To the Editor:
I don’t recognize the town that Greenwich Republican candidates describe.
The town they describe is declining, with shrinking student enrollment and schools the town cannot afford to update, not even to comply with the law. This sounds like a town that is down on its luck, on the way out. Republican candidates have lost hope in Greenwich. They say our stock is tanking.
This defeatist attitude has been part of the governing Republican narrative for years— and bears no relation to the truth. For example, in the spring of 2020, as new families were streaming into Greenwich and houses were selling sight unseen for record prices, the Republican-controlled Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) forced the Board of Education (BOE) to cut the school budget (after it had already been approved). They claimed that Greenwich would suffer major setbacks from the pandemic and we all should get ready for hard times. I was a mother with three children in public schools and a college freshman who was suddenly back home. I was frantic for a plan to educate my children. But instead of allowing the BOE and the superintendent of schools to focus on education, the BET forced them to spend precious weeks cutting the budget, because Republicans said Greenwich was a fragile town on the brink of failure, unable to withstand this crisis.
Meanwhile, as we all know, Greenwich real estate, which pays for the schools through real estate taxes, dramatically increased in value, and sales volume was through the roof. In the three years since the pandemic the total value of residential sales in Greenwich is $8 billion, yes, billion. There is a lot of private money being invested in this town. The town has collected over $20 million in conveyance taxes since September 2020. Prices are still at record highs and Greenwich is booming.
Now, after three years of record real estate sales with young families streaming into Greenwich, the Republican establishment is still saying that Greenwich Public School enrollment will definitely shrink in the near future. They talk about public schools as a cost center and embrace the idea of decreased school enrollment as an opportunity to save money and “right size schools.”
Shrinking enrollment should be alarming to anyone concerned about the long-term well being of our town. Schools are not cost centers, they are economic drivers and a key indicator of the economic health of our town. Many Greenwich residents work in our schools, many local businesses rely on students and young families for their livelihood; from local delis and club sport programs to medical providers. Instead of focusing on shrinking school size and budgets, our town should focus on what we can do to attract new families and grow enrollment in our schools, because that will grow our local economy.
A great example of a school at the center of a revitalized community is Cos Cob School. After it was destroyed in a fire in 1990, some local officials said it should not be rebuilt. The argument against rebuilding at that time was the same argument that we hear today: enrollment might shrink, therefore it would be financially prudent to shutter the school. Fortunately, the community rallied and demanded a new school. That school anchors a neighborhood that has thrived in recent decades with major private investment all along Putnam Avenue. Schools are an investment in the future and an economic driver for our town.
Republicans seem to believe our town is shrinking and in decline, and their reluctance to fund urgent school infrastructure has dramatically increased the cost of projects that could have been initiated when interest rates and inflation were low. Sadly, since Republican officials don’t believe in our town, they refuse to invest in it.
But Democrats are planning for growth and prosperity in the future, and we are right to be optimistic. This year, enrollment exceeded projections by 208 students, with a 20% jump in kindergarten enrollment. This spike is driven by an influx of families moving to Greenwich. The families choosing Greenwich believe it is, and will continue to be, a great place to raise a family and enroll children in the public schools.
Greenwich residents deserve a government that will invest in our community alongside us. Public investment is needed to support and safeguard the billions of dollars that have been invested by Greenwich residents, old and new.
This November 7th I hope I can count on your support to vote for me, and for all six Democratic BET members who will invest in Greenwich.
Koven is a Democratic candidate for the Greenwich Board of Education