Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo
Line to sign up to testify begins to stretch through the tunnel between the Legislative Office Building and the state Capitol (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo)

HARTFORD, CT — Hundreds of parents, school board members, and students descended on the Legislative Office Building Friday to offer their opposition to several bills that would require their school districts to share services or merge with surrounding school districts.

There’s three Senate bills and one House bill, which implements Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal.

CLICK TO VOTE ON 2019 SB 874: An Act Concerning Education Initiatives And Services In Connecticut.

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The effort to get local school districts to consolidate and share services is being driven by a two-year $3.7 billion budget deficit and decades of unfunded pension liabilities, which continue those deficits into the future.

Unable to cut more spending at the state level, state lawmakers are looking to municipalities and school districts to give taxpayers a break by finding efficiency in local budgets. 

CLICK TO VOTE ON 2019 HB 7150: An Act Implementing The Governor’s Budget Recommendations Concerning Education.

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Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, proposed a bill which would force school districts in towns with less than 40,000 residents to consolidate with a neighboring district.
It would force the regionalization of a large number of towns in the state, merging their school districts with larger municipalities or cities. Only 24 municipalities in Connecticut have a population over 40,000.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff and Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, have proposed a bill that would “require any school district with a student population of fewer than 2,000 students to join a new or an existing regional school district so that the total student population of such new or expanded regional school district is greater 2,000 students.”

CLICK TO VOTE ON 2019 SB 457: An Act Concerning The Size Of School Districts.

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Lamont’s bill would, according to the budget narrative, establish a School Services and Redistricting Commission to engage stakeholders in a thoughtful and structured process which will achieve greater economies of scale and yield savings at the local level beginning this year.

“Small local school districts that choose to have inefficient governance structures, and too many expensive superintendents, can no longer expect the state to bear the costs of these decisions,” the budget says. “Under this budget, a small local district’s decision to retain rather than share a superintendent may result in a reduction in a district’s ECS grant, after July 1, 2020.”

However, some of what Lamont is suggesting has already been accomplished.

CLICK TO VOTE ON 2019 SB 738: An Act Concerning The Creation Of Regional School Districts.

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For instance, there are already 25 part-time school superintendents in Connecticut.

Local elected officials and boards of education in small towns feel the proposal unfairly penalizes small school districts even though many larger school districts may have many layers
of administration or other inefficiencies.

The public hearing starts at 1 p.m. in Room 2E of the Legislative Office Building.