Be it dealing with mold, new school building construction, staff compensation, facilities and more, everything comes down to funding, so exploring the establishment of a better financial model for our schools is a major issue I would address. It is not possible to nurture fair educational opportunities across the district when held hostage to the real estate market via relying primarily on property taxes to pay for education. A Public Bank of Stamford (or Fairfield County) supplants the pitting of home-owning families against those who rent with a means of paying for all city schools on a more equal basis by drawing from funds generated by residents, overall, via an investment bank version of a credit union. On the state level, the Bank of North Dakota has operated on this regionally-controlled basis, independent of the influence of Wall Street investment (and its high interest rates) with no day-to-day stake in the affairs of North Dakotans for a century, resulting in ample support not just for schools, but pensions, business development, infrastructure and other needs (enjoying a robust employment market, North Dakota was the only state unaffected by the housing crash of 2008). Sacramento has recently green-lit the creation of a network of public banks in California. There is no reason such a proven, resilient concept could not be scaleable the county or municipal level, accruing superior benefits in many areas besides education, on a mutually-supportive, rather than competitive, basis.
The greatest strength lies in schools benefiting by the long-overdue severing of ties with for-profit consultancies and contractors, such as AFB/ABM, returning managing of facilities staff to the city. Despite oft-repeated acclaim for these and other “public/private” partnerships, the drive to boost profit margins by cutting corners has only resulted in neglected infrastructure, risks to safety and additional costs for taxpayers where savings were promised. The appointment of the latest School Superintendent drawn from the ranks of our own instructors over yet another extravagant nationwide search for someone who has no ties, nor understanding of Stamford’s particular needs, hopefully bodes well for the future. Yet, simultaneously, the greatest challenge is new dalliance with this same privatization fixation, the proposal of City Administrator Handler to give the construction/ownership of new school buildings to the private sector being the latest. Tying the city to an estimated 50-year lease per building with questions as to the independence of school activities and student safety considerations (effects of 5G antennae) while on private property aside, city employees (who have a contractual 25-year moratorium on lay-offs) are to be replaced by the owners. The irony is that if the city had not attempted to partly save money lost to past private sector outsourcing by switching off overnight building ventilation, the call for outsourcing new school buildings in response to the resultant mold plaguing more than half of Stamford schools would likely not be necessary. Would such a proposal fly in Mr. Handler’s native New Canaan?
In promoting the best outcomes for Stamford students, especially in view of meeting the challenges of rapid environmental and economic change, the Board of Education must work closely with the Board of Finance to secure an adaptable approach to funding the educational needs of the next generation. This must be done in as transparent a manner as possible, regardless of which party is involved—students, the PT Council, or Ray Dalio Philanthropies.
Beyond this, as outlined in my initial response, my first inclination is in support of a localized, public-backed financial model that operates not on the returns of real estate, or other branches of the financial sector, but from a mandate of public service. The benefits that would accrue would be multi-pronged and mutually-supportive across a variety of previously-cited areas; an economy built on such a reciprocal basis, rather than one of ever-expanding growth, is best equipped to teaching students to teach themselves for a lifetime (as opposed to the rout emphasis of corporate-backed Common Core).
This depends on close coordination with the city, the Board of Finance and consultation with the public banking community (fellow Fairfield County Green Ed Heflin is a state liaison with the Public Banking Institute).
The Board of Education must be directly involved, collectively, or through representatives, in contract negotiations with city employees and the city—why there has been such a delay in contract negotiations is something I would pursue early on as a BOE member.