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Bus loads of people descend on the Capitol complex in Hartford to voice disapproval to school district regionalization

HARTFORD -- Bus loads of people descended on the Capitol complex Friday to voice their opposition to three bills that propose regionalizing Connecticut’s schools.

So many people showed up to hear the testimony in the Education Committee that they had to designate three additional overflow rooms.

Regionalization would essentially combine multiple districts under one administrative umbrella in an effort to save money and be more efficient.

Three bills propose regionalizing school districts. The Governor’s bill seeks to combine school districts with fewer than 10,000 residents or fewer than 2,000 students.

“Sharing Superintendents, sharing back office functions. They’ll receive priority for new bonding. Let’s incentivize smart choices,” said Gov. Lamont during his budget address.

Republicans say it’s being forced.

State Rep. Gail Lavielle, a Republican from the 143rd District said the bills, “Explicitly require mandatory school consolidation and regionalization.” Democrats say that’s not true.

“So none of the 3 bills that are there today are forced regionalization. There’s no such thing,” explained Sen. Cathy Osten, a Democrat from the 19th District.

Senator Osten has her own bill which proposes combining districts until a student population goes over 2,000.

“Not a single one of those bills moves a single child out of any school district,” said Senator Osten.

And then there’s Senator Martin Looney. His regionalization bill based on a probate map would leave only 24 of 169 communities untouched.

“One of the options would be if districts decline to participate, the penalty would be a financial one,” explained Sen. Looney, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

Joe Reardon is the Superintendent of Connecticut’s smallest district, Union. “It just takes the personal aspect of education out of it, and what is education if it’s not personal?” he asked.

Republicans tapped into the outrage. They held a press conference to let constituents know they stand opposed.

“This is a petition that came up from the grassroots with more than 8,300 signatures,” said Rep. Lavielle.

Beyond regionalization, Fox 61 also talked to parents opposed to state oversight on homeschooling. People also showed up to voice their opposition to the Governor’s controversial proposal to stabilize the teacher pension by shifting a portion of the costs to cities and towns.

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