Challenger in the 28th district, Dwyer, hopes to fix education

FAIRFIELD — Fairfield Board of Education Chairman and Democrat Philip Dwyer plans to address “one size fits all” public education legislation, over-regulation of businesses and funds for transportation if elected this November.

Dwyer is looking to win the Republican-held 28th District state Senate seat, representing Fairfield, Newtown, Easton, Westport and Weston.

“I’m on the local Board of Education, I’m engaged in the town,” he said. “And I see decisions that are being made up in Hartford that have a negative impact on both the Board of

Education and the town. I think we need a strong voice with the majority up there to represent the real needs of this town as well as all five towns that are part of the 28th District.”

If elected, Dwyer believes education would require immediate action. He emphasized about 65 percent of town budgets in the 28th fund public education and the state’s “one size fits all” approach does not lend itself to serving children.

Dwyer said the state’s recent appeal of a school funding ruling that found Connecticut has allowed poor districts to lag and wealthier ones succeed, not meeting its requirement to adequately educate all students, will cause the issue to be at the forefront over the next two years.

“The problem is going to be solved because the Legislature focuses on that right after the election and continues working on it while the appeal is in process because that has to be job one,” he said. “If it is not job one of the Legislature to deal with the fundamental issue of inequality and how to fairly apportion state money then, the Legislature is not doing their job.”

Dwyer would also look to support a more flexible program for classroom rigor than the current Common Core and a serious look at and action on teacher evaluations. He said the current state and governor’s plan over-emphasizes standardized test scores, as well as that students are being over-tested.

Dwyer served on the Board of Education in Rye, N.Y. and now chairs Fairfield’s board. He also referenced his two-decade career with the YMCA, which he said brought him into every school in Bridgeport. He said he has an understanding of both urban schools and suburban and rural educational needs, which he believes is needed in the state Legislature.

Dwyer retired as YMCA Central Connecticut Coast branch president and C.E.O. six years ago.

The Democratic candidate would also look to increase job development and called for a “laser focus on strengthening our economy by attracting businesses who will grow jobs, who will then grow the population and strengthen the state.”

Businesses bringing issues to the state are faced with over-regulation and a lack of flexibility, Dwyer said. Growing small and mid-sized businesses would make the state and his district stronger, he added.

“There’s just a different approach that Connecticut has to adopt that makes it friendlier, less onerous to solve a business person’s issue, to cause them to be able to stay or grow their business,” he said.

On the transportation front, Dwyer would generally support the Governor’s transportation plan to create a “lockbox” for transportation funds.

Dwyer faces incumbent state Sen. Tony Hwang, R-28. On what separates him from his opponent, Dwyer emphasized the work the puts in.

“For me, commitment to community is not a political headline, is not a phrase that you adopt because it sounds good,” he said. “For me, commitment to community is a calling.”

Dwyer grew up in a town that he called very much like Fairfield. He and his siblings were raised by a single mother on Social Security widow’s benefits after his father’s death when Dwyer was 11.

“I reject to this idea that government can only do so much,” he said, referencing his experience growing up. “Towns do not exist to make Hartford strong. It’s the other way around.”

Dwyer and his wife of 47 years have two adult sons, the eldest of which came out to the couple at the end of his senior year.

“I was never more proud of him than on that day, when he had the courage of his conviction to share with his parents who he was,” Dwyer said.

In the presidential election, Dwyer said he fully supports Hillary Clinton for president, not because of his party affiliation but from his personal experience with the candidate and his adamant opposition to Donald Trump’s “despicable treatment of human beings.”

The Connecticut Education Association, Planned Parenthood and the Working Families Party have endorsed Dwyer.

Lweiss@hearstmediact.com; @LauraEWeiss16

 

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