Urban School Superintendents Describe Dire Fiscal Realities

Dec 27, 2011

Bridgeport’s Board of Education has appointed Paul Vallas, interim superintendent, part of the state’s takeover of the struggling school system. Vallas is a nationally recognized education reformer who’s spearheaded turnaround efforts in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans. 

Departing Bridgeport superintendent John Ramos joined a panel of school leaders earlier this month to talk about the effect of inadequate education funding on disadvantaged students. 

Superintendents from Norwich, New Britain and Bridgeport described the dire fiscal realities they face, and what it means for students in their schools. 

More than ¾ of the students in Norwich live in poverty. The district has lost 11 classrooms in the past two years and eliminated most non-mandated subjects. So middle schools no longer offer world language or instrumental music. 

Acting New Britain superintendent Ron Jakubowski compared two schools two miles away from each other – Pulaski Middle School in New Britain and Irving Robbins Middle School in Farmington.

"Pulaski  Middle School has a class size of 29 kids in every classroom. We have one guidance counselor for 700 kids. We have one social worker. We have an antiquated computer lab. Drive two miles to Irving Robbins and tell me if you’re in the same state. And I think that’s what I’m looking for, is for this state to recognize that and do something about it."

"This really comes down to whether the people in this state have the will to do the right thing for children of color and children in poverty."

Bridgeport Superintendent John Ramos said academic outcomes for disadvantaged students will only improve in Connecticut, if wealthy communities commit  to changing the way education is funded,  

"...Because they have the votes. The city block doesn’t have enough votes. This is going to have to come down to a personal conviction about what’s right."

The School Funding Equity Forum took place at Central Connecticut State University earlier this month.