To the Editor:
It is with great disappointment that I reflect on the first failed round of the referendum vote. After personally attending countless Board meetings again this year and listening to the discussions once again about the state of our schools, I am frustrated with the disparity between the municipal failure and that of the education budget. As is currently reported, the town budget failed by 66 votes, whereas the school side failed by 482 votes.
I was disappointed and frustrated with the budget process last year, as were many, but I hoped that this year would be different. We have all seen our community come together in the aftermath of the tragedy of 12/14 and I hoped that as a community we would also unite for a more harmonious budget resolution this year. I have listened to “vote no” arguments regarding the economy, taxes, mill rates, and the like, but I cannot move beyond what our schools actually NEED. The increases to the school budget have basically been flat for the past many years so yes, the proposed increase does come with sticker shock. Enrollment numbers and projections, despite outcry about them, are not down significantly in any one school or across any one grade for major cuts. Buildings are in disrepair and smaller projects have been neglected for so long that the projected costs are now astronomical and the scope of the repairs, compared to what they once were, are huge. We are moving toward state-mandated computerized assessments, yet our technology is so outdated and sparse, that I question how that is even possible without the much needed upgrades. Full-day kindergarten continues to be a highly debated topic, mostly due to cost, but the financial investment to transition to full-day kindergarten is actually very low. And now, added to these and many other issues, is the important and sensitive topic of security in our schools.
So now it is back to the drawing board. Where will the education cuts be made this time around and how severe will they be? How will we determine what takes priority? Security? Heat? Air quality? Technology? Teachers? The gifted program? As both a taxpayer and as a parent, these are all priorities to me.
We need to invest in our children and support the work of our dedicated teachers and staff. Our children are our future. Investing in education is a valuable decision that will benefit our children and our ENTIRE community. Let’s not forget that investing in education also positively impacts our drooping property values. And please, exercise your right to vote. Every vote does count.
10 Grand Place, Newtown April 24, 2013