With the safe reopening of schools on everyone’s mind, it is critical that we as a community examine Danbury’s public education in its entirety. Our schools have suffered from chronic underfunding by city leaders. Despite higher state funding per student than peer districts such as Norwalk or Stamford, Danbury spends a third less per pupil from municipal funds.
Years of neglect have left our schools in a precarious position, with widening disparities and an urgent need to expand facilities, with nowhere near the funding to do so.
There are no shortcuts that will solve these problems. Some claim a charter school is a magic bullet. This is not accurate. A charter school would drain much-needed funds from our school budget. Danbury schools would lose state funding for students enrolled in the charter, but still have financial responsibility for many of the charter’s operational costs, like buses, school nurses, cafeteria workers. A charter school would intensify our existing problems and would only be available to a small and select number of Danbury’s students.
We need solid, stable local and state funding of our public schools, not private donations subject to the whims and restrictions of the donors, regardless of their good intentions. And when Connecticut charter schools have closed their doors, the public schools were strained with unanticipated costs associated with returning students.
A plan to address the challenges faced by Danbury schools must be guided by equity, responsibility and transparency.
Our top priority should be to ensure equitable opportunity. We must strive to reduce disparities and improve test scores, graduation rates, and college readiness among all students. To be truly equitable, we must commit to inclusive, multicultural programs. This includes hiring teachers of color and opportunities to ensure that non-English speaking students learn and thrive.
The plan must be responsible. Because Danbury is a great place to live and raise a family, student enrollment is growing at a faster rate than any other school system in our state. Accommodating more students requires new schools.
The proposal for a new public middle and high school — the Danbury Career Academy — has great potential. It would add enough physical space to accommodate 1,400 students. Academically, it would give students a choice, much like West Side Academy, adding specialization areas with career pathways.
The state will substantially reimburse Danbury for construction costs. But until we show a clear commitment to fund our schools locally there will be no additional state per pupil funding. Under current city leadership Danbury has fallen to 169 out of 169 Connecticut municipalities in per pupil spending. We can’t pretend that we can offer the same opportunities to our children as students in other districts while spending the least amount of money per pupil in our state.
Our public schools are the only way to ensure accountability and transparency, and real progress for all of our children not just some. Our community elects the school board. Our schools rely on parent participation, community engagement and oversight by elected officials. Board of Education meetings are open to the public, recorded and televised. Every contract for employees, consultants and contractors is transparent and available to the public. A charter school is not held to these standards. Decisions are made by appointed directors, behind closed doors and not subject to public review.
My vision is to take the best of our schools, like the West Side Academy, and implement this model throughout our school system. We need technology exposure in the early grades and must continue this investment through the upper grades. Today, ESL students are segregated in classrooms and social interactions. We can turn challenges like this into opportunities with fresh ideas, such as an option to attend a dual language school, creating a fully integrated learning experience for English and Spanish speaking students.
We face an urgent need for new investments and a new vision for our schools. I firmly believe that the best way to address these challenges is by renewing our commitment: Danbury Public Schools must provide equitable opportunity for all children regardless of race, place of origin, gender or income, both to ensure they can thrive and prosper as adults, and become engaged, informed citizens. A student in Danbury shouldn’t have to “hit the lottery” to be a winner when it comes to education.
State Sen. Julie Kushner, D-24th, serves the towns of Sherman, New Fairfield, Bethel and Danbury.
At a time when Connecticut is turning the corner and showing the promising results of a steady recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, we get hit with another type of adversity, Tropical Storm Isaias.
While nobody can prevent weather events from causing damage to the systems we rely on, we do expect to have a strong infrastructure in place to deal with the aftermath of a storm.
For the better part of a decade, every major storm or weather event has produced widespread and prolonged power outages. And after every storm, the utility companies claim to have learned their lesson. But their record of performance tells a different story. In a repeat of previous events, people were still without power more than a week after Storm Isaias.
The legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee will be looking at a few policy concepts, in order to address the failures and the inadequate handling that we have suffered as a result of Storm Isaias. Some of those ideas include having utility companies offer bill credits to residential customers without power for more than a specified period and compensating customers for medication and food that may have been lost or damaged due to prolonged power outages.
