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May 132011
 

The newspapers and blogs  picked up  my the Letter to Editor a week ago regarding taxpayer and voter frustration over pre-campaign rhetoric by both political parties over so-called education reform.  Below is my original letter and supporting financial data backed up by sources.


I am writing to all of you as an independent citizen (like a good many of us in Norwalk) who are frustrated by the political parties’ inability or unwillingness to seriously step up to the plate with regards to education reform here in our City of Norwalk.  Over the past several months, the local papers and blogs have highlighted everything from A-Z about the issues surrounding the state of our education, but I have not seen any genuine willingness by the political parties to go beyond traditional party rhetoric, or personal attacks of opponents, on what is surely a very complicated issue.

Please consider the following issues backed up with data on the following pages:

  • Norwalk is committed to educating its free and reduced lunch student population
  • Norwalk residents pay more to educate their children as a percentage of family income than our richer neighbors
  • Norwalk does not receive is fair share of ECS funding from the state  despite its significant free and reduced lunch student population
  • The City of Norwalk (like cities across the US) is struggling in negotiations with the leadership of its two largest collective bargaining units on everything from job assignments, to work rules to pay despite the fact that our staff are among the highest paid in the state.

I would hate to see any of you use political party sound bites, disingenuously directed at education reform, in an effort to attack your opponents or score points with the electorate without highlighting your own platforms. Therefore, I am hoping that the papers and blogs publish my letter and the following data for the citizens of Norwalk. And, I hope that each of you, as you go forward with your campaigns,  deem it worthy to  share with the voters of Norwalk, your PLANS for dealing with these various issues in order to move education reform and the future economic vibrancy of this great city forward.

Respectfully submitted,

Lisa Thomson

Founder – Red APPLES of Norwalk

_________________________________________________________________________

BACK UP DATA

Norwalk is committed to Educating Its Growing Free and Reduced Lunch Student Population

  • It’s well known that urban school districts have seen a jump in their poverty levels across the nation
  • Norwalk’s student population has held fairly steady over the years at approximately 11,000.
  • Yet, in the past 5 years, the number of students that qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch has jumped from 2,555 students in 2005 to 4,744 in 2010.
  • This represents an increase from 23.1 % of its total student body to 43.7%.
  • 13% of that student base represents English Language Learners.

Source: Dr. Susan Marks NPS Budget 2010-11 Budget Planning

Norwalk residents pay more to educate their children as a percentage of family income than its richer neighbors.

 

  • Norwalk’s neighboring towns, average over twice the median family income yet spending is consistent with these richer towns and one case is more.
City/Town Per Pupil Spending Median Family Income % of Income Contribution
New Canaan $15,711 $141,788 11%
Westport $15,409 $119,872 13%
Wilton $14,013 $141,428 10%
NORWALK $13,940 $59,839 23%
Darien $13,367 $146,755 9%

Source: Fred Wilms, Norwalk Bureau of Estimation and Taxation (07/08 data)

Norwalk does not receive its fair share of ECS funding from the State of Connecticut despite its significant free and reduced lunch student population

  • The percentage of Norwalk’s educational costs derived from Connecticut Educational Cost Sharing Grants ranks Norwalk second-to-last in the percentage category and LAST in actual revenue sharing dollars received among Connecticut’s cities as demonstrated in the following chart:
District % of School Revenues Provided By State 2007-2008Budget ($ millions) State Portion ($ millions)
Bridgeport 68.2 268 183
Danbury 69.2 119 83
Hartford 63.2 364 230
New Britain 60.4 137 83
New Haven 60.9 312 189
Norwalk 11.1 160 18
Stamford 8.8 234 21
Waterbury 56.2 232 130

Pastoral communities without apparent urban challenges often receive comparatively higher ECS support than Norwalk

District ECS % 2007-2008
Canterbury 46.5
Canton 18.2
Hebron 35.0
Mansfield 33.3
Watertown 35.6
Wethersfield 18.5
Wolcott 44.7
Woodstock 35.4
Norwalk 11.1

Source:  Norwalk Office of the City Clerk : From Common Council ECS Resolution Regular Meeting January 25, 2011.

The City of Norwalk (like many cities across the US) is struggling in its negotiations with the leadership of its two largest collective bargaining units:  the National Federation of Teachers (NFT) and the Norwalk Association of School Administration (NASA) to close the 2011-12 school budget gap despite a tax proposed 2% tax increase from the BET to residents, despite the fact that its membership is among the highest paid, with the best benefits in Connecticut.

Average CT State Teacher Salaries 2007-08

Dist # Districts Average FTE  Teacher Salary State Rank
57 Greenwich $75,499 1
103 Norwalk $74,229 2
161 Wilton $73,307 3
118 Ridgefield $72,457 4
4 Avon $71,989 5
135 Stamford $71,214 6
209 Region09 $70,715 7
157 Weston $70,347 8
51 Fairfield $69,880 9
117 Redding $69,404 10
90 New Canaan $69,208 11
158 Westport $66,786 18
35 Darien $66,204 24
15 Bridgeport $60,988 68

Source: CT State Department of Education (website staff data 4/21/10)

  • Norwalk Teacher Insurance Coverages Are the BestNorwalk teachers have medical, dental, vision and life insurance coverages and benefits that are unparalleled  in each category and collectively in the state and nation.” Source: Januar,y 2010, The Vanguard NFT Newsletter, Bruce Mellion, President
Bargaining Unit No. of Employees Average Salary Average Years of Service
Executives 4 $ 172,370 10.6
Administration 58 $ 137,435 9.4
Teachers 902 $ 81,158 12.0

Source: Norwalk Board of Education 2/17/2011

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