17th District Sen. Logan holds forum

HAMDEN >> The cost of education was on the minds of the more than two dozen people who came to meet Sen. George S. Logan, R-17, the town’s newest state senator recently at his first forum in Hamden.

Logan, of Ansonia, beat longtime Democratic Sen. Joseph J. Crisco Jr. in November to take over representation of the 17th District, which includes parts of Hamden, Woodbridge, Bethany and the Valley.

This is Logan’s first time in office after a long career with the Aquarion Water Co. Bridgeport. He has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Trinity College and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Bridgeport.

Despite his freshman status, Logan was named the Senate Republican majority whip and is co-chairman of the Planning and Development Committee and vice chairman of the Public Health and Veterans Affairs committees, and is a member of the Education and Regulation Review committees.

Southern Connecticut State University English professor Tim Parrish attended the event at the Thornton Wilder Auditorium of the Miller Library Complex to speak for his students, who he said are being crushed by the cost of the public university,.

“Public higher education in Connecticut is becoming private schools,” Parrish said. He noted that the state picks up only about 30 percent of the cost of tuition for each student, leaving them responsible for the bulk. “A lot of these students are working full-time jobs while going to school full-time, and then leave $50,000 in debt,” he said. “Public education is going to die in this state.”

It isn’t only the college students affected by a lack of state education funding, town resident Eben Stewart said.

“At Church Street School, we are struggling,” he said.

His two children attend the school, and one receives special education services. The school is doing a great job with insufficient funding, but needs more, he said.

“We are really worried that we are not going to get support from the state,” Stewart said.

“We are lucky that we actually get more help than the schools in the northern part of town,” he said.

He was referring to demographics of Church Street that include a mix of family incomes. Church Street is one of the schools that benefits from the $4 million state Alliance Grant the town receives for being one of the 30 lowest-performing districts in the state.

That grant runs out this year and it’s not yet known whether it will be renewed for next year. Town and school officials have warned that the loss of the money would decimate the school system.

“We are going to do everything we can to keep that from happening,” Logan said.

If the funds are cut, programs that aren’t mandated, such as the Talented and Gifted program, likely will go away, Campo said.

That isn’t a state-mandated program, she said, so it can be cut, unlike special education programs. “Special education programs will continue, but at the expense of everyone else,” she said.

Logan said he wants to see the state overhaul its handling of special education costs.

Some municipalities have a larger number of special education students, which can often require very costly programs the municipality is responsible for providing, Logan said. Instead of the burden falling on the municipality, special education should be looked at as a statewide cost that should be shared, he said.

“When we talk about state special education students, I don’t think any municipality should be overburdened,” he said.

Stewart said he graduated from the University of Connecticut but fears he won’t be able to offer the same opportunity to his children because of the cost of the state’s flagship school. “I don’t know if I can send my kids to UConn,” he said.

The state university system needs to cut back on other costs to drop tuition, Logan said.

“They need to run their programs more efficiently and get the right people in administration positions,” he said. “We have all the pieces — the talent, the students, the revenue — but we need to spend that money more wisely.”

One woman, who said she is a graduate student at UConn, said she couldn’t understand why top administrators at the university get raises while tuition keeps rising.

“How is that allowed?” she asked, citing the almost $200,000 given to UConn President Susan Herbst last year in raises and bonuses. “We are struggling. How are they allowed to give raises?”

The state oversees the Connecticut University System, and the state needs to take action, Logan said.

“They need folks who are willing to make hard decisions,” he said. The thought behind the high administrative salaries is that they need to be competitive with comparable jobs in the private sector, Logan said.