I hope you enjoyed your summer! By the time you read this, students in the Consolidated School District of New Britain will be heading back to school for the start of new adventures.
In my role as Mayor, one of the most frequent comments I get from parents is: “Why don’t you put more money towards education?”
To be clear, more than 50 percent of the City’s $242 million budget goes to the Board of Education. Under City Charter, I can’t tell the school board how to spend their money, but I can be a strong advocate at the state level to push for the equitable funding that we deserve as a community.
As a former Board of Education member, I understand the difficulties in educating our youth for a career ready future with limited resources at our disposal.
That’s why as Mayor, I’ve worked hard to ensure that we are prioritizing education spending. Since becoming Mayor, I’ve led the authorization of more than $100 million in bonding at the risk to City who holds the debt to fund school construction projects. This has included the renovations to Gaffney and Smalley Elementary School. Chamberlain Elementary School is in line for the next overhaul and I am working with our state partners to ensure it gets done.
Since entering office, I have also approved more than $13 million in additional funding to the Board of Education. In addition, I have been proud to support our youth through the Mayor’s Trophy Charitable Fund. The fund has given out more than $30,000 in small grants to a variety of causes, including the all night grad party, sports equipment, scholarship funds, and after school programs. By partnering with members of the business community, we’ve also been fortunate to donate hundreds of backpacks each school year, thanks to generous donors like Costco.
As a City, we also offer a variety of “in kind” services to the school board to cut down on costs to taxpayers. On average, this equals approximately $1.5 million a year for employee personnel service benefits, rental of buildings, repairs and maintenance, and several after school programs. Through our Department of Community Development, we’ve made other investments in our schools by directing federal funds to projects like a new $120,000 playground at Holmes Elementary School. We’ve also given additional platforms to our performing arts students, such as City Hall, where student artwork is on display each month, at community concerts like Tuba Christmas, and other community events.
Educating our students is a team effort and takes innovative leaders to navigate during difficult economic times. Our schools often times have a bad reputation, but we need to focus more on the good, and on the incredibly successful leaders we are producing!
I have an interest in seeing only the best for our children. I’m passionate about all of our students and reaffirm my commitment to ensure each of them learns and learns well every day, because every day matters!
Erin Stewart is the mayor of New Britain.