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What’s wrong with this bill? Its ‘existence,’ lawmaker says

January 29, 2019 GMT

The very name and existence of a bill proposing school regionalization is a problem for Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-Wilton).

“I do have, and I know others share, concerns about if not the reality, the appearance of this concept,” Lavielle said during an education committee meeting Monday. “Many people that I have heard from have been very distressed simply because of the existence of the bill regardless of what it may ultimately say.”

Sen. Martin Looney proposed a bill last week that would “implement regional consolidation of school districts” and “require such school districts to join a regional school district.”

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There was immediate negative reaction to the bill from both Democrats and Republicans, largely from Fairfield County.

Senators Will Haskell (D-Westport) and Alex Bergstein (D-Greenwich) sent a letter to Looney expressing their lack of support. School administrators expressed similar feelings.

“A wholesale leap to regionalization at this time is not only unwise, but imprudent and would likely undermine our high quality system,” Weston Superintendent William McKersie said in a letter to parents.

Lavielle, in fact, an eight-year veteran of the legislature, said she’s never seen such a backlash against a bill.

“The distress has been so great I’ve never quite seen anything like it,” she told other members of the committee.

The problem, according to Lavielle, is the “forced” nature of regionalization.

The bill, “while although ambiguous on many counts does clearly talk of forced regionalization of school districts,” she said. “The distress is due to the forced character of the hypothetical regionalization the bill is suggesting.”

Sen. Douglas McCrory, who co-chairs the committee, said he hadn’t even read the bill, but saw it as little more than a way to begin a conversation about regionalization.

“I don’t think anyone’s very supportive of anything being forced,” he said.

Lavielle said she “would feel more comfortable if the title of the concept said it was enabling voluntary regionalization of services,” a suggestion McCrory did not consider.

“It’s going to stay that way until further notice,” he said. “I will not put an idea away because I feel scared.”

Jordan Fenster is the digital products editor for Hearst Connecticut. jordan.fenster@hearstmediact.com