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What's Behind, What's Ahead, and an Ask


Happy Back-to-School everyone! I hope the usual first week kinks have finally landed in the rear view mirror.


I wanted to touch base here at the start of the school year and bring you up to date on a couple items, and with your help, establishing the road ahead in 2023-24.


To start, NPI was always designed as an adjunct resource to the usual social media-based ones, geared to offering some opinion and context where Facebook makes it difficult to do so. Its role as a one stop shop for FAQs will be mitigated some by both the district's new, much-needed website (an information gap we tried to fill) and the upcoming School+State Finance Project's new data resource tool, which we'll help disseminate in due time.


What it will remain dominantly as is a critical aggregate of parent demands and a vehicle to make those clear and accessible to stakeholders. In Norwalk, the need for proactive parent engagement is not going away, and PTOs should not be put in the position to solely represent parents on critical financial, policy, or systemic needs that require elected officials and their staff's attention. We will continue to help fill that void, and I'll continue to chuck popcorn from the bleachers when I feel it's warranted.


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With your help in 2022-23 we had some things to be proud of:


- Led by School+State Finance Project, NPI's subscriber list led the way on petitioning the state to halve the time in which we receive the extra promised state dollars as part of the ECS formula, from 2028 to 2026, resulting in an extra $326M to public schools in the state, and a $2.6M infusion to Norwalk specifically. No one is arguing this is enough, but it's progress.


- Also with S+SFP leading resources, increasing the ECS formula weight for MLL learners from 15% to 25%, directing more money to districts like Norwalk with larger percentage of need, along with lower eligibility thresholds for poverty demands.


- $150M more for public schools statewide in 2025 to help mitigate the loss of COVID relief dollars and resulting layoffs. Your emails to us, NPS staff, and elected representatives played a critical role in Norwalk showing up and campaigning for these needs.


- Partnering with city stakeholders to promote more direct community aide engagement with NPS to mitigate operating budget challenges. This has led to new initiatives for this year with Norwalk ACTs and Mid-Fairfield Community Care Center, including a classroom level program, starting in third grade, designed to flag social-emotional needs in elementary students.


- Commitments from our state representatives to pursue deeper state and federal relationships to push more grant dollars Norwalk's way to support other demanding needs, such as SPED and 504 funding.


Will all of these solve Norwalk's challenges? Absolutely not. But we'll keep at it where we can, chipping away where the demands are. That's why we need to keep up the communication, and when required, pressure on our city, state, and federal officials to not let Norwalk continue to fall into its crevice as a high property tax, high need city.


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Going into this year, I have a few items of keen interest:


- A new high school, which I have openly supported, now requiring 200 out of district students, not 100 as originally pitched, being built with a much appreciated (and essential) 80% reimbursement rate - but with nearly $50M coming from our taxpayers right out of the gate, at much higher interest rates than originally conceived. Personally, I still support the long term need here, and recognize the past and future financial implications from both paying for past updates and this new school. I also recognize the impact these pressures will have on many of our citizens in both the short and medium terms.


- Another, even more essential, new school in South Norwalk. The arguments over its location arent worth relitigating, but what I want to know is, how our elected body is going to pay for its basic operating costs (staffing in particular, at ~$10M+ annually) when we already annual pull our hair out to fund the basic needs of our existing schools. The loss of these students from other schools to fill this school will not be an apples to apples transfer of funds. Not by a longshot. The Council and Mayor, along with NPS, need to start answering these questions sooner than later. I predict it'll be an exciting sideshow of the 2024 budget season.


- A full, repeated, on the record commitment by Mayor Rilling to fund the current capital demands of upgrading and repairing existing schools' critical needs, all the while, as noted above, taking on substantial more capital demands of two new schools. These schools are heavily subsidized, but not without substantial financial commitments. At the end of the day, I do not fault or regret supporting these two major investments; I question the historical foresight of our elected officials to put ourselves in the position we are in to claw our way uphill in this effort.


- While short term there are very little (apart from maybe another new restaurant), I'd like to know the true net tax benefits of the apartment complexes in the medium and long term. There is evidence in Danbury of these types of developments offering very little in terms of benefit to the school budgeting, and I am interested in gathering data on this. These developments are regularly sited by city officials as a means to maximize city investment to regulate property taxes and continue school investment, so it's important we get a sense of the true net results here in other cases.


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I also want to ask this of all of you:


How can we be more helpful? This is an operation of more or less, one - but I want to know what voids we can help fill in your relationships with your school community and the stakeholders that guide policy. Please help grow the community by encouraging your friends and peers to subscribe and communicate your thoughts to me directly by emailing NorwalkParentsInitiative@gmail.com.



Thanks for reading,








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