Needleman to Hartford: Cut the Red Tape and Help Towns Work Together

ESSEX, CT - Essex First Selectman and businessman Norm Needleman submitted testimony to the Education Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly calling for changes in state law to allow local school districts to better work together.

Needleman testified in support of Senate Bill 361, An Act Concerning Interdistrict Cooperation and the Reporting Requirement of Cooperative Arrangements. Calling it “a good step in the right direction,” Needleman specified his support of portions of the bill that seek to allow cooperative agreements between school districts so they can consolidate their reporting for the purposes of the reporting requirements.

“Chester, Deep River, and Essex have been working closely together for decades and currently share both education and municipal costs. We have found that state law often makes it difficult to do things cooperatively. Many times expenditures and programs that are run as a single unit have to be broken out into their component parts in order to comply with state mandates. No place is this more problematic than in education.”

“While our three towns are doing everything right when it comes to regional cooperation, cost sharing has created additional layers of bureaucracy that are necessary in order to comply with state mandates.”

“While the aggregation of reporting is important and helpful, we’d like to see a bolder approach, namely looking at what defines a Local Education Agency (LEA) in Connecticut law for the purposes of federal programs like Special Education and allowing these cooperative agreements to be recognized as single LEA.”

“I urge members of the committee to take a close look at what we are doing here in Chester, Deep River, and Essex and see how some additional changes will allow for a more innovative approach to cost sharing statewide.”

The 33rd State Senate District consists of the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and a portion of Old Saybrook.