In addition, utility companies have outsourced their grid management for a decade. It is time we take a hard look at implementing minimum in-state direct payroll staffing requirements and require the utilities to bring back shuttered regional emergency operation centers. And we must work on wholesale reform of the utility structure in Connecticut to decrease risk on the ratepayers.
Given the outrageous compensation of their top executives and healthy profits, one would think that the utilities are capable of managing and delivering on their core mission of reliable service. Clearly, that is not the case and ratepayers across the state have continued to pay the price. Reliable service is not optional — prolonged absence of power can mean the difference between life and death for many who cannot go without operational medical equipment and refrigeration of prescriptions.
That has brought us to the present — we must band together and focus on empowering our regulators to hold these monopolies accountable, and to provide meaningful pathways for Connecticut residents and businesses to engage in shaping our future energy landscape.
We can no longer tolerate allowing electric distribution companies to operate with a culture that does not value and protect the critical grid and powerline service workers and puts shareholder returns and executive compensation over customer and ratepayer needs.
With the winter season looming, Connecticut’s utility companies must step up and take the necessary measures to be able to manage the potential of a new storm.
Our ratepayers deserve a reliable utility service with competent oversight that is ready to respond to any adverse event. Connecticut deserves better.
State Rep. David Arconti, D-Danbury, is chairman of the House Energy and Technology Committee.
City Councilmen Roberto Alves, Frank Salvatore, Jr., Farley Santos: ‘3 Councilmen Say Danbury Should Not Ooen Classrooms Until 2021’
In this unprecedented era, not only as city council members, but also as fathers, we are concerned about the challenges facing this upcoming school year. While collectively we have three kids in our public schools, our concern is not only for the children, but also our dedicated teachers and staff. Their health and wellness are just as important; it is imperative that we protect them as well. While every detail of the plan points to the safety of students, the teachers and staff members are left wondering where the decisions being made take them into account. It is with all in mind that we are calling upon our local school leaders, Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education, and the governor to push in-school learning until at least the new calendar year.
The Danbury Board of Education and district leaders have come up with the best plan they could to accommodate the governor’s mandate. However, in a district that has been neglected for too many years, is already underfunded and overcrowded, is opening our schools at all the most responsible thing to do?
Cities throughout the country are implementing versions of online learning. Two of the three largest school systems in the United States have recently decided to go back using distance learning. Even in Connecticut we now see the New Haven public schools system looking to start fully with distance learning. We know that there are no perfect solutions. There is no true replacement for having a child learning in a school environment.
Much like most parents, we faced the challenges of distance learning while juggling our own job responsibilities earlier this year. We know this because we experienced it first-hand along with our spouses from March until the end of the last school year. The director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Robert Redfield predicts “the fall and winter of 2021 are to be probably one of the most difficult times we’ve experienced in American public health.”
Coronavirus infections coinciding with flu cases are the main concern given the greater threat of hospital overcrowding. We have seen upticks in new cases 2-3 weeks after national holidays when people tend to socialize. We see communities in Florida and Texas amongst other localities who are experiencing steep increases in infections because their leaders and community members were not responsible enough to protect themselves.
Take a look at the second-grade student in Georgia who tested positive for coronavirus after attending the first day of school, which led the district to require 20 classmates and a teacher to self-quarantine. Google the New York Times article on how Israel re-opened schools after COVID subsided and the terrible outcome. Look at the outbreak issues that the Florida Marlins and Rutgers Football team are experiencing.
If the Danbury Board of Education, City Council, and many municipal committees are still meeting virtually, what does this say when we are trying to push students and teachers back into the classroom?
So we ask, is the risk of opening our schools for two shortened school days per week worth it? Local leaders, it is time to take a stand. Though the final decision may come from an office in Hartford, the case for distance learning for all has to come from our city. That starts with all of us. That is why we call on our school leaders to begin the 2020-2021 school year with a distance learning model for all students until this COVID-19 pandemic is truly under control.
Danbury Councilmen Roberto Alves, Frank Salvatore Jr. and Farley Santos.
