Election Profile: Libero draws on education experience

Patricia B. Libero, the Republican contender for the state Senate 14th District seat, is counting on experience in education and education administration to help her make a difference on the state level if she is elected.

Libero was an educator for more than 37 years, serving as a special education teacher, principal and vice principal in the West Haven school system.

She has also taught at the University of New Haven as an adjunct professor, teaching special education classes. She was elected to the West Haven Board of Education in 2011, and served as chairman from 2013 to 2015. She was re-elected to the board in 2015.

When she announced her candidacy earlier this year, Libero said misguided legislation with unwise spending threatens the state’s economic stability and citizen’s jobs.

“Our ability to properly fund the education of our children, as well other basic needs like hospital funding, has been impacted,” she said.

During the campaign season, she has talked several times about the exodus from Connecticut, including retired teachers looking for a state that does not tax their pensions and where the cost of living is not so high.

“People, including many young adults, are leaving Connecticut in record numbers. Major businesses are leaving, too, as the departure of GE illustrates,” she said.

Libero grew up in West Haven, and she said her father, a tool and die maker, would be “turning over in his grave” at what the state is doing to businesses.

“We’re taxing them, taxing them and taxing them,” she said, adding that taxes are sending businesses elsewhere, and leaving residents with the tax burden.

She said the state needs to be more business-friendly to keep old and young people living in the state. New businesses, she said, will provide jobs for young people and help keep taxes lower for older citizens. She suggested that state leaders talk to students in college to see what types of careers they are pursuing and try to attract the companies that offer those jobs.

Libero said unrealistic budgets paint the state as irresponsible and anti-business and force cuts to programs, including education grants.

She said she will support lower taxes and sound fiscal policy.

“I will work to remove the ‘pork’ from our budget so we are not forced to cut important support for hospitals, education and mental health services,” Libero said.

During a debate before the Plymouth Men’s Club in September, Libero talked about why she thinks she can bring change where it is needed.

“When you are a special education teacher and you are a principal, you approach things in the same way because it’s all problem solving,” Libero said, explaining that if a child cannot read, the teacher tries one strategy and then another until one works.

That’s the kind of mind-set she said she would bring to Hartford, along with experience working in an environment where people talk to each other and work together to get things done.

She also talked about the state’s education cost sharing grant, saying it’s a complex formula that should be looked at and possibly made more equitable.

During the Men’s Club debate, Libero talked about closing a loophole in the affordable housing law that allows housing to be built “where it doesn’t belong.”

Asked about how she would control the state budget, Libero said she would focus on eliminating duplication of services and said there needs to be restructuring. The state “is not healthy now,” she said, adding that getting a handle on expenditures will require some hard decisions.

She talked about saving money by outsourcing some services, as the West Haven schools did with their lunch program.

Libero has also spoken several times about her opposition to state funding of charter schools. She said the state gives millions of dollars to charter schools, which are private enterprises and can solicit funding elsewhere. She said she supports magnet schools and technical schools and the like, but argues that charter schools are different and should not be taxpayer-funded.