two hours on Monday, residents filled the City Council chambers during the budget public hearing and spoke out in opposition to the Mayor Mark Boughton's school budget allocation as well as the Board of Education's proposals.
After the hearing, I had a chance to talk to City Council Minority Leader Tom Saadi and get his opinion on what he heard from residents regarding the proposed budget allocation to education.
I'll post video highlights from the public hearing soon.
2009 BUDGET VIDEO FLASHBACK: Teachers give back while two principals receive a NINE percent raise
Senator Dodd stands up for Connecticut teachers
Time: 1:38 PM
"An investment in teachers is not only an investment in a quality education for all of Connecticut's children, but also an investment in our state's future prosperity," said Dodd. "Laying off teachers would create a ripple effect that could lead to program cuts and larger class sizes, which means less individual focus and teacher attention for all of our state's students."
That's why, in order to save our educators' jobs and to continue to strengthen Connecticut's school system, I've joined my colleagues to introduce the Keep Our Educators Working Act. This critical bill would provide for a $23 billion jobs fund to keep our teachers in the classroom-and build a better future for all of our children."
The Keep Our Educators Working Act would fund compensation, benefits, and other expenses necessary to retain existing employees, and for the hiring of new employees, in order to provide early childhood, elementary, secondary, or postsecondary educational and related services. Additionally, it would support on-the-job training activities for education-related careers.
Senator Dodd is a cosponsor of the Keep Our Educators Working Act, a bill that would create a fund which would be used to help save counselors, teachers, and principals jobs. Learn more about the bill by clicking here (pdf).
Obama: Arizona anti-immigration bill threatens to 'undermine basic notions of fairness'
Time: 12:52 PM
President Obama spoke out against a tough new Arizona immigration bill this morning, and said it was an example of why the federal government has to act on immigration reform.
"Our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others," Obama said. "That includes, for example the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans."
Speaking at a White House naturalization ceremony for active duty service members, Obama said "I've instructed members of my administration to closely monitor the situation and to closely examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation."
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has until tomorrow to decide whether to sign or veto a bill that would require police officers to question people about their immigration status if there was reason to believe they're not here legally.
Many on the left -- including Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) -- have suggested that the bill is racist, and will lead to racial profiling.
Hopefully, this is a signal that the President will move on the business of immigration reform sooner than later...
Statewide teacher layoffs could reach 2000
Time: 7:49 AM
About 2,000 teaching jobs statewide are set to be eliminated in June as school boards resort to layoffs to cut expenses during difficult budget deliberations.
"This is absolutely the worst I've seen in my tenure," said John Yrchik, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, the largest statewide teachers' union. "Even teachers who have lived through earlier rounds of layoffs have not seen anything quite like this."
With their principal funding sources — state and local taxes — hammered by the recession, school boards have given pink slips to hundreds of teachers as they look to reduce payroll, close schools, eliminate language instruction and, in some cases, consider switching to a four-day school week to make ends meet, superintendents said.
Eliminating so many teaching jobs will almost certainly result in program cuts and slightly larger class sizes in many school systems next year. Connecticut is following a national trend as an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 teaching positions are being considered for elimination.
"These are much tougher years. People are saying this is the worst recession since the Depression, and I think we're seeing the impact of that on education and a number of other areas, as well," said Joe Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.
In Connecticut, one of the hardest-hit communities is Norwich, which has given layoff notices to 71 certified staff members.
One of them is Dave Plotkin, who teaches eighth-grade science at Teachers' Memorial Middle School in Norwich. Plotkin, who has been teaching for four years, said he wasn't surprised to get a layoff notice, but remains optimistic, partly because his science specialty remains in demand.
"We have stayed upbeat about it," he said. "It's always in the back of your mind, but you don't let it affect the way you teach."
Norwich Superintendent Abby I. Dolliver said that she hopes to reduce the number of layoffs before school opens next fall, but that budget constraints have already forced her to propose closing two schools and cutting middle school language instruction and sports to meet her zero-increase budget.
"It's heartbreaking," Dolliver said. "It's just going to look different next year."
State Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D-Meriden, Senate chairman of the legislature's education committee, said he is concerned about the impact of teacher layoffs.
"The consequence will be increased class size, which is detrimental to the learning process," Gaffey said. "It's unfortunate that we're living in the times we are and are still gripped by the recession very tightly."
Wallingford is cutting 40 positions, including 15 elementary school teachers, which will add two or three more students per class. Danbury will cut 30 teaching jobs on top of many other budget cuts.
"We're reducing and reducing. We're at a tipping point in many ways," said Danbury Superintendent Sal Pascarella. "Everybody's thinking creatively. It's not what anybody wants to do. It's not like a business where you can shorten your hours."
"We're just really trying to think: How do we put teachers in classrooms?" Pascarella said. "Can the state really afford 180 days during these economic times? We're just all concerned about the burden on municipalities."
The Connecticut Association of Urban Superintendents has even floated the idea of scaling back to a four-day school week to save energy costs, although the group realizes that the idea is a long shot and has its shortcomings, especially in the eyes of working parents.
"The reality is that many parents count on school as a place for their kids to be," said New London Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer, a member of the association. "This is not school systems trying to wreak havoc. We, as a state, are trying to come to grips with what people want. You can't keep saying 'no new taxes' and expect the quality of services to improve."
Some teachers' union officials believe that it is too early to project exact numbers of job losses, but they acknowledge that the threatened job and other budget cuts are anxiety-provoking.
"It goes beyond the loss of teaching jobs. It really has affected the tenor of bargaining and creation of budgets," Yrchik said. "It's affected decisions about educational programs and availability of resources. Whether a teacher's job is threatened or not, the economic conditions have filtered through the life of the school."
While schools grapple with the budget crisis, they acknowledge that their real worry is the 2011-12 fiscal year. At that point, Connecticut will lose $271 million in stimulus money that the federal government has pumped into the state in each of the past two years.
"They tell us that the next 18 months is just a little storm we're dealing with. Next year is going to be a tsunami," Pascarella said.
Only in Bethel
Time: 7:22 PM
Police did not charge resident Daniel Gaita for hanging Revolutionary War-era flags on town property, but they have told him not to do it again without permission.
Gaita hung four flags at P.T. Barnum Square during the second weekend of April, including the Gadsden flag, which the state refused to hang at the Capitol that weekend because of its symbolic association with the Tea Party group.
The Bethel police confiscated Gaita's flags, which he had padlocked to the flag poles.
...wait, it gets better.
Gaita picked up the flags Monday at the police station.
"The case is closed," Gaita said Wednesday. "I was told they could not find any law that was violated."
Police Chief Jeff Finch said Wednesday that the police department did not charge Gaita for hanging the flags, but told him to get permission before hanging them again.
Knickerbocker said at the time that it was the fact that Gaita padlocked them on town property without permission that was not acceptable. Gaita said his phone number was on the padlocks, which he used because he did not want the flags stolen.
It's pretty remarkable that someone would think that it's acceptable to padlock their own flags on public property...but again, we're talking about Bethel.
Residents speak out against proposed cuts to education
Time: 4:29 PM
Here's a sample of some of the comments of disapproval directed at the Board of Education at their meeting last Wednesday.
Residents voice their support for Alternative Center for Excellence School
Time: 1:24 PM
Board of Education meeting, 04.14.10. Photo by ctblogger (via iPhone).
As residents learn more about the details in city's education budget, at last Wednesday's Board of Education meeting, supporters for the Alternative Center for Excellence spoke out against the proposed cuts to the school.
Here's a sample of some of the public comments...
DOWNLOAD the Board of Ed budget proposals.
DOWNLOAD the City of Danbury's critical analysis of the BOE's budget proposal.
VIDEO Apr. 10: City Council Education budget ad-hoc committee meeting.
VIDEO Mar. 31: City Council/Board of Education informal budget workshop.
News-Times Editorial criticizing BOE pay to participate proposal
2009 FLASHBACK: Teachers give back while two principals receive a NINE percent raise
Mayor's rejection of BOE's original budget request results in proposed cuts to school system, layoffs.
