At Thursday night’s Board of Education meeting, Board of Education chair Christine Finkelstein will not pull any punches when the discussion turns to SB 454, the bill recently introduced in Hartford that proposes compulsory school district consolidation. Finkelstein’s take on the proposed legislation? “It’s a horrible idea.”

She also vows, “We will fight this with everything we have.”

The BOE’s planned discussion on the school regionalization bill is a separate item on the meeting’s agenda. Finkelstein comment is part of a statement she will read during the discussion, which will also serve as her regular chair’s report. Then the board members will discuss a “strong letter” expressing strong opposition to the bill, which has been drafted to be sent to the Education Committee co-chairs. The BOE will release the letter if it is approved at the meeting.

In Finkelstein’s statement, her sentiments are very clear. “Off the top of my head I can think of about a dozen reasons why the proposal to force consolidation of school districts is an awful idea. But I can’t think of a single reason why it would make sense.”

Finkelstein says that Wilton Public Schools are the cornerstone of the Wilton community.

“[They] have been built and sustained to meet the needs of our children. Forced regionalization would do tremendous harm to the quality of education, and would be an egregious violation of local control of the schools,” she writes.

Finkelstein acknowledges the efforts of many Wilton residents mobilizing to fight against the legislation as well. She mentions an information session organized by the Wilton Republican Town Committee at which attendees will learn steps to take to contact legislators and oppose SB 454. That info session is scheduled for the exact same as the Board of Education meeting, so that BOE members won’t be able to attend.

“Otherwise, we would be there in force,” she writes.

Wilton Schools Superintendent’s Letter to Legislators

Superintendent Kevin Smith has written a separate letter that he has already sent to Wilton’s legislators. In it he writes of his “strenuous objection” to SB 454, and calls it “incorrect and flawed.” He warns, “if this legislation is enacted, Connecticut students will suffer irreparable harm.”

Smith also says one reason to oppose the proposal is “potential degradation of education quality.” He also says that not only will the bill threaten local real estate values, it will not help towns or the state save costs, saying “no empirical evidence … validate[s] that such a move actually leads to cost savings.”

Smith also warns that ignoring the potential dangers of regionalization would be “short sighted” and “trigger a host of unintended negative consequences.”

“If any conversation about regionalization is going to occur, the first consideration must be education quality, not education cost,” he adds.

Below are the texts of both Finkelstein’s statement and Smith’s letter to legislators.

Statement from BOE chair Christine Finkelstein

Off the top of my head I can think of about a dozen reasons why the proposal to force consolidation of school districts is an awful idea. But I can’t think of a single reason why it would make sense

Unfortunately, the Wilton Board of Education has a conflict with tonight’s meeting. Otherwise, we would be there in force.

We will discuss SB454 at our meeting tonight, and will consider a strong letter of opposition to Education Committee Co-Chairs McCrory and Sanchez.

The Wilton Public Schools are the cornerstone of our community, and have been built and sustained to meet the needs of our children. Forced regionalization would do tremendous harm to the quality of education, and would be an egregious violation of local control of the schools.

We will fight this with everything we have. In addition to our letter, Superintendent Smith has submitted a letter in opposition. When the time comes, we will deliver testimony, both in written form, and if possible, in person.

Thank you to our elected officials, and to members of our community for leading the charge on this. There will be many battles in the days to come, so let’s commit to staying engaged and keeping our eye on the ultimate goal of resoundingly defeating this horrible idea.

Letter from Wilton Public Schools’ superintendent, Dr. Kevin Smith