Stratford Republicans Cutting The Legs From Under Our Schools

Stratford Town Hall

In a contentious conclusion to the 2024-2025 budget cycle, Stratford’s Republican-controlled Town Council, with support from Councilman Alvin O’Neal a registered Democrat, passed a budget that grossly underfunded Stratford Public Schools. Following the passage of the Town’s budget, the Board of Education with a Republican majority voted to wipe out the ALPHA Alternative High School Program, and numerous teaching and administrative positions across the district, including more than half of all the school librarians.

Our dedicated Democratic council members—Kaitlyn Shake, Anthony Afriye, Rene Gibson, and Chris Green—stood resolutely by their constituents. They listened, advocated, and fought tirelessly to secure desperately needed additional funding for our schools. Despite their heroic efforts, the Republicans remained inflexible, deploying every tactic to avoid giving the BOE the requested increase, including manipulating the numbers to create the illusion of a larger allocation and prioritizing politics over the well-being of our students.

Councilman O’Neal’s alignment with the Republicans, despite his Democratic affiliation and the expectations of his District 3 constituents, has been seen as a profound betrayal. His vote undermines the educational needs of the district’s 7,000 public school students. Mr. O’Neal appeared to have succumbed to political pressure rather than standing up for his community. Since the Town’s budget was passed, residents have been contacting us to express their anger toward Mr. O’Neal for his vote.

This incident echoes a troubling pattern where the Republican administration has swayed Democratic council members to secure a majority vote. David Harden, a former District 4 Councilman, frequently broke party lines to support the Republicans. Widely known, Harden’s support for the Republican agenda came with the promise of a building being named after his grandmother. Our Democratic Council members are here to deliver for the residents of Stratford, it is clear Councilman O’Neal does not share that commitment. Instead, he delivered a gut punch by turning his back on the residents of District 3 who put their faith in him to advocate for their school. 

While his Republican counterparts likely understood the consequences, Mr. O’Neal failed to realize that the impact of these budget cuts historically, is acutely felt in his district, where Stratford Academy Johnson House and the Stratford Academy Victoria Soto School often bear the brunt of financial shortfalls. In his speech before the vote, Mr. O’Neal emphasized that he takes people at their word and would own up to his mistakes if his budget decision proved wrong. Unfortunately, our children’s futures are on the line–they cannot afford to wait for a do-over.

For two decades, the Republican Party has held sway over Stratford’s governance, from Town Hall to the Board of Education. Mayor Laura Hoydick, in office since 2017, Lou DeCilio, the influential chair of the Stratford Republican Town Committee, and other Republicans in office have frequently emphasized the stability of the town’s mill rate under their leadership. However, this fiscal restraint has come at the cost of our public education. 

DeCilio’s stance on education funding is well-known. In 2020, he threatened political consequences if public dissatisfaction became too visible. Warning some Board of Education members against pushing for a budget increase above what the Mayor was going to put forth publicly in her budget proposal, saying “…if we get a parade of parents at the budget hearings because we aren’t giving the BOE the money they are looking for it will be a very strategic mistake.” This highlights the broader atmosphere of intimidation and fear of retribution that many past and present town officials have quietly expressed if they defy the Republican leadership.

The community is growing frustrated by the current administration for their displaced priorities. Stratford needs real change and this is only possible if voters stop electing Republicans into office, or we will continue to get the same feckless caving to DeCilio and Hoydick’s influence. 

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