HatCityBLOG VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: 2010 Education budget ad-hoc committee meeting
Time: 7:54 PM
Due to the the large number of requests for the following footage, here's the video from this week's city council education ad-hoc committee.
Due to the fact that the council didn't use their microphones, the sound quality isn't the best. I better copy of the audio will be available on Sunday but since so many of you wanted to see this video, I decided to post the video now.
NOTE: YouTube is still processing this file and the quality of the video should improve by later tonight.
NOTE 2: This post will be updated throughout the day/night with smaller video highlights from the meeting.
VIDEO Complete meeting: (Runtime 1 hour 56 mins)
1. Opening remarks: (Runtime 29 mins)
2. Proposed cuts to the education system based on Mayor Boughton's recommended budget allocation.
3. Gregg Seabury raises the question regarding raises to school cabinet positions.
4. Councilman Joe Cavo questions the cost savings to the Board of Education if the board would suspend a step in teacher's salaries.
5. Teachers comments regarding city council's proposed budget allocation
Related documents used during the meeting (REQUIRED READING MATERIAL)
DOWNLOAD (.pdf): 1. Board of Education budget proposals (BOE request, Mayor recommendation, zero increase)
DOWNLOAD (.pdf): 2. City of Danbury spreadsheet analysis of BOE budget request that was referenced by members of the city council. Possibly generated by the city's Finance Department
The people have the right to know...
Time: 7:20 PM
(Upon first reading, it appeared that Perrefort indicated that the setting of the meeting date was proposed by the mayor earlier this month. Upon closer reading, the sentence actually indicates that the meeting is about the budget that the mayor presented to the council earlier this month. The wording of the sentence threw me and several readers off.
Here's how Perrefort sentence should look:
The hearing on the budget, presented earlier this month by Mayor Mark Boughton, will be held before the council at 7 p.m. in City Hall.
This post has been revised accordingly.)
While I'm a fan of the News-Times, and although I appreciate Hearst Newspapers for allowing me to speak my mind, on their site, this latest article from reporter Dirk Perrefort regarding the city budget public hearing is simply unacceptable (note the portion in bold).
A public hearing scheduled for Monday night will be one of the only opportunities for the public to speak about the proposed budget before the City Council votes on the spending plan next month.
The hearing on the budget proposed earlier this month by Mayor Mark Boughton will be held before the council at 7 p.m. in City Hall.
Now, take these points into consideration.
Point 1. THE TIMING OF THE MEETING:
Take a look at the City of Danbury's calendar.
There is NOTHING happening of any real importance on the week of April 26 (highlighted in red), one week after the scheduled date of the public hearing (highlighted in blue). Also, as highlighted in black, there are two other budget ad-hoc committee meetings that occur AFTER the public hearing. Think about it, why make the public offer their opinions about portions of the budget before the ad-hoc committees meet? It's like me complaining about the Mets losing a game BEFORE they play the game.
Which brings me to…
Point 2: THE COINCIDENCE:
On April 19-23rd just happens to be the VERY week when their is the greatest chance that most teachers will be out of the area as it is the start of the Danbury school system’s spring recess.
From the Danbury School District website calendar:
Which brings me to…
Point 3: COMMENTS MADE FROM SOMEONE IN-THE-KNOW:
Watch and listen to this comment from former teacher, Alternative Center for Excellence principal, and current city councilman-at-large Robert Riley's to the school administrators (while teachers were in attendance in the gallery) during last Tuesday's Education budget ad-hoc committee meeting.
COUNCILMAN ROBERT RILEY: …whatever happens, I hope we insulate the young kids…the young students from, you know, hearing or receiving anything that might be sent home to the parents that might give them a sense of insecurity while their in school.
It's one thing if we come out in the media or whatever and you say "things are tough." But I know that in the the past in my 34 years, there have times that..not you gentleman, I know you wouldn't do this…have sent home letter attesting that we're going to cut teachers. The younger children can not…be able to handle that and they become very excited and we don't want that to happen. It behooves you to make sure that those things not happen…no matter what we fix the budget at, you as the brain trust you have to deal with it and you have to make it work without cutting teachers…
SIMPLE TRANSLATION: Don't send parents messages about the budget that would make the Mayor and the City Council look bad.
