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DeVivo and Johnson speak on educational equity

Published on November 02, 2021

DeVivo and Johnson speak on educational equity

Devivo and Johnson
Windham Mayor Tom DeVivo and State Rep. Susan Johnson speak with students in Eastern's Proscenium Theatre. 

Windham Mayor Tom DeVivo and State Rep. Susan Johnson visited Eastern Connecticut State University on Oct. 27 to discuss public education and their aspirations for a new magnet school in Windham.

Johnson is an Eastern graduate who has served on the education committee of the Connecticut General Assembly since 2009. She was motivated to become involved in state government due to the educational disparities between towns.

Johnson said the relatively small state of Connecticut contains 169 towns and more than 200 school systems. “Property taxes fund education,” she said, adding that poor towns end up with underfunded schools while nearby affluent towns are able to invest more in education.

The answer, she says, is to do away with town-based schools and to implement regional schools that are funded by groups of towns. Windham is home to a school that utilizes this type of regional approach. Barrow’s STEM Academy is a public magnet school with a focus on STEM education that draws students from 20 towns.

Johnson said the magnet system is the outcome of the Connecticut Supreme Court case Sheff v. Oneil, which called for the desegregation of public schools. Magnet schools are public schools with a specialized curriculum that reserve a percentage of classroom seats for students from other towns, as a means to ensure diversity.

Johnson and DeVivo both want to establish another magnet school in town—one with a focus on dual language. DeVivo admits that the community was divided on building Barrows, but the school now has strong enrollment and support from the region. “We built a school for the future,” he said. “Education is paramount to our success.”

When asked why residents without school-aged children should support investing in public schools, DeVivo responded that a strong school system attracts residents and businesses and increases property values.

Written by Michael Rouleau