School Consolidation Wrap Up: The Latest in Wilton’s News on SB 454/738
Since last week’s grass roots start of Protect Wilton Schools, the group organized by Wilton residents opposed to regionalization of school districts in Connecticut, there have been some new developments. Here’s the latest on what’s new, and some helpful links to information and news about the issue.
New Logo and Hashtag: Hands Off Our Schools
Protect Wilton Schools introduced a hashtag for residents to use on social media posts, #HandsOffOurSchools, as well as new logo (pictured above) to go along with it.
Editor’s note: In full disclosure, both were contributions from me. As a journalist whose practice and profession is about fairness and objectivity, I’ve mentally wrestled with any level of participation in this community effort. I work hard to report about Wilton news in an impartial way and believe that GOOD Morning Wilton has earned the public’s trust on that.
But GMW is also a different animal–it’s community-driven news from the inside, and as the only news outlet covering day-to-day news in Wilton with reporters who also live in town, we recognize that we have a unique role. From day one our mission has been to connect residents to one another and to local businesses and organizations, and to get Wiltonians more engaged in issues that impact them and the town. It’s been extraordinary watching this issue of school consolidation do just that, as residents of all political persuasions have come together on this topic, mobilizing and engaging with something that impacts the town in a major way.
We’ll continue to work as hard as we can to bring you straightforward information and news about what’s happening in this story, but wanted readers to know upfront that we’ve played a small part in the story ourselves.
––Heather Borden Herve, GMW Editor/Publisher
Hartford Democrats Announce Legislative Agenda–But Where’s School Consolidation?
Monday in Hartford, Democrats from both the House and Senate held a press conference to announce the joint legislative agenda they were supporting as a caucus. The major issues they said they’ll be promoting and working to get passed include several that have been long-time campaign platforms for the party, like paid family and medical leave and a minimum wage increase. Not making an appearance on the joint agenda–forced school regionalization.
There are two bills that have been introduced this session by party leaders–Sen. Martin Looney‘s bill to consolidate school districts in communities with fewer than 40,000 residents with other districts (SB 738, formerly SB 454); and a bill that would call for districts with under 2,000 students to merge with other districts or risk losing state funding, introduced by Sen. Bob Duff and Sen. Cathy Osten.
Neither one was listed on the agenda. State House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz did say that the subject of school regionalization was worthy of discussion but acknowledged it was unlikely to get full support from legislators.
“Just because conversations are difficult to have does not mean we shouldn’t have them. I actually appreciate Senator Looney putting forward that bill to make us have those conversations. I’m not saying it’s the absolute right answer. I don’t know that we’ll have the votes tomorrow for that. But we need to start having these discussions,” he said.
The list of joint priorities includes:
- SB 1 An Act Concerning Paid Family And Medical Leave;
- SB 2: An Act Increasing The Minimum Fair Wage
- SB 4: An Act Concerning The Affordability And Accessibility Of Prescription Drugs
- SB 5: An Act Concerning A Workforce Pipeline And Job Creation
- HB 5001: An Act Ensuring That Students In This State Receive High-Quality Skills Training
- HB 5002: An Act Concerning The Development Of A Green New Deal
- HB 5005: An Act Supporting Local Businesses
- SJ 14: Resolution Proposing A State Constitutional Amendment To Permit Early Voting
Wilton’s State Senator Will Haskell announced his support for the joint agenda, in a press release sent to media Monday.
Op-Eds Worth Reading
There are several Op-Eds worth reading for background and information supporting the position taken by many Wilton residents. Among this is one from Terry Cowgill on CTNewsJunkie.com which calls Looney’s bill a ‘non-starter’ (and tips its hat at Wilton). Also of note, the Yankee Institute made the case for more thoughtful consolidation in its piece that calls for “A Scalpel, Not a Sledgehammer.”
Helpful Documents for Contacting Legislators
Protect Wilton Schools has prepared several documents that can be helpful for anyone contact state legislators about the issue. The group links to the files on, fittingly, the ‘Files’ tab on the group’s Facebook page. They include helpful talking points and tips on how to write persuasively to the members of the legislature’s Education Committee, and a list of emails for all the members.
Protect Wilton Schools Volunteer Teams–Next Meeting Date Change
Teams of volunteers being organized by Protect Wilton Schools met last night, and will meet again later this week–although organizers have changed the meeting time. Originally scheduled for Thursday night, the teams will now get together on Friday, Feb. 8 at noon. The teams are:
- Letters and Phone Calls: Keeping up a sustained effort to contact Hartford legislators “until we don’t need to do it anymore.”
- Messaging, Media & PR: getting the message out to a broader audience (via TV/radio)
- Coordinating with other towns: Show that the concern is not just Wilton’s, and not just Fairfield County’s–that no one is interested in regionalizing
- Facebook Administration: keeping the Facebook page and calendar current
The Protect Wilton Schools Facebook group page continues to be the central communication point for all information coming from the group. There are now 1,275 members in the group.