I am voting “yes” for this budget, “yes” for educational funding reform and “yes” to continuing an open, informed and extensive dialogue between the board of education and the community.
This was a year with unprecedented communication from the board of education. It is a year where community members took advantage of the information posted and asked for more. Budget FAQ’s were posted early in the year in response to questions raised at meetings or in emails. The board posted responses to everything from “how did we get into this mess” to “compensation and benefits” to information explaining mandates. See: Background: History and Overview of the Current Situation; Compensation and Benefits;Mandates and Other New York State Education Requirements.
The budget FAQs should also be read in conjunction with the “what the community values” posting under the budget communication link The board and all of us are charged with balancing these values with fiscal prudence in tough economic times. A 1.22% budget increase that recognizes and seeks to maintain these values is quite a feat.
I hope this budget passes because there is so much more to accomplish. If it fails, I fear we will be forced to spend our time scrambling to figure out how to accommodate budget cuts of $1.2 million. We will not get to decide how or where the budget is cut, we will not get to decide which teacher loses their job.
We need to do so much more.
We need to be involved, to talk about education. I want to encourage, support and celebrate strong teaching. The type of teaching that sparks my children to come home and want to know more. A good teacher encourages curiosity, creativity and critical thinking. Voting “no” to the budget will not further this goal.
New York State law sets out rules governing pensions and tenure – not our school board and not our teacher’s contract. Superintendent Paul Fried testified in hearings before George Latimer that the tenure rules need to be changed. Members of our board of education have testified asking for pension reform. We need to educate ourselves and openly and respectfully discuss and advocate on issues such as pension reform., tenure rules, and quality based teacher layoffs.
As a taxpayer and a resident of the legislatively challenged state of New York, it is very frustrating to read what is occurring in Albany. Yet, it does not absolve me of my responsibility to be informed, to write letters and even meet with legislators. Even if it feels as if I am repeatedly hitting my head against a brick wall. Our school board gets it, Sheldon Silver does not. We have a budget with the lowest tax increase in more than 40 years. We need to speak up as loudly to Albany as we did to our board. A “no” vote will not deliver your message to Albany, but is likely to hurt district children.
Please join me in voting “yes” to the 2010-2011 school budget. Please vote “yes” and please stay involved, become more informed on the issues and the challenges and think about our children’s education. There is a lot at stake.