New Britain has the eighth highest number of covid-19 cases and the seventh highest number of covid-19 deaths in Connecticut. This has devastated residents, business owners, and nonprofits who continue to be impacted and heightens concerns about economic security, especially for those who were barely making ends meet before the pandemic.
The idea of returning to â€śnormalâ€ť is simply not enough, but even in this struggling economy, thereâ€™s a sense of hope for a more equitable future in New Britain. As federal and state officials begin to make unprecedented investments in our communities â€“ in the form of infrastructure, healthcare improvements, education, and small business support â€“ municipalities across the country are leveraging opportunities to not only recover, but to be better than before. Last year, we became the first state to bridge the â€śDigital Divideâ€ť amongst school aged children by providing laptops to every student, an important step towards a more just education.
In New Britain, the upcoming city budget presents us with an opportunity to revitalize local education. Through strategic spending, we can invest in meeting the needs of students today while building a stronger, more-skilled workforce for tomorrow. Itâ€™s time to move onward together and focus on hopes and opportunities for our city. That starts with increasing funding for our school children who continue to do their part in keeping our communities safe.
Unfortunately, for the fifth year in a row, Mayor Stewart has proposed to flat fund our schools. Moreover, a recent 2% tax cut implemented by the administration has left many to ask what will these â€śsavingsâ€ť today cost us later down the road?
It will certainly continue to cost us opportunities to meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents. Itâ€™s not ideal to flat fund a school district during a pandemic, especially while the city's population continues to grow. Our youth with special needs, non-native English speakers, and other vulnerable students are in dire need of services to get them through this pandemic.
New Britain schools were already significantly underfunded before covid-19. Our per pupil expenditure of $13,872 is among the lowest in the state, ranking 166 out of 169 municipalities for the 2019-20 school year. This puts our entire city at a significant disadvantage when New Britain residents continue to be passed up for well-paying jobs, college admissions, scholarships, and apprenticeship opportunities.
As a nonprofit leader, Iâ€™ve worked with several school districts across Connecticut where I had the opportunity to see firsthand the critical role schools play in our communities. Not only are they a place where future leaders and workers are made, but here in New Britain, students get access to food, health services, extracurricular activities, athletics, and many other common opportunities that children across America have enjoyed for generations.
Today, parents and caretakers are struggling to work and maintain a sense of family normalcy while working and learning virtually or in-person. Ensuring schools have counseling services, resources for parents, and that weâ€™re thinking ahead and investing in programs that prepare our students for a global economy will not only help us get by now, but provide a sense of security in our economic future.
As mayor, I would work alongside New Britainâ€™s Board of Education to review and help re-prioritize where legislative education funding is allocated. This will help us better evaluate the quality of outcomes across the entire New Britain Public Schools system. I would also work to engage neighboring towns on regionalization strategies that would help shift the burden of funding education off New Britain taxpayers.
Itâ€™s time for every student, in every zip code to receive a fair and just education.
Sadly, Republican leaders are unwilling to address and meet the needs of the hardworking people of this city. This was evident during the covid-19 crisis, and if we donâ€™t do something now, we will continue to pay for it with our lives, our money, our health, and our childrenâ€™s futures.
Veronica T.Â DeLandro, 2021 mayoral candidate for the City of New Britain.