When the state legislature’s education committee convened on Monday, Feb. 11, State Rep. Gail Lavielle cordially thanked the chairs for raising the concept of regionalization in all the “voluntary” senses of the term to improve the quality of education.

However, she said she did not support forced school regionalization and when the time came to approve public hearings on two mandatory school regionalization bills, she voted no.

But her vote was not enough. Voting along party lines, 23 to 13, Democrats on the education committee prevailed and granted public hearings for school regionalization bills SB 738 and SB 457.

No dates have yet been set for the public hearings, but are expected to be held anytime between Feb. 20 and March 20.

SB 738 would consolidate school districts in towns with populations of fewer than 40,000. It was introduced by State Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-11).

SB 457 sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25), 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 (R-143) represents parts of Wilton, Norwalk and Westport. Her constituency, especially residents of Wilton, has made their opposition to the bills loud and clear through petition drives, letters to the newspaper, social media, and formation of the group, Hands Off Our Schools, which has garnered support from around the state.

With public hearings on the horizon, Lavielle advised voters to be vigilant. “It is very important to show up in person for the public hearings. Numbers make a difference, they make an impression,” she said.

She advised all voters, whether or not they attend the public hearings, to send their testimony to the education committee so their objections are put on the record.

She said all testimony about the bills should be emailed to edtestimony@cga.ct.gov. The bill number should go in the subject line, and should be repeated in the body of the email, along with the constituent’s name and town. Testimony and comments can be sent now or up to the day before the hearing.

“Even if you have already written to committee members, it is still okay to send the same thing to edtestimony@cga.ct.gov. When something comes to edtestimony, the clerks need to file it online with the bill and members are expected to read the testimony. So this is very important,” she said.

pgay@wiltonbulletin.com