Mayoral Views – Alderman Mark Bernacki (R)
The New Britain City Journal is asking candidates for Mayor questions every three weeks related to the City. It is our hope this will give residents time to understand their views and make a proper choice for mayor. The question posed to candidates this week was “Do you think the Board of Education needs to get an increase in funding in 2012?” The following candidates responded to our question.
The easy answer is absolutely. A quality education is critical to the success of our children and New Britain’s ability to retain an educated middle class. The more difficult question is how to accomplish that. Connecticut’s constitution mandates that the state provide education to Connecticut children. Yet more and more mandates shift the financial burden from the state to New Britain taxpayers most of which are on a fixed income.
Connecticut has flat funded New Britain education over the last four years while increasing education funding in other urban centers. The state has also deemed New Britain a suburban town allowing our parents to send their children to Hartford Magnet Schools. While this provides excellent choice for some parents this has made New Britain more insolated and has made our school district disproportionally poor.
Another challenge is how to get money directly into the classroom. Connecticut established a rubric type equation to determine how much money each city and town should receive. I feel that the state should pay for 100% of New Britain’s educational costs. New Britain has been in a lengthy lawsuit against the state to end this financial discrimination.
That being said we in New Britain should be prudent with taxpayer dollars. It will be extremely critical that we select a new superintendent that has the vision, knowledge, experience, communication skills and business practices to propose and implement quality programs that provide our students with a skill set and knowledge base that will make them employable upon high school graduation or ready for college.
Being a City of only 13.5 square miles we should return to neighborhood elementary schools. We spend an inordinate amount of shrinking tax dollars busing children out of district. The cost savings would be used to improve elementary school students skills in reading, writing, math, spelling, geography and history. Neighborhood schools are also used as community centers. Greater parental involvement will only occur when schools are close to home.
New Britain recently sold a prime parcel of land on Slater Road to develop a grade 6 to 12 magnet school that will provide a health care career track for students interested in the medical profession. These students need a firm foundation of the basics and we must provide the resources at the elementary school level to make this happen.
One of the biggest struggles facing our school district is our transient population. All incoming students must be tested prior to entering New Britain schools to ensure that their core competency levels warrant entrance into their grade level. Too many children come from outside districts with less than grade level proficiency and an inordinate amount of scarce resources are used for remedial activities. We should also test students exiting grades 2,4 and 6 to ensure their competency for the Connecticut Mastery Test.
There should also be more collaboration and consolidation within City and School departments. There is no need for duplicate services being provided in personnel, central administration, IT and finance. Cost savings can be reallocated to provide improved classroom instruction.