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Meriden magnet school asks lawmakers to protect funding



02/08/2017 - Page C01


MERIDEN — After a 6 percent budget reduction in 2016-17, staff and teachers at Thomas Edison Middle School are working to prevent further cuts as state lawmakers tackle an estimated $1.5 billion budget deficit this spring.

Parents, school staff and lawmakers met in the North Broad Street school’s media room Tuesday morning to ask for help in protecting magnet school funding.

"We have pretty much gone through all the line items in our budget without directly impacting student programming," Edison Principal Karen Habegger said. "Purchasing any textbooks and program supplies has been stopped. We’re doing everything we can to cut corners."

ACES operates the magnet school, which specializes in math, science, engineering and technology. Another 6 percent reduction in next year’s budget would mean a $1.4 million loss in funding from the state over two years. Habegger said the impact would be "staggering."

Former Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey, a Democrat, advised parents and educators to let their voices be heard.

"ACES is such a vital part of our region," Sharkey said. "We spent a lot of time working to make sure we’re keeping our magnet schools out in front."

Casey Camire, a 2006 Thomas Edison graduate, is now a scientist at the Henkel Corp. in Trumbull. Camire told lawmakers Tuesday that the school was a vital resource for nurturing his interest in math and science. Camire went on to attend Platt High School and UConn.

"This is the key to investing in places like this," Camire said. "The workforce comes not just from the universities but from schools like Thomas Edison."

State Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, was a member of the Meriden Board of Education when the school was built. "(Edison) has been a boon to public schools in Meriden," Suzio said.

Suzio encouraged parents and educators to contact members of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee.

"There are going to be some hard choices," he said.

ACES, with three magnet and five special education schools, serves more than 2,000 students in New Haven County. Meriden partners with Middletown and Region 13 school districts to bring students to Thomas Edison. Those towns pay $5,444 per student for tuition, with the state making up the difference. Thomas Edison also has arrangements with Naugatuck, Hamden and Waterbury and Wallingford to send students to the school. Those towns pay $5,988 per student.

One parent from Waterbury told lawmakers the school has made a big difference in the lives of the 34 students who attend from the city. Transportation is not provided, except through a stipend, but Waterbury parents have found a way. Waterbury has a magnet middle school, but not all interested students get a slot.

Thomas Edison has also partnered with the University of New Haven on an engineering program through a grant that offers an engineering curriculum to every student in the school.

"Middle school is where the children make up their minds what they want to do with the rest of their lives," said state Rep. Hilda Santiago, D-Meriden. "Parents need to get involved in advocating for the children. Magnet schools are very important." (203) 317-2255 Twitter: @Cconnbiz


Thomas Edison Middle School parent Joby Rogers questions lawmakers about education funding during a meeting Tuesday at the magnet school in Meriden.

| Mary Ellen Godin, Record-Journal

By Mary Ellen Godin Record-Journal staff