Ansonia public schools will stay open for now as school officials battle with the city over funding.
The Board of Education said Tuesday that the schools were in danger of closing around a week early because of a budget shortfall. During a meeting Tuesday night, the board voted to keep schools open for now. A court hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday where the school board will face off against the City of Ansonia.
The local board of education has been in a battle with the city and filed a lawsuit against it over education funding after the city’s Board of Aldermen voted to cut $600,000 in January because Ansonia received $1.8 million in state aid.
The lawsuit argues the municipality is “illegally” cutting its cash after already having approved the education budget.
A letter the attorney for the board of education sent on May 31 to the commissioner of the state Department of Education says the board is $500,000 short of being able to cover the payroll.
Ansonia Mayor David Cassetti said he feels terrible, but it’s also a bullying tactic by the local board of education and he’s not going to allow it to happen because he has a responsibility to look out for the best interests of taxpayers.
Ansonia Supt. Carol Merlone said during a news conference that the threat of an early closure was not a bluff.
"Today’s victims are our children – the children of Ansonia public schools and their parents. It’s a sad day when a municipality and a Board of Education are not working collaboratively in the best interest of children," Merlone said.
She added that without the $600,000, the schools cannot afford to stay open.
Ansonia is one of around 30 public school districts in the state that receives funding to help close the achievement gap.
The mayor said the city took back the $600,000 because it received an alliance grant, plus a priorities-zone grant.
“If we gave them that $600,000, we would have to give it to them next year and every year after that, which in 10 years would be over $6 million. It’s not sustainable every year for the residents of Ansonia,” Cassetti said.
The school year was supposed to end on June 18, according to the Ansonia board of education. An early closure could mean the district would not meet the state-mandated 180 days of school.
If districts do not meet the 180-day requirement and do not receive a waiver from the State Board of Education, then the state has the authority to initiate action against the district for non-compliance, according to the state Department of Education.
If Ansonia’s board of education voted to end the school year early, it would be in violation of the 180-day requirement in addition to other statutory obligations and the State Board of Education would have to examine the situation and determine appropriate next steps to take, according to the state Department of Education.
The court hearing between the district and the city is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on June 12 in Derby and should lead to more definitive answers about the school year.