Mayors, school superintendents, and other local officials gathered at the legislative office building Thursday to urge lawmakers and Gov. M. Jodi Rell to include funding for the Early Reading Success program in their call for special session later this summer.
Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy said the state will continue to lose jobs if it continues to squander its number one resource—its workforce. He said without a skilled workforce the state will continue to lose jobs and a good education is the first step in that process.
Jen Walsh, a literacy coach in New Haven, said because of the Early Reading Success program 100 percent of the second grade students at the Fair Haven elementary school where she works have met the state goal in reading. Windham’s First Selectwoman Jean deSmet said the Early Reading Success program is so important to her community that they will find other items in the budget to cut.
Waterbury’s Mayor Michael Jarjura said it’s much cheaper to spend the money upfront on these children then to spend it on the cost of incarceration in the future. He said a third of the Early Reading Success grant helps fund the city’s full-day kindergarten program.
Bridgeport’s Superintendent John Ramos said his city also uses some of the $2.9 million reading grant to fund full-day kindergarten. “If we don’t have all-day kindergarten many of our students will be sitting on the bench for the second half of the day,” because they’re parents will be unable to pick them up, he said.
Many of the mayors, including New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., wrote Gov. Rell a letter on May 12 and urged her to find the funding for this program. In her May 13 letter back to the mayors, Rell wrote, “Unfortunately, while the Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Harp of New Haven and Representative Merrill of Mansfield, reported out a biennial budget that maintained my funding for this program for the current fiscal year, they eliminated funding for the Early Reading Success program for FY 09.”
“I would suggest, therefore, that it would be more appropriate for you to direct your efforts to restore funding for the Early Reading Success program to the chairs of the Appropriations Committee and the leadership of the majority caucuses of the General Assembly,” Rell wrote.
Malloy said the letter shows a lack of leadership. “Governor I don’t have the opportunity to vote for those individuals,” Malloy said Thursday. He said when people did vote for a governor they did so “with the fond hope she may apply some level of leadership.”
Malloy’s message to legislators was just as harsh. “Stop playing the zero sum game,” he said. “The reality is we’ve got to do something.”
“Find a way to restore these monies and cut through the politics,” he said. “It’s not an excuse to ruin the lives of children.” He said it’s time to acknowledge the difficult situation the state is in and prioritize.
Many of the local officials who attended Thursday’s press conference have already passed their local budgets, with the exception of New Haven, Waterbury, and Windham.