The state of Connecticut will fund an audit of Bridgeportâ€™s Board of Education.
State dollars will pay for more than 80% of Bridgeportâ€™s school budget next year, about $160 million. And taxpayers have the right to know their investment is being spent wisely, says Republican State Senator Robert Russo. Russo helped to secure a 250,000 dollar state grant that will pay for a study of Bridgeportâ€™s Board of Education. He says he expects to find outdated practices and inefficiencies
"After we correct these inefficiencies then weâ€™ll be able to make a fair and convincing argument to the policy makers in Hartford and the taxpayers throughout our state that Bridgeport needs and deserves a greater public investment in education."
But School advocates say thereâ€™s a long history of vastly underfunding education in Bridgeport. Superintendent John Ramos welcomes the audit, but says the cityâ€™s schools currently face a 7.2 million dollar shortfall, leaving little room for waste and inefficiency..
"If there was any fat at all, its long gone, weâ€™re well into the bone marrow here. Weâ€™re looking at not just cutting new positions that were proposed in the budget that were needed like new social workers, and guidance counselors and so forth, deeply needed in our system, but weâ€™re looking at cutting 45 existing professional positions as well as another 58 paraprofessional positions."
Ramos, local business leaders and city officials have created a four-phase plan to improve public education in Bridgeport. The audit will support ongoing efforts to improve financial systems and separate the school budget from the cityâ€™s budget. School board president Max Medina, Jr. says its time for the Board of Ed to have control over its own finances.
"We therefore hope that what will come out of this will be a cleaner, simpler, more transparent system that eliminates all of the gimmicks that have in the past prejudiced the Bridgeport Board of Education in its operations."
Bridgeportâ€™s schools serve more than 21,000 students, more than 90% of whom live at or near the poverty level.