I was encouraged to see that my 2021 State of the City Address spurred an active community conversation on how to improve public education in our city. During my speech I conveyed to our residents that the School District currently receives 53% of tax dollars each year, has access to the Educational Savings Account that I created last year as an alternative option for increased education funding, and will receive nearly $78 million in CARES Act and American Rescue Act funding.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many New Britain residents are currently struggling financially to make ends meet. I strongly feel that raising property taxes to increase the Board of Education’s Budget this year would add to the financial burden our residents currently feel. However, the goals of keeping taxes stable for families as we weather the pandemic and improving public education are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to accomplish both if we are willing to work together and be responsible stewards of the revenue we have. As I just mentioned, the School District will be provided with ample funding and I am looking forward to seeing what can be accomplished with the additional $78 million coming to our district.
Unfortunately my words were misinterpreted by some individuals who believe the statements in my speech were an attack on teachers, which is simply not true. Our teachers are wonderful and have had to adjust their profession in ways no one could have imagined during a pandemic that impacted the emotional, physical, and financial health of so many. If I wasn’t clear enough before, then I want to take this opportunity to clarify my stance and continue to show my unwavering support for our teachers.
I have been collecting feedback from the students, teachers, and parents who reached out to me following my speech with appreciation for my willingness to address this paramount topic and their suggestions on how to improve public education in New Britain. I reached out to Superintendent Nancy Sarra and met with her in an effort to find a way forward together for the betterment of the young people in this city. I have also reached out to Board of Education President Merrill Gay to set up a meeting, and am awaiting a response. I invite everyone to tune in to my Facebook @ErinStewartCT for a special edition of 40 Live on April 8 where I will discuss education further and collect feedback from those who join me.
I will always do what I can within the confines of my role as mayor to ensure our students have the resources they need to succeed. I continue to offer my support as a successful public administrator to the Board of Education and the Superintendent, to help develop a strategy that results in more resources getting where they need to be in order to increase student achievement. Our kids deserve the best we can give them!
Erin Stewart is the mayor of New Britain.