Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Why I Could Not Support Stratford Mayor Laura Hoydick’s 2025 Budget

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Letter to the Editor

By Anthony Afriyie
Stratford Council Member – District 5

Foremost, I’d like to thank every Stratford resident who participated in the budget process this year. As the youngest member of Stratford’s Town Council and the most recent product of Stratford Public Schools, I find it my duty to prioritize the future of our children. That is why I could not, in good conscience, vote for Mayor Hoydick’s budget. This decision was not easy, but my vote stems from a fundamental belief that we owe our students better opportunities than those currently provided. A budget is always a balancing act between the need and demand for services and the ability to pay for them, and I believe this budget did not strike the right balance.

Growing up in these schools, I have firsthand experience with the challenges and limitations of our public education system. Despite these hurdles, I benefited greatly from dedicated teachers, librarians, and support staff who went above and beyond to ensure my success. These experiences shaped me, and that is why I ran for Council, so we could strive to enhance, not diminish, the resources available to the next generation.

The $260 million operating budget that was passed allocated $129 million to the school district. While this seems substantial, it falls short in critical areas. The results of the budget led to the elimination of Alternative Education Program, no librarians at the high schools, four librarians split between eight elementary schools and the loss of several math and reading coaches. These cuts are not merely numbers on a page; they represent significant setbacks for our students’ education and future prospects.

One of the greatest poets of the 20th century, William Butler Yeats once said “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. “As someone who has dedicated much of my life to public service, I understand the complexities and challenges that come with crafting a municipal budget. Each line item reflects priorities, values, and difficult choices. However, there are times when a budget, despite its intentions, falls short of addressing the needs and aspirations of the community it serves. Here are the key reasons why I opposed this budget:

Libraries and Librarians: A Cornerstone of Learning

One of the most troubling aspects of the budget is the reduction of school librarians. Librarians are educators who foster a love of reading, teach research skills, and help students navigate the vast expanse of information available in the digital age. The decline in book checkouts and research skills at our middle schools, following previous cuts to librarian positions, underscores the profound impact of such decisions, and this budget will continue that worrying trend.

Reading and Math Coaches: Essential for Student Success

The pandemic had devastating impacts on learning. That is why the elimination of several of our reading and math coaches is another significant concern. These coaches implement evidence-based strategies and offer individualized attention, which is crucial for accelerating learning and closing achievement gaps exacerbated by the pandemic. Testimonials from parents and teachers throughout the budget process highlighted the vital role these positions play in student development. The elimination of those positions will disproportionately affect those who need the most help, widening the achievement gap and undermining our commitment to educational equity.

Alternative Education Program: A Lifeline for Many

The decision to cut the alternative education program is equally alarming. This program serves as a lifeline for students who face challenges in traditional educational settings. It provides tailored support, ensuring that these students have a path to success. The elimination of this program risks leaving some of our most vulnerable students without the necessary resources to thrive.

Environmental Sustainability Overlooked

Environmental stewardship should be a priority for any budget in the 21st century. Mayor Hoydick’s budget lacked a strong commitment to sustainability initiatives. Investing in renewable energy, conservation projects, and green infrastructure is not only vital for the environment but also for the economic resilience and health of our community. Ignoring these investments today jeopardizes our future.

A Call for Reinvestment in Education

Our schools should be a place where every child has the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their background or circumstances. The budget, with its significant cuts to essential educational services, moves us further away from this idea. Instead, we should be reinvesting in our schools, ensuring they are fully staffed and equipped to provide a high-quality education for every student.

Last Word

I’ve come to understand that while crafting a budget is no small task and requires balancing many competing interests, it is imperative that we prioritize investments that will yield the greatest benefits for our community’s long-term prosperity and well-being. We must look beyond immediate financial constraints and consider the broader impact on our community’s future. Our students deserve better, and it is our responsibility to ensure they receive it.

As leaders, we must have the courage to make bold investments that align with our values and serve the greater good. This budget did not reflect the values or the commitment to education that our community needs. For these reasons, I did not support it.

Good public schools attract families to settle in the area, boosting local housing markets and increasing property values. They also produce a well-educated workforce, which draws businesses seeking skilled employees and fosters local entrepreneurship. Additionally, high-quality schools enhance the town’s reputation, making it more attractive for investment and long-term economic growth. This budget is a call to action for all our neighbors, and our community to reconsider our priorities and invest in a brighter future for our children.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Councilman Afriyie! It is obvious in your well-stated opinions that you truly care about the children of Stratford and their future! As a retired educator who has lived in this town for 46 years, I am incensed with the passing of this pathetic school budget! Obviously, the majority of town council, Republican school board members & the mayor only care about their pocketbooks and NOT the future of our students! If they think this is going to attract new families to our community, they are sadly mistaken! Those families with children are thinking twice about staying here! This community has let our children down and they will suffer because of this!

  2. Thank you Anthony. Despite the rosy picture painted by the Mayor in this Patch article, your submission points up the true effect of the recently passed budget on our school system and how our schools and, as a result, our community have been degraded by this and previous years’ underfunding of our schools:

    https://patch.com/connecticut/stratford/approved-stratford-budget-keep-taxes-flat

    Our schools are losing:

    MATH/READING COACHES
    LIBRARIANS
    VALUABLE ALTERNATIVE ED PROGRAM

    So what has been made to seem like all is well and all is rosy IS NOT AT ALL!!

    Democrats had proposed budget alternatives that would support our schools with no tax hike,

    https://stratfordcrier.com/stratford-democrats-want-a-budget-that-moves-our-community-forward/

    but there was no “reaching across the aisle” for the benefit of our young people.

    I hope many citizens read your submission, Anthony. We need to re-elect you and more like you when the time comes for choosing legislators who will move Stratfor forward.

  3. What does Mr. Afriyie propose to solve the “problem”? If i were the councilman(and town residents), i would be grilling Kelly(R), Dancho(R), and Gresko(D) as to why Stratford is continually severely shortchanged on ECS funding. Look at the ECS funding provided to Hamden, Manchester, Enfield, Naugatuck. Those communities, with fewer students than Stratford, have been receiving significantly more funding for many years now. Why? The $$$ are available from the state, but our state reps aren’t bringing it home.
    I encourage Mr. Afriyie to discuss the funding issue with the those reps. I’d also encourage him not to emulate the actions of his predecessor(i.e.: Public pronouncements/Partisan politicking).

  4. The main is for leadership is no clear vision for business. Republicans take business personal and everyone suffers. In order to do the things we need for schools. We need more businesses in town. Empty businesses on Barnum. Industrial part of Stratford shows no growth. The next mayor needs to have a clear cut path of how they will grow our town. I blame Democrats as well- they play right along very nicely in the sandbox. It’s nice to the democrats aka team Stratford get it Shake / Carroll and Corcoran,

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