Last night, the City Council voted on the SNAPP-2020 Bond. During the discussion period, I and four other Democratic Councilmen advocated for a comment period that was BEFORE the vote rather than after the vote as the motion called for. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way things are being done and your ability to vote on the bond package was one such casualty of it.
In the end, I voted yes for the infrastructure and schools bond package. I believe this bond package would pass if it would have been put before the voters. You will still have an opportunity to voice your concern to tell us if the vote of the council was your wish or not. Please don’t allow the fact that the majority of the council did not feel your comments before the vote was necessary stop you from sending comments. They’re banking that you will decide not to speak up because the vote is done. Just as I’m accountable for the vote I cast, so are we all. Your duty as a constituent is to let us know, good or bad, that’s why we live in a representative democracy. I will post on this page the information once it is available.
Dear Mayor Mark Boughton and Members of the City Council,
I would like to speak to item 15 of this month’s City Council agenda regarding the Council vote to pass the bond referendum. The bond referendum was originally scheduled to go to a public vote on April 28th then re-scheduled to June 2.
While I agree in principle that given these extraordinary times there should be no public assembly that would put people at risk of exposure and possible infection of the COVID19 virus, I am not in favor the City Council voting on this tonight. Although it makes sense for the city council to vote on the bond (it is the right thing to do under the circumstances) is it fair to voters/citizens to make this decision tonight?
As Council members you likely know how you are going to vote, but do you know how your constituents feel? The public was going to weigh in on June 2nd to let you now what they think and no they can not. Instead, they have less than 35 hours to respond to this change. Clearly, this is not a scenario where the public has enough time to weigh in.
Mr. Mayor, you are citing the Governor’s Executive order as the reason to move forward in this way. The intention of the Governor’s Executive Order is to facilitate budget approvals in the 160 plus municipalities that take that process to referendum. To allow for public input during the pandemic, the public has 30 days to weigh in. If the city is using this Executive Order as a basis for the bond, then let’s maintain integrity in the process by allowing public input before a vote. A vote on June 2 was the public’s way of weighing in on the matter and that has changed. To allow a time period time to listen to your constituents BEFORE you vote is the right thing to do – even when you predict the outcome will be the same.
A massive spending plan, the largest general bond in the history of Danbury, is happening on your watch and it’s important to get it right. Yes, these are unprecedented times but I caution against setting any precedent that undermines your duty and your obligation to represent what residents of Danbury want.
We know that people want transparency in local government. Transparency was a big campaign issue in 2019. As members of the City Council, please do not acquiesce to a lack of transparency in government. To vote on the bond on tonight is supporting a lack of transparency in the Mayor’s office. The Mayor is ‘Live at 5’ throughout the week and he did not make his intention to put the bond to a city council vote known and ignored questions that were posted. This is not about being political; it’s about honest civic engagement and local governance – the reason why I am taking the time to submit a comment for tonight’s meeting.
Especially during times of duress, and more so because you are elected to serve as our representatives, you need to look outside yourselves and not default to what is easiest but aspire to what is best in the public’s interest.
Please defer your vote on the bond until the next City Council meeting on June 2nd which was the scheduled referendum date. In the meantime, you can publicly and broadly reach out to your constituents and invite them to comment. In doing so, your actions will reflect the spirit of the Governor’s Executive Order that you are using to cancel the referendum. Otherwise it feels like an opportunistic play in the worst of times to move the largest general bond in Danbury’s history forward with as little oversight and public input as possible.
Here is a link for public comments and how to get into the council meeting virtual session.
Governor Lamont Provides Update on Connecticut’s Coronavirus Response Efforts
Posted on March 21, 2020
Since yesterday, an additional 29 Connecticut residents have tested positive, bringing the statewide total to 223. More than 3,100 tests have been conducted in the state to date. Approximately 43 people are hospitalized and there have been 5 deaths.
Governor Lamont today signed his tenth executive order pursuant to his emergency declaration, taking further actions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Connecticut. This order provides broad relief for municipalities regarding procedures, notice requirements, and deadlines for various proceedings and decisions. In addition, it enacts several necessary changes related to Medicare Part D and HUSKY B costs, student privacy, visitation in Department of Children and Families facilities, pharmacy regulations, and corporate meetings.
