Hands Off Our Schools, the grass roots movement against forced regionalization, has formed its own political action committee.
The news comes weeks after the movement signed on its 10,000th member. Chris DeMuth, a New Canaan resident, said the committee will raise funds to advocate for local decision-making in education for school districts. DeMuth said the nonpartisan movement has largely been driven by parents.
“I think a lot of public school parents have been effective advocates for their kids,” he said. “First, in moving to the school district of their choice and then getting involved as volunteers, private donors, members of the PTC or Board of Ed.”
The movement has grown to 10,000 members and has already made an impact, according to DeMuth. Hands Off Our Schools has helped stop two out of the three proposed bills with regionalization language, he said. Proposed bills by Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, and Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, were not voted out of committee.
DeMuth said the movement has also helped to water down Gov. Ned Lamont’s bill. However, the slight changes have not deterred the movement.
“None of that really gives us comfort in that all this language can come back at any time,” DeMuth said. “It can be added to different legislation or even perhaps added to the budget.”
DeMuth said the movement has continued to grow strong, but the political action committee could help provide resources.
“To move beyond our current 10,000 members and our current effort we need to raise resources so that we can be competitive in the marketplace of ideas across all of Connecticut,” he said.
The movement is focused on the time period between now and July, DeMuth said.
“That’s when we’re going to see what the Connecticut General Assembly wants to do,” he said. “Our efforts are going to continue to be towards education and advocacy and making sure as much of the electorate understands the threat of regionalization.”
DeMuth said while the group is against forced consolidation, there could be positive aspects to voluntary shared services as long as education quality is the focus.
“When you talk about costs, I want to look at teaching efficiency,” he said. “Sure, save money that’s great if we can do it in a way that improves the quality of education at the same time.”
He said if state interference lessened, towns could do more to save money without hurting education. For example, towns could get rid of redundant services between the town and school district, DeMuth said. In Wilton, similar efforts have already been made. The town’s chief financial officer, Anne Kelly-Lenz, also doubles as the chief financial officer for the Wilton public schools. Likewise, the town’s facilities director, Chris Burney, acts in the same capacity for the school district.
“If you could get rid of the force and look instead at voluntary measures, there’s a lot that can be done,” DeMuth said. “If instead of force you look at facilitating voluntary measures by deregulating state interference with local education, it can be done even better.”
Parents and other supporters interested in Hands Off Our Schools can check out its page, group, and store, get updates and support Hands Off Our Schools here: https://bit.ly/2Pt9XFG.
dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com