Benjamin Lee (D)

Stamford Board of Education


First, there’s an infrastructure crisis in our schools. This is a crisis of political dysfunction, as every City board has failed to focus on infrastructure. Last year alone, the capital request for our school buildings was $36.6 million; this request was cut to $5.2 million, funding only 14% of our needs. Replicate this over many years and it’s easy to see why we are where we are now. It’s why we have schools with significant challenges, from roof repairs to HVAC and boiler replacements, to mold. Our students and teachers deserve better. We must set them up for success with healthy, functional classrooms.

Second, there is a related crisis of funding. We have disparate outcomes, from children reading below grade level to the fact that only 80% of Latino students graduate on time. This cannot be accepted as the status quo. We must treat these disparities as an emergency and tackle it from all sides. This includes the support we provide families and funding our budget. We must challenge ourselves to fully fund education to provide comprehensive help for every student.

Both problems can be solved with a greater focus on our budget and boldly advocating for our teachers and students. While the Board of Education formally has a limited role in building construction, it has immense moral and political influence. With my knowledge of the planning and budgeting process, along with my relationships with the relevant stakeholders across the City, I am uniquely able to advocate for our children.
The diversity of our school system is our greatest strength. Our children are growing up in a world of unprecedented challenges. To guarantee our children’s success, we need to maximize their talents by giving them every opportunity available. And we need to give them a chance to grow up in a school system that represents our nation’s diverse workforce, full of people of different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences. Stamford Public Schools, more than anywhere else, gives our children that gift. We are, rightfully, full of Stamford pride.

The greatest strength of our school system should be its outcomes. I believe that Stamford is uniquely positioned in its role as the leading city in the state to prove that a diverse, middle-class city can have a world class school system. We can deliver great results to every student, at every level and in every neighborhood, from the Westside and Southside to Glenbrook and North Stamford.
Any successful plan to rebuild our schools requires a thorough process and advocacy from the Board of Education.

The process includes (i) detailed plans on what must be done and how it will be done; (ii) comprehensively assessing and pursuing funding; and (iii) building buy-in with stakeholders, from parents and teachers to local officials. This same process is required to secure Federal and State funding for our schools.

On the Board of Education, we need a skilled negotiator who understands City boards – Planning, Board of Finance, Board of Representatives – and who has established relationships to be effective on Day 1. I am the only candidate who has this background.

In my 4 years on the Board of Representatives, I have demonstrated leadership on every major issue, from working in a bipartisan manner to re-write our City’s ethics code to proposing alternatives to school privatization to the Long-Term Facilities Committee, which is currently working on a plan to renovate and rebuild our schools. I’ve established effective relationships with every leader on the Board, as well as a personal network extending to the Board of Finance and key members of the City engineering and planning departments. I understand how the planning and budgeting process works, and I know the needs and priorities of the stakeholders involved.

My definition of success is when the money is allocated and the schools are rebuilt. I look forward to working with parents and leveraging my network to advocate for our schools and get the job done.