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Educators on front lines deserve support

Maria DeVito an education activist from the East Coast caught the Board of Finance with their hands in the cookie jar ....

... this is an excuse for cutting into the schools' dollars so that the financial impact is absorbed equally is a scam. The City has already given property tax owners relief via a tax deferment plan. Stamford had multiple options among programs and chose the program that favored property owners (as opposed to the City). The proposed school cuts are a 'double dip.'....

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Educators on front lines deserve support

By Maria DeVito Published 5:00 am EDT, Sunday, May 17, 2020

Sadly, many political agendas have prevailed in this pandemic atmosphere at the expense of the less fortunate. Businesses have been made to close, residents cannot play in the park or enjoy the beach, and now educators are being made to defend their livelihoods. This last one is doubly difficult because the proposed budget cuts come from politicians whose children they love.

Unfortunately, Stamford’s Finance Committee and Finance Board are exploring options for allocating city funds that could devastate the budget Superintendent Dr. Tamu Lucero has proposed. Their solidarity is shared in media reports that say the property tax structure they favor is the one that could have the school system absorb up to 10 times more cost reductions than the norm. As one body they agreed to commit their signatures to these positions in writing.

Almost as soon as COVID arrived at this community’s door, Stamford educators transformed their schools and their lives into virtual landscapes. Most purchased new hardware and devices, creating spaces in their homes with new furniture to teach classes while their own utility bills spiked. They created new schedules and communication channels with privacy measures to safeguard the kids. They established learning platforms on applications they had never heard of. Many did this while homeschooling their own children and tending to spouses who had lost their jobs.

Maria DeVito has been a teacher in Stamford Public Schools for 18 years.

Although most teachers are too modest to seek reimbursement for the time and money they took from their own families to attend to the families of Stamford, underfunding their programs and positions is a prospect that has cut them to the core. While finance board members talk about equal shouldering of the financial impact, the reality is that the schools have already delivered their share in savings. According to the April 23 issue of the Stamford Advocate, Dr. Lucero indicated SPS started this fiscal year with a $2.7 million deficit. She said that by June’s end she believes the schools will have emerged debt-free. This savings came from the fruits of Distance Learning, the program teachers spearheaded to ensure a seamless instructional transition for Stamford’s children.

Board of Finance members have said Stamford residents have been encumbered with the financial crisis enough. They say households have lost financial standing and are facing eviction; some cannot pay the taxes they owe now much less handle an increase. While these statements are credible, they are related separately to the funding of the schools.

The funding of the schools comes from property taxes. Tenants who live in rented apartments and face eviction do not pay property taxes now, nor have they ever. As to homeowners who are unable to pay their property taxes, I am puzzled as to why the Board of Finance has not been more optimistic about Gov. Ned Lamont’s offer of tax relief programs to municipalities such as Stamford. An April 22 Advocate article indicated that 35,000 property owners are eligible to apply for a tax deferment program. Elected officials said they specifically chose the more owner-advantageous program instead of the lower interest rate program that would have been more beneficial to the city because they wanted to support property owners with the greatest needs. That the number of properties receiving foreclosure filings in Stamford was 56 percent less this past April than it was this past March, and 30 percent lower than this time last year, weakens the Finance Board’s explanation further.

About 96.4 percent (67,702 out of 70,230) of able Stamford workers are employed. Those who own select takeout and delivery food services are likely seeing booms in their businesses. Those with grocery stores or liquor stores, or who are invested in the pharmaceutical industry may be experiencing shocking financial success. The furloughed and unemployed who are eligible have access to benefits. Stay-at-home orders have helped save families money on gas, laundry, clothing, social gatherings, movies, fine dining, and more. This is not the Great Depression. Catastrophe and chaos are not certainties for every Stamford citizen. The personal Stamford friends and family I have are proud people who I believe would insist on accepting responsibility for their children’s education. After all the sacrifices the educators in their city have made to serve their families, I think they would feel insulted if I suggested otherwise.

Come September, the Stamford Board of Education is the one city department that will be on the front lines every day, every shift. They are the workers who will be listening to the difficult and traumatic stories of troubled children and broken families. They are the workers who will adjust instruction for new learning disabilities and increased language barriers. They are the workers who will design interventions to fill in the gaps that no distance teaching could ever replace. They will be the first-responders to their students’ anxiety, their fears, their loss of confidence, and their pain. They are the workers who will re-build this community. The superintendent’s proposed programs and positions should not be slashed. They should be supported.

[Maria DeVito has been a teacher in Stamford Public Schools for 18 years]

Save Stamford Schools Link ...

Stamford's children need a voice. I want to help their community leaders understand how and why proposed budget cuts would devastate their schools.



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