Notwithstanding the blatant arrogance in making such a statement, everyone in attendance knew exactly what Councilman Riley was talking about when he uttered those remarks. Having parents, teachers, and students upset at the City Hall is something the council (and a mayor who's running for governor) would rather like to avoid.
It's happened in Danbury before and it's happening in Avon Connecticut right now.
Officials in a wealthy Connecticut suburb are deciding whether to raise property taxes after nearly 1,000 parents, students and teachers marched to a town budget hearing in support of increasing school spending.
A school band played as ralliers shouted and held signs during the 1-mile march in Avon from the middle school to the normally sleepy budget hearing at the high school Monday night.
Supporters of increasing the education budget say Avon's respected schools could be forced to eliminate 40 faculty and staff jobs as well as sports, language and music programs, if the proposed $48 million school spending plan for the next fiscal year isn't approved. The budget would require a tax increase.
Councilman Riley, the council, and the mayor know that if what happen in Avon happens at City Hall, it would place everyone in a REAL uncomfortable situation. It's one thing to have thousands of immigrant rights supporters protesting ICE ACCESS, it's a WHOLE different matter when you have hundreds of pissed off parents, students, and parents protesting the council's allocation decision-making.
For instance, take a look at the number of students, parents, and teachers who came last Wednesday to protest the Board of Education's proposal to cut ONE teacher from the Alternative Center for Excellence.
Trust me, that's a LOT OF PEOPLE for a Board of Education meeting.
You getting the picture? Okay, I’ll make this simple and to the point.
Knowing that teachers would be on vacation, and the fact that several budget ad-hoc meetings are scheduled for later this week, why is this public hearing happening at this time? Although the brunt of the concern should be placed on the Board of Education, nonetheless, the City Council are the body that allocates the money, therefore the public should express their concerns to them first, then to the Board of Ed.
In short, in light of the fact that there will be outstanding budget ad-hoc meetings after the public hearing, and timing coincidences, the date of the hearing makes no sense...or at the very least, the scheduling of the meeting should be questioned.
Which brings me back to the News-Times article....
I'm quite sure Perrefort and others at the News-Times received a number of calls/emails from teachers and parents have questions regarding the public hearing date, as well as the entire education budget proposal in general.
The reporters at the News-Times have an obligation to ask probing questions on their behalf. If teachers and parents are openly questioning the early date of the meeting, then it's the responsibility for the media to ask the question and get the answers.
UPDATE: Needless to say that I've received a bit of feedback on this post. Based on the number of replies I've received, the most puzzling aspect of this entire situation is the fact that the public hearing is scheduled while ad-hoc committee are outstanding.
If the public hearing was at the beginning of the budget process, then the council would have time to hear from the people before voting on elements of the budget in the ad-hoc committees. Although I understand this mindset, I still feel that the public hearing should happen AFTER all the ad-hoc committees have met. In this case, the public hearing should not happen in the MIDDLE of the process since revisions could be made after the public spoke on the final budget. It's better to speak on a proposal AFTER the budget ad-hoc committee votes on it as opposed to before they have a chance to deliberate on the item.
UPDATE 2: After re-reading the article, I had to revise this post. Upon first reading, it appeared that the setting of the meeting date was done by the mayor, but upon reading again, the sentence states that the meeting is about the budget that was proposed by the mayor earlier this month. Post has been revised accordingly and I repeated this comment on the top of this post.
Readers, parents, teachers, and students!
Let the News-Times know how you feel (and please be polite).
Letter to the Editor:
Publisher: Art Cummings
Managing Editor: Jacqueline Smith
Reporter Dirk Perrefort:
LOCAL ACCESS VIDEO: Spotlight On 04.13.10 broadcast
Time: 6:59 PM
LOCAL ACCESS VIDEO: Ideas and Work and Beyond 04.15.10
Time: 4:23 PM
LOCAL ACCESS VIDEO: Progressive Soup 04.14.10 broadcast
Time: 4:21 PM
LOCAL ACCESS VIDEO: Community Forum 04.14.10 broadcast
Time: 4:03 PM
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