The state has received responses from more than 100 entities since launching its request for Personal Protective Equipment yesterday.
The Department of Economic and Community Development is preparing guidance to Connecticut businesses for implementation of the governor’s executive order issued yesterday directing the statewide closure of all non-essential, in-person business functions. It plans to release the guidance prior to the order going into effect.
(HARTFORD, CT) – As the State of Connecticut continues taking actions in response to the global spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Governor Ned Lamont provided the following updates as of 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, 2020:
Data updates on testing in Connecticut
Since yesterday’s update, an additional 29 Connecticut residents have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 223. To date, more than 3,100 tests have been conducted in Connecticut among both state and private laboratories.
A county-by-county breakdown includes:
Laboratory Confirmed Cases
New Haven County
New London County
Since yesterday’s update, a fifth Connecticut resident has died from complications due to COVID-19. The person is a man in his 80s who was a resident of a nursing home in Stafford Springs. He had been receiving treatment at Johnson Memorial Hospital.
For more data on testing performed in Connecticut, including a town-by-town breakdown of positive cases in every municipality in the state, visit ct.gov/coronavirus.
Governor Lamont signs tenth executive order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19
On Friday afternoon, Governor Lamont signed another executive order – the tenth since he enacted the civic preparedness and public health emergency declarations – that builds upon his efforts to encourage mitigation strategies that slow down transmission of the virus.
Governor Lamont’s Executive Order No. 7I enacts the following provisions:
Modifications to DSS benefits
Suspension of requirements that public assistance eligibility reinvestigations be conducted at least every 12 or 24 months
Suspension of copayments for full benefit dually eligible Medicare Part D beneficiaries
Suspension of copayments for HUSKY B clients
Suspension of limitations on refills of non-maintenance medications for HUSKY beneficiaries
Flexibility related to the Student Data Privacy Act
Modifications related to the Department of Children and Families (DCF)
Limits on visitation with children placed in the care and custody of DCF
Limits on visitors to facilities that treat children or youth with psychiatric disabilities
Waiver of in-person service, screening, and hearing requirements for facilities that have limited visitor access
Modifications to Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) regulations regarding pharmacies
Provides pharmacists the ability to refill non-controlled substance prescriptions for up to 30 days in the event they are unable to contact the prescribing practitioner
Provides the commissioner of DCP with the authority to waive pharmacy operation regulations
Suspension of requirements for corporations to hold shareholder meetings in-person
Procedural relief for municipalities
Extends additional budget adoption deadlines
Suspends the in-person budget adoption requirement for municipalities
Suspends the in-person budget adoption requirement for boards of education
Extends municipal deadlines and waiver of penalties related to municipal planning, assessment, and taxation
Suspends the in-person filing requirements related to municipal planning, assessment, and taxation
Suspends deadlines and makes modification to public hearing and appeals requirements for assessment and taxation
Extends new reporting requirements on properties
Suspends, modifies, and clarifies certain municipal procedural requirements and time limitations regarding notice, commencement, and holding of public hearings, decisions, and appeals, including land use and other municipal boards.
The governor is grateful for the assistance of the Connecticut Bar Association Land Use Section, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the Council of Small Towns, and the many local officials and attorneys who worked hard to put together the broad package of municipal procedural relief included in today’s order.
**Download: Governor Lamont’s Executive Order No. 7l
State receives more than 100 responses since launching request for Personal Protective Equipment yesterday
Since Governor Lamont made the announcement yesterday asking members of the public, businesses, and philanthropic organizations to consider donating items of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for use in Connecticut’s hospitals and long-term care facilities, more than 100 entities have filled out the donation form expressing interest in giving.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) is partnering with United Way 2-1-1 of Connecticut to collect responses from those willing to make donations. Anyone who has these vital materials and would like to donate them to Connecticut’s medical community should fill out the online form located at http://www.211ct.org/DonationsCOVID19.
Requests received are being reviewed by staff at DPH and United Way to ensure that the donations meet the needs of Connecticut’s medical community.
