Early this spring, I went to where I grew up on Malikowski Circle in New Britain. I knocked on doors to greet residents. They remembered me as Bobby, their trusted voice on the local board of education, as their state representative, as their voice leading the state’s education committee. Regardless of what level of government I was at, they remember me; I am someone that they trust. I was back home in the Oval Grove.
I asked them about the last time they saw the mayor in their neighborhood. Walking around this dense, diverse, low-income housing development run by the New Britain Housing Authority, one woman revealed to me, “I haven’t seen our mayor in eight years.”
These words stuck with me. I couldn’t stop hearing her voice repeatedly during my late nights at the Capitol while fighting for New Britain with our state delegation seeking more funding, being a voice for all our urban communities as chair of the education committee. And even after all of this, it won’t be enough for New Britain to bounce back post-pandemic properly. Malikowski Circle and many other areas of New Britain face the same challenges they faced decades ago. The same difficulties my hardworking parents faced: sacrificing everything so that we had a shot at living a good life. I heard those words in my head, and then I heard the words from Mayor Erin Stewart in her State of the City Address.
She has chosen not to increase funding for our school district for the fifth year in a row but presented a slight property tax decrease in the wake of a contested election year. She claims our schools must do better, but not with more money. The New Britain Consolidated School District, after these years of flat funding, is last in the state in local funding and test scores. Let that sink in.
Our city currently spends just over $4,000 per student, profoundly relying on the state which allocates about $8,500 per New Britain student. The Learning Policy Institute has found that a 21.7% increase in per pupil spending could completely turn around school districts with learning gaps and higher proportions of low-income, working-class families. A thriving New Britain Consolidated School District isn’t $13,785 per student in combined funding but more like $16,776 per student. Turning around our failing school system starts with new leadership to right our fiscal ship and make long-term investments in the future of our students.
How will we attract new families to move into our city and keep our economy alive with a failing school district, and a chief executive who has shown through their actions that they don’t care to fund our children’s future?
I am working tirelessly with our state delegation to secure more funding for our schools, but we need trusted leadership at the local level. We can keep electing the same names to our chief executive office, expecting action, but left with the same results. We desperately need a mayor in New Britain who values public education and has the tested leadership and relationships at local and state levels of government that is collaborative, productive, and not divisive. Our taxpayers deserve a budget that shares their values.
I know with my experience not only just on our local board of education, but as the chair of the Education Committee at the Legislature, I can produce an equitable budget for New Britain that puts our kids, and their futures first. I hope you will join this cause. I hope you believe that New Britain can be a city where everyone has the opportunity to realize their fullest potential. To get there, things need to change at the local level. I hope you will join me on this journey to lead New Britain into new horizons.
State Rep. Bobby Sanchez, a Democrat, is a candidate for mayor of New Britain.