Jul 28, 2014

State's Technical High Schools Make Case to Stay Open

The superintendent who oversees the state's 20 vocational technical high schools says she's planning to open all of the schools this fall.

State's Technical High Schools Make Case to Stay Open

With orders from the governor to cut $33.5 million this year and $38.8 million next year, the state Board of Education on Wednesday heard a report from Brian Mahoney, the board’s chief financial officer, on the status of its budget.

And since Mahoney brought with him Patricia A. Ciccone, superintendent of the state’s vocational technical high school system, the board had an obvious question: “Are the majority of cuts coming from the technical high schools?”

“Not necessarily,” was Mahoney’s answer.

While Ciccone stressed several times that she is looking at where cuts can be made in her high school system, “we are not considering closing any schools.”

She added, however, that if too many cuts are made at any particular school, they won’t have the staff needed to run classes and it might not make sense to keep that facility open.

“But that’s not where we are at the moment,” she said. “My focus is on keeping the schools open, getting students back into the schools and maintaining normal operations.”

The state’s technical high school program comprises 20 schools across the state, including . The schools’ enrollments are made up of students who live in towns throughout central Connecticut.

Closing any school would be devastating to students and parents, Ciccione said.

Mahoney is reviewing the state education budget after the General Assembly passed a revised budget following the rejection by some state employee unions of Gov. Malloy’s budget-balancing deal. The new budget includes cuts in state programs as well as a plan to lay off thousands of state employees.

Mahoney said he has not yet identified specific cuts to present to the board, but would have a list of proposed reductions by the board’s next meeting in August.

Some 93 percent of the state’s education budget funds programs in local districts and only five percent of it reflects funding for the vocational high school system, Mahoney said. However, much of the funding to local districts is mandated state grants that can’t be cut.

Ciccione said that whatever the board decides to cut, the timing of its decisions is crucial. Administrators are moving ahead with hiring decisions, she said, and with getting their schools ready to open at summer’s end.

“That’s not something that can wait until Aug. 31,” she said. “Even Aug. 1 would be very difficult.”

Members of the board said they don’t want to see any of its technical high schools close.

Board member Patricia B. Luke said that too often budget cuts end up hurting students.

“That’s wrong. They have a right to an education that’s suitable to them. To snatch that away now is just not right. These kids become sacrificial lambs,” Luke said. 

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