In a report released Thursday, a nonprofit advocacy group closely aligned with Yale’s unions called for the University to embrace a “social contract” with its host city and play a more active role in public education by financing more teachers and classrooms.
The report, “Schools, Taxes and Jobs,” was released by the Connecticut Center for the New Economy and prepared by Antony Dugdale, a research analyst for Yale’s unions.
Using an analysis of the city’s tax rolls, the CCNE report suggests that Yale owes New Haven $12.5 million, making frequent reference to a perceived disparity between the University’s affluence and the city’s traditionally underprivileged communities.
“Yale has both a self-interest and a responsibility to make direct contributions to our city’s public schools,” the report says.
The report suggests that Yale pay $2 to $6.4 million directly to the New Haven school system. Under the proposal, the money would be taken from interest on the University’s $10.7 billion endowment.
The report, the third in a series of CCNE publications, was released just a week before Yale and its two largest unions, locals 34 and 35, begin negotiations to renew contracts for nearly 4,000 clerical, technical, service, dining hall and maintenance workers.
Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said she disagreed with the premise of the report and noted Yale’s contributions to the city in taxes and other volunteer and collaborative efforts in local schools.
“[When] you have somebody coming out and saying New Haven schools are bad because Yale doesn’t pay taxes, that’s a very spurious argument,” Klasky said. “Yale is a very conscientious citizen.”
Julio Gonzalez ’99, an executive assistant to New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., said additional funds would not be a cure-all for the school system.
Speaking for the mayor, Gonzalez said that, while such a payment would have “some impact,” state aid and long-term efforts to reduce poverty levels are better ways to improve education.
“The bottom line is we spend a lot of money per pupil,” Gonzalez said. “A long-term viable solution to our school system’s needs is to build the wealth of our citizens here.”
But Scott Marks, CCNE’s New Haven director, said the University needs to pay the city more to build upon Yale’s increasing involvement with the city.
“[If] we’re going to have strong communities and to answer the call of President [Richard] Levin to have a partnership, then we need to have two equal partners,” Marks said. “One of the ways that needs to be done is to have New Haven thrive along with Yale as it thrives.”
Paying for the grades
Drawing on the premise that a city’s quality of education is linked to jobs and communities, the report describes New Haven public schools as an overcrowded system in crisis. To improve education, communities and jobs, the report argues, New Haven must reduce class size by hiring more teachers and building more classrooms.
“Yale has a unique opportunity to strengthen New Haven’s public school system by making a fair-share contribution,” the report says.
According to the report, lowering class sizes would cost Yale between $2 and $6.4 million a year.
Since the payment would probably fund new teacher salaries, however, Gonzalez said the benefit to the community would be limited because 84 percent of New Haven’s teachers do not live in the city.
But John Courtmanche, a former New Haven Public Schools administrator, said the proposed funding increases would help the schools and the city.
Courtmanche advised Dugdale during the writing of the report and was one of four people — including DeStefano, Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo, and New Haven Federation of Teachers President Pat Lucan — to receive advance copies from CCNE.
“New Haven has made a tremendous effort,” Courtmanche said. “But the reality is you are overcoming the adversity of where you start.”
Courtmanche added that, although Yale is involved with the city’s schools, it needs “to become a serious partner.”
The school system fired Courtmanche from his job as a part-time consultant last year because a full-time replacement position was needed.
Mayo was unavailable for comment Thursday. Associate Superintendent of Schools Verdell Roberts said she was unaware of the report.
In spite of his lukewarm reaction to the report, Gonzalez made it clear that city fully supports unionization and Yale’s labor unions.
“Unionization is one of the best ways to reduce poverty levels,” he said.
Yale’s tax bill
Because Yale is chartered as a nonprofit corporation under the Connecticut Constitution, the University does not pay taxes on the bulk of its non-commercial properties.
Under the Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, program, the state reimburses New Haven for a portion of the money it would receive if Yale’s properties were taxed. Connecticut municipalities also receive PILOT funds for other tax-exempt properties, including land owned by the state and the physical plants of nonprofit hospitals.
The PILOT program, enacted by the state Legislature in 1978, is supposed to reimburse cities for 77 percent of the assessed value of those properties, although the amount is often altered during annual state budget negotiations.
According to the CCNE report, New Haven received $24.3 million in PILOT funds last year on account of Yale. The University also paid the city a voluntary $2.1 million for fire department services, meaning the city received a total of $26.4 million from the University or because of its presence in New Haven.
But based on an analysis of the city’s tax rolls, the report contends that the city should have received $38.9 million — leaving a discrepancy of $12.5 million the report says Yale owes the city.