Lamont, Stefanowski clash over schools
NEW HAVEN — Observing the opening of the new school year, Ned Lamont said on Tuesday that if elected governor, his administration would focus on Connecticut’s public schools while reducing down local property taxes.
During a news conference that was mostly an attack on his Republican opponent, Bob Stefanowski, Lamont demanded details on a vague tax-cutting strategy that could sharply slash school funding and lay off thousands of teachers, similar to a budget squeeze after a similar idea was embraced by lawmakers in Kansas.
“I start by not creating a $9-billion hole which is what the elimination of the income tax would do,” Lamont said of Stefanowski. “Look, he’s going to cut taxes for the wealthiest. I’m going to provide a modest, targeted property-tax cut, which benefits the middle-class. That along with rental rebates allows people to stay in their homes longer, allows new families to move into the community and get their first home or rent their first apartment.”
In reaction, Stefanowski’s campaign said that by cutting taxes, the economy would grow, more jobs and people would move to the state and the ability to afford higher investments in schools would follow. In a statement, Stefanowski agreed with Lamont to maintain state grants; and encourage vocational and technical school enrollment.
“We need to restore local control, put power back in the hands of municipalities, who are more in tune with the needs of their communities, and ease the burden placed on them by the state,” Stefanowski said.
On Friday, speaking to reporters in Bristol, Stefanowski said that the contract with public-employee unions, which was rewritten twice during the last eight years, is a key area of possible savings. “There’s a lot of discretionary spending that happens in this state that we can cut back,” he said. “But we’ve got to reduce the size of government.”
Lamont said he wants to retain current levels of school funding, then move toward more funding. A key is to get the state budget completed by its annual spring adjournment date, in order to help local municipal and school officials with their planning. “That’s my first priority,” said Lamont, a part-time instructor at Central Connecticut State University who has invited business leaders to discuss professions with students.
“That’s why I’m a strong believer in great community schools,” he told reporters. “I think it’s the best investment we can make. I think education funding should go to those towns and cities most in need. I know we have one of the few states in the country that has more administrators not in the classroom than teachers in the classroom. There are some ways that I can target some resources in the classroom to make a quality education equal opportunity for everybody.”