First there was the announcement that there was a $12 million deficit in Bridgeport’s school budget.
Then the central office was “re-organized” and some programs were changed and the deficit, they said, was down to $3.5 million.
Governor Malloy’s administration then offered to cover that problem in return for allowing Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to choose who runs Bridgeport’s schools. The City and illegal Board of Education jumped at that offer so the budget problems are gone… or are they?
“Reforming” Connecticut’s schools are a top priority. In fact, what little additional funding the State of Connecticut is making available to Bridgeport must be used for “reform” efforts, including the implementation of a new teacher evaluation program.
Yet day after day, word leaks out that Bridgeport’s part-time, interim superintendent of schools has signed more contracts, hired additional consultants or “invented” new programs. In his “end of the year” letter he’s even taking the position that he is making all of these changes and isn’t even laying people off.
However, in the coming years, Bridgeport will face significant additional costs as a result of Vallas’ spending spree. Vallas, though, will be long gone. Even with a salary and benefits exceeding a quarter of a million dollars a year, Vallas has said he is leaving at the end of the next school year and, in the meantime, will continue his ramped up consulting activities.
Vallas will be gone but what will be around are the bills for the multi-million dollar textbook contract, the new computer programs, the new after school program, the new partnerships with local colleges, the ongoing and additional standardized testing that Vallas is so committed to.
Bridgeport certainly can’t rely on the state to cover those costs.
Despite last year’s $1.5 billion tax package, Connecticut’s budget was almost $200 million in the red last year, will be looking at a deficit of $400 million this year and when the Legislature returns to Hartford in January 2012, it will be facing a projected deficit of over half a billion dollars for Fiscal Year 2014. The state is going to be cutting, not adding, and even then it may need another tax increase to cover its costs.
So that leaves only two possible sources of money for the bills Vallas is racking up; the wealthy Fairfield County corporate executives who say that are stepping up with donations and Bridgeport’s taxpayers.
The wealthy executives talk about providing $500,000 or even a million dollars, but of course, that doesn’t even cover the salary and benefits needed to pay Vallas and his inner-circle of out-of-state staff and consultants.
So the question remains…
If the state isn’t going to pick up the tab and the business leaders aren’t going to pick up the tab, who is going to pay the millions of dollars needed to cover all the new contracts and administrative positions.
For a superintendent who loves to do PowerPoint presentations, it’s interesting that Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education still hasn’t received a document laying out all the costs associated with the new contracts that Vallas has signed.
Meanwhile, Bill Finch has made it clear that he not only wants direct control over the City budget, but he wants control of the budget for the Bridgeport’s School System, as well.
Does that mean that in the end, it is the Mayor who is guaranteeing that Vallas’ bills will be paid and, if so, with whose money?
And then, of course, there is the other question. Will all these new contracts, administrators and programs really provide the students with a better education?