Don Harris Open Letter

Don Harris Open Letter to Bloomfield 2023
Posted on 03/24/2023
Don Harris

                    Town’s Investment in School District Embarrassing

Dear Bloomfield community:

I would like to share recent findings about the town’s investment in our school system, information articulated to the Bloomfield Town Council at our budget presentation Tuesday, March 21.

The school district conducted an internal examination of eight neighbor-towns, including Bloomfield, assessing the percentage of each town’s annual budget earmarked for education last year

The towns are:

  • Bloomfield
  • Granby
  • Simsbury
  • Avon
  • Windsor
  • Rocky Hill
  • Wethersfield
  • West Hartford

This study shows that the Town of Bloomfield ranks last in the percentage of its town budget earmarked for Education. Last!

Every town on the list - except Bloomfield - invests at least 50% of its overall town budget into Education. Most municipalities are investing well-over 50%. Bloomfield only invests 46.8% of our Town budget in Education. As taxpayers in this town, we should be very disappointed – and embarrassed.

The study suggests that Bloomfield is not as committed to its school system, as its neighboring towns. It suggests that our collective rhetoric – and vision – of a vibrant town, with high-quality schools, is simply not aligned with our budgeted-resources.

My hope is that during this budget season the elected leaders and community members in Bloomfield can talk candidly – and constructively – about the level of investment we are making in our schools. We can (and must) do better!

The examination of the eight towns revealed other troubling disparities between Bloomfield and the other towns. For example:

  • Of Bloomfield’s approximate 2,100 students 58% require free or reduced lunch. In West Hartford, it is 26.1%. In Simsbury, it is 15.6%. In Windsor, it is 41%.
  • Bloomfield – at 65.74% - has the highest percentage of students identified as “High Needs” by the CT State Department of Education. High needs students meet the following criteria: Receive Special Educational services; identify as an English-Language learner; receive free, or reduced meals, based on household income.

  • 20 percent of students enrolled in Bloomfield public schools require special education instruction and services, above the state average of 17.2%.

Despite these troubling – and debilitating - disparities, there is good news:

Last year, our school district launched new academic programs that we anticipate will transform pre-K to Grade 12 education in our town for generations to come:

  • We opened a new pre-K program at Laurel Elementary School
  • We started a Talented and Gifted program for those in grades 4 through 8
  • We have enhanced the college-and-career readiness program at the high schools.

Recently, two of our schools – Metacomet Elementary School and Carmen Arace Intermediate School – were identified by the State Department of Education as “Schools of Distinction”.

The recognition is connected to the recently released Next Generation Accountability Report, which measures how well a school is preparing students for college and meaningful careers. Both Metacomet and CAIS were in the Top 10% of Connecticut schools for growth of students identified as “high needs” in the area of English Language Arts.

Using the state’s Accountability index, we compared Bloomfield Public Schools with local CREC Magnet Schools.

The finding shows Bloomfield-run schools rank first, second and third when compared to our local Magnet Schools. So, despite what some may believe, our district is highly competitive when compared to local Magnet Schools.

Our proposed Board of Education budget for the 2023-24 year is $53.14 million - – an 8.8% increase over the current-year’s spending. The key drivers are:

  • Contractual staff salaries
  • Medical health insurance
  • Out-of-district tuition costs

The out-going town manager has gutted our proposal and has, instead, presented an education budget to the town council that reflects a paltry increase of 2%. The council, however, has the power to increase our funding.

Bloomfield residents, the bottom line is we need to be committed to investing in our children if we truly want this town we love to reach its full potential. High-quality schools are the foundation of high-quality towns.


Donald F. Harris, Jr.

Click on the links below to see the supporting data.


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