As a long-time resident of Norwalk, I’m saddened by the attitude I encounter as a real estate agent: I can’t tell you how many times I have been showing homes to potential buyers and they make derogatory comments about how the quality of Norwalk’s schools. Just last weekend, I was working with clients looking for homes in Wilton and Westport. I asked if they would consider surrounding areas and they responded “Yes, but definitely NOT Norwalk.”
It stung to hear them eliminate Norwalk from their consideration set but I understood why they did. I have lived here for 20 years and my children all attended Norwalk Public Schools. My two daughters are graduates of Norwalk High School; however, three years ago I took my son out of Norwalk Public Schools and moved him to a private school. It was a difficult decision, but the writing was on the wall. Year after year, I watched our schools struggle with being over-crowded, programs being cut, and teachers and support staff burdened with overwhelming caseloads.
A high-quality school system is what will attract more home buyers to our town. COVID has had a huge impact on this community from an education standpoint and students and teachers are struggling to adapt. That’s why, it’s unfathomable to me that the city is poised to receive a 6.1% increase in funding while the Board of Ed would only receive a 2% increase which would result in $5 million in cuts from our schools. Our district already operates on a shoestring budget – what on earth is there left to cut??
I keep hearing talk about how the school district can access federal funding and while that would be helpful in creating additional programs and hiring more staff, it cannot be used to cover existing costs.
Without the City’s investment in our schools, the perception of Norwalk’s schools as being low quality will continue to persist and result in lowered home values as compared to our neighboring communities. And as we know, lower home values results in lower taxes which results in even less money to fund our schools and other community needs.
No one likes to pay more taxes, but we simply can’t continue to shortchange our schools. Our school system is in crisis and we need leaders committed to actionable change. Our students and their families are watching. Please, Common Council members, don’t turn your back on them. Please do the right thing and fully fund the BOE by approving a 4.6% increase.