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Anzelmo Graziosi State must improve funding for schools

September 12, 2018

As a father of five children who attend Stamford Public Schools (Westhill High School, Scofield Middle School and Westover Elementary), I know first-hand what incredible public school teachers our children have. There are more than 65 languages spoken in our Stamford schools alone. Our public schools offer students a learning experience rich in cultural diversity and reflective of the global society in which they will work and live. I am extremely proud and confident in the hard work our teachers do each and every day.

As a first generation American, I am witness to the profound effect teachers have on student’s lives. I understand the personal struggles students face learning a new language, while simultaneously learning to read and write. This is exacerbated when many parents don’t have a formal education themselves to assist their children. Much is placed on the shoulders of the dedicated and caring public school teachers. Inevitably though, through hard work and perseverance of the students and teachers, many students grow up to realize the American dream. This is why it is incredibly disheartening when these diverse and less affluent public schools are blamed for failing our children if students do not perform well on standardized exams that were never designed to measure school or teacher quality. Often these schools do not receive the adequate funding necessary since the local tax base is over burdened and the state is perpetually mired in debt.

Connecticut stands on the cusp of an unprecedented fiscal crisis. The bill is coming due in ever increasing amounts for the failure of one of the richest states in the union to adequately save for retirement benefits promised to teachers and state employees. The notion that we would send the same cast of characters (or their children) to Hartford to perpetuate the status quo that enriches the special interest and takes precious dollars away from our children is disconcerting.

Connecticut needs to change the way it operates. It must eliminate many unfunded mandates that needlessly drive up the cost of operating schools. Connecticut must adopt a ECS formula that can be fully funded as designed. It is the only way that it can then be viewed as a rational and reliable formula to plan for future municipal and state budgets. We need to eliminate collective bargaining for retiree benefits that drive up employee cost and we must be able to make it easier to hire private contractors for non-essential services. In addition, we must also be more strategic in our education spending by making it easier to provide vouchers to surrounding districts or private schools that may be seeing population decreases for districts that our seeing population increases so that schools are not shut down and we don’t mortgage our children’s future with massive borrowing for new school construction. We must do all this while providing better safety for our most valuable natural resource.

While some politicians will stand in front of our public schools only on Election Day or to hold news conferences merely for political gain, the hard-working people of Stamford, Darien and Connecticut cherish our public schools as a place where our children go to learn and to be nurtured. As a parent of public school students, I am outraged at the wasteful spending in Hartford that allows for the fleecing of residents with exorbitant taxes while our children get shortchanged at school. Our children deserve better than the same old promises.

As the school year begins for our children, I want to wholeheartedly thank Stamford’s public school teachers for helping me raise intelligent, responsible and loving children.

Anzelmo Graziosi is a member of the Stamford Board of Representatives and the Republican candidate for state representative in District 147.

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