Items being requested by the state at this time include:
Face Masks/Surgical Masks
Gloves (nitrile, or non-latex)
Thermometer Covers (if applicable to type of thermometer)
Other Medical Items
Department of Economic and Community Development preparing guidance on implementation of Governor Lamont’s executive order on non-essential business functions
The Department of Economic and Community Development is in the process of preparing guidance for businesses on how to implement the executive order Governor Lamont issued yesterday directing all non-essential business functions in Connecticut to suspend in-person operations beginning Monday, March 23, at 8:00 p.m. The agency’s guidance is anticipated to be released prior to the order going into effect and will be published on the state’s coronavirus website.
Providing information to Connecticut residents
For the most up-to-date information from the State of Connecticut on COVID-19, including guidance and other resources, all residents in the state are encouraged to visit ct.gov/coronavirus.
Individuals who have general questions that are not answered on the website can also call 2-1-1 for assistance. The information line is available 24 hours a day and has multilingual assistance and TDD/TTY access for those with a hearing impairment. The hotline only intended to be used by individuals who are not experiencing symptoms but may have general questions related to COVID-19. Anyone experiencing symptoms is strongly urged to contact their medical provider to seek treatment.
This was posted on Facebook by James Codella.
Council Democrats to Administration: Bond Package Lacks Transparency
City Council Democrats question the Mayor’s $62 million bond proposal, due to lack of detail and transparency
DANBURY, C.T. – At last night’s Committee-of-the-whole meeting following a public hearing, City Council Democrats voted against sending the Administration’s $62 million bond proposal as written to the City Council in February. Citing lack of detail and transparency, Council Democrats were unanimous in their view that the bond package should not be put to voters before more details are disclosed to the public.
The bond proposal which can be viewed here, itemizes only in broad strokes a breakout of seven city projects to fix Danbury’s roads, infrastructure, downtown, and schools — all of which are issues the Democrats raised during the 2019 election cycle.
“This is the first time that not a single constituent has come up to me and said ‘you have to pass this bond,’” said Council Minority Leader Paul Rotello. “This is the largest bond that everybody in Danbury has to pay for, and we’ve had just 25 days to look at it.” Rotello added, saying it was critical “to separate the urgent from the wish list. There are urgent items, such as addressing the needs of our children in the school system, but there are other non-urgent items in here that we need to take a hard look at,” concluded Rotello.
“What we’re talking about here, is making sure we have the ability on the City Council to represent the people of Danbury well. How can we do that if we don’t know what the city’s priorities are when it comes to paving roads?” said Councilman At-Large Roberto Alves. “The fact of the matter is that the Administration can’t ask the people of Danbury to approve millions in bonds to pave and fix our roads without at least outlining the priorities in the bond itself.”
“Danbury voters came out in record numbers this past November, and last night, their voices were heard,” said Danbury Democratic Chairwoman Andrea Gartner. “Tremendous funds are being allocated to the renovation of Osborne Street, but very few details have been provided to the Board of Education. We have a newly-elected members; but how can they fulfill their duties without knowing the scope of this major project? It’s less than responsible to move this bond forward in its current form. The Administration not only owes the Board of Education a more transparent method of governance, but also, the people of Danbury.”
The City Council voted on the recommendation after more than three (3) hours of discussion with the final result a 10-10 tie, denying the motion. The City Council is scheduled to take up the matter at its regular meeting on Tuesday, February 4th at 7:30 pm which is open to the public. A final decision must be made by late March of this year.
It has been a very exciting year for Danbury Democrats!
The galvanizing energy for people to get involved locally surged post 2016 elections and that energy is still thriving. With modern politics still resting on a foundation that shifts daily and a political landscape that continues to venture into uncharted territory, now is the time to be engaged in the Danbury Democratic party. Whether you’re an activist or armchair Democrat, thank you for your support during the 2016 election.
The key is Danbury Democrats are showing up! And we are showing up in big ways. We show up online, in our neighborhoods, and at community events. We’re speaking at public hearings, standing beside union strikers, and legislating at the State capitol.
With the excitement surrounding the municipal elections, we are on our way to achieving great things in our city. From the top of the ticket to the bottom, let’s support our candidates and our party so that we can continue to expand our leadership. By working together, we’ll have a voice in setting community priorities and how our taxes are spent.