They may be from different political parties, but Wilton’s state legislators agree on one thing — they are vehemently opposed to two bills that would force school districts to regionalize.
School regionalization was one of several topics addressed by State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143), State Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125) and State Sen. Will Haskell (D-26) at a legislative breakfast held by the Wilton League of Women Voters at The Greens at Cannondale on Saturday, Feb. 9.
Sen. bill 738 would consolidate school districts in towns with populations of fewer than 40,000 people. The bill was introduced by State Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-11), a Democrat, who represents Hamden, New Haven and North Haven.
Sen, bill 457 sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, a Democrat who represents Norwalk and Darien, would require any school district with a student population of fewer than 2,000 students to join a new or an existing regional school district.
Lavielle, a member of the legislature’s education committee, told the breakfast crowd the committee is meeting Monday, Feb. 11 to decide whether to hold public hearings on the Looney and Duff bills, and to set the dates for the hearings.
“The Looney bill is not going to die easily because of Looney’s position as Senate President Pro Tempore,” Lavielle said.
There is strong opposition to the bill by both the public and members of the legislature, and the general belief is Looney’s bill won’t pass in its present form. But despite that, Lavielle said it is important for people to remain vigilant to keep anything related to the bill from materializing.
“There is talk that the bill could become ‘just a study,’” Lavielle said. But she warned that a study perpetuates the possibility the bill could materialize again in some form in the future or be tacked on to other legislation.
In addition, she said she has heard from a number of real estate brokers who told her that having the legislature even discuss school regionalization has been enough to keep potential buyers away from Connecticut.
She commended Wilton for taking a leading role against the school regionalization bills, through multiple petition drives and creation of the Facebook group “Hands Off Our Schools.”
O’Dea also voiced opposition to Looney’s bill, and warned that while Duff’s bill might not seem to apply to Wilton because it applies to towns with fewer than 2,000 (Wilton has more than 4,000) that 2,000 number could change.
Haskell had to leave the breakfast early for another LWV event, but as he left he voiced his opposition to the bills as well.
See this week’s issue of The Wilton Bulletin for more discussion of the legislative breakfast.
Editor’s Note: This story was corrected to reflect the updated name of the Facebook group’s page.