Letter: Think Long and Hard About This Budget

Party politics aside, public education is in crisis and at a crossroads. When your children return to school this fall, they will be assessed by the State on covid’s social-emotional impact on them. Depending on the student’s assessed needs, core curriculum instructional hours will shift to providing more time for social-emotional rehab. The more time added to non-academic instructional time, the fewer basic tools and critical thinking skills your child acquires.

In addition, the State’s control over local curriculum is increasing, reducing your influence in what and how much your child is learning. Regionalization bills are rampant in Hartford, which, if passed, will result in some of your children being relocated to other districts. In addition, our tax dollars appropriated for education will be controlled by the region, and reallocated to assure all municipalities are equally funded. DesegregateCT   (https://www.desegregatect.org/) is at the forefront of this movement, and pushing hard to eliminate local control.

Be advised that what some of the parents are advocating for this budget season are, in some ways, moot. What your children are learning, and how it is taught, are no longer decided by your classroom teacher or our district. State mandates are the driver, and their requirements and reporting mechanisms stringent. 

Easton, like many public school administrations, is trained in the art of promoting its budget. The list of takeaways commonly includes classroom teachers (class size), extra-curricular programs, support services, etc. These are all of the hot buttons that, for decades, have been used to rally parents into advocacy mode. No parent has time to do the deep dive into how the funds are appropriated, question state mandates vis-à-vis curriculum, or any other information that sheds light on how our schools are managed, and the potential academic deficiencies our children face. They listen intently to the school administrations messaging, trust their judgment, and respond accordingly.

Operational costs vary in all industries and education is no exception. There are annual shifts in line items with cost reductions and increases, and payroll and payroll benefits always the highest line item cost. As needs change, staff is added and reduced. Education however, is that one institution that never makes these adjustments. “Anything for the children” is that same old rhetoric. Yet, we in many ways are doing our children an injustice, by trusting the experts rather than ourselves, in what’s best for and how we are raising and educating the next generation of adults. 

While Easton has seen a precipitous decline in student enrollment over the last 10 years, the local BOE budget has increased from $14,510,000 to this year’s request of $17,561,000. Do the math and ask yourself if this is sustainable? Are your children truly acquiring the knowledge and level of academic skills you expect from our district? When peeling back the onion in how this money is spent, you’ll be outraged with what you will learn.

School budgets are not about how much money is spent on education. Rather, we should focus on how it’s spent. Do you monitor the hours per week of core instructional time (language arts, math, science, social studies) your child receives?  Do you do the same for the social emotional instructional hours? Have you visited the State of CT Department of Education website? You’ll be enlightened by what you discover regarding State curriculum mandates. These are YOUR children, whose well-being is your primary focus. Embrace that responsibility with fervor, by being their primary influence and resource in their education, not the State.

Think long and hard about this budget. Can you afford these continual increases? Are they truly improving the quality of your child’s academic needs? Have you compared your salaries and benefits to our administrators? While they get richer, we get poorer. It’s time to send a message to our educators that, for what they are being paid, they can do better. Remember… money talks!

Bev Dacey

Easton

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