19 Aug 2014
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Letter: Don't Let Possible Cuts to School Budget Impact Learning

The Board of Education is scheduled to adopt the 2013-2014 budget tonight. A special meeting is scheduled for Wednesday evening if a vote is not reached tonight.

Letter: Don't Let Possible Cuts to School Budget Impact Learning

At the last Board of Education meeting, the Board instructed Dr. Title to cut $1.5 million from the proposed Education Budget. This has become a hot topic in Fairfield. It is important for the residents to know that the bulk of the increases to the education budget are from healthcare costs and pension expenses and not from the increase in student programs. 

We need to make sure these cuts do not impact the instruction in the classroom for our children, as teachers and programs are the daily source of education for our children. Reductions need to begin in Central Office, not the student programs or services. Year after year, the administration deftly rallies the parents to protest cuts to the proposed education budget, by strategically stating student programs and services will be eliminated. Central Office needs to examine the efficiency and effectiveness of its top heavy staff.   After all, isn’t the Educational Budget supposed to benefit the students, not enrich administrators?

As costs increase year after year in the Education Budget, the Fairfield Administration must be opened minded to creative alternatives to keep and reinstate our student programs and services as opposed to eliminating them as they have done in the past.   As several BOE members stated at the last meeting, the school system is “not about employment, but about the kids.”  Our school district needs to understand that the more we cut these programs, the more it hurts the students’ learning in the classroom.   Central Office is not student facing, but primarily an overhead expense.

As the request to cut the budget is a very difficult one for the BOE members, many have recommended some creative ways to reduce the budget and potentially add revenue. Some BOE members provided specific cuts while others asked the Superintendent to provide the details as to where he would like to see the cuts.

First, Look at Central Office

Since most of the increase comes from employment, some suggested reducing and consolidating clerical staff and business service staff; changing the responsibilities of Curriculum Leaders to Curriculum Coordinators, which would allow them to teach in the classroom and assist at the schools; and cutting positions on the Central Office staff, of which Dr. Title would be given the option as to which Central Office professionals to eliminate.

Second, Look at Board of Education Expenses

Other line items that are not student programs but could be reduced are the CABE (Connecticut Association of Boards of Education) membership ($20,000) which not all BOE members utilize, as well as the $3,000 BOE workshop fees.

Now, Look at Student Programs

Other suggestions were focused on student programs, such as reduction of music, chorus and orchestra programs/ class time at the elementary level; removing extended day kindergarten and implementing only full day, as this would reduce busing; increasing class size which would need to be readdressed at the next contract negotiation; reducing world language programs in the high school; and removing high school guidance counselors through consolidating the students to fewer counselors. Another suggestion was to allow students who play a varsity sport to receive PE credit if the coaches were PE teachers. This would be a way to cut back on PE in the high school.

If You Eliminate Programs Then Offer Alternatives … (at No Extra Cost)

There was discussion to eliminate the Gifted Program at the middle school level and to look at reinstating levels in the curriculum, such as reinstating an additional level in math and language arts, while implementing enrichment programs in the Unified Arts Program (possible STEM programs or journalism courses).  Dr. Title was adamantly opposed to reinstating leveling in curriculum as he stated, “Balance is beneficial to everybody.” What does this exactly mean?

Adding Revenue

One BOE member suggested adding “pay to play” and “pay to participate” which would cover all activities, not just sports. One BOE member suggested selling signage on the high school fields to sponsors. Others suggested raising rental fees charged for using the school buildings, as this would reduce the cost of custodial time charged to the district for after school and non-school events.

Although increasing the fees in theory should cover custodial charges, the education side does not receive the fees rental. Ironically, these rental fees go to the Town not the Education side, so it would not offset the Education Budget.

Looking at Less Expensive Alternatives for the Future

A discussion on the cost of tuition for students placed in programs outside the district prompted a request for a cost analysis of a therapeutic day school option. This program of course would require additional staff and building space, but in the long run might reduce the cost of outplacement.

We need to make sure the cuts to the Education Budget do not impact the instruction in the classroom for our children.

Hopefully, Dr. Title will not feel a need to return money, , to the town after cutting our children’s programs and services.

 

Dawn Llewellyn

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