It seems that every year around this time, I am writing a column in support of the Board of Education budget and urging the Board of Aldermen to fund our school system so that the children in Shelton are educated and prepared for a competitive workforce.
This year is no different. Recently, about 100 people attended the public hearing on the budget and most urged the aldermen to properly fund the Board of Education (BOE) request for 2015-2016. If history tells us anything it is unlikely to happen without the mayor’s blessing. Understand, based on the BOE presentation they are not asking to increase the budget spending for new programs but to only meet the contractual obligations and remain the same for next year. This is like paying for bills you know you are already going to incur.
Putting our students first should be a priority for our city, and we should not give up until we increase the BOE funding for the benefit of our students.”
A budget reflects what is important to a family, a community, a state or a nation. Those that have children know that they put the needs of their own children first when it comes to cloths, food and other necessities. Perhaps that’s why the State of Connecticut’s Constitution guarantees every child an education. We — as a community — have made the commitment to provide an education to every student, regardless of their ability or background. That is our obligation as residents of this city and state.
The cry from many is if you give the BOE more money our taxes will go up. The Board of Apportionment and Taxation showed that they won’t happen. Salaries for several city departments are inflated, some accounts by over one million dollars. They are funding for more employees than they actually have. Every year the city has several million dollars in excess funds collected and not spent. Why collect it if you don’t need it? The city could easily spend a million or two more dollars on education without raising a dime in new taxes.
Year after year, the budget fight is over education. For several years the BOE got no increase or only a minor one. Several years ago — when the BOE got a zero increase — layoffs occurred and pay-to-play for families was instituted. The pay-to-play did not sit well with some parents and last year it was lifted. It now may return. And we risk the potential of more layoffs for teachers and tutors in our schools.
This year, the BOE was finally able to have full-day kindergarten, but only after parents organized and pushed for it. The only way the city will provide more money to the BOE is if we work together and advocate for it. Don’t sit on your hands and say nothing. Call your aldermen, email them, and write a letter to them. Unless they see you really care they won’t change anything. It is up to you, the parents to push this issue.
One of the lessons learned as an adult is to never give up. Never give up on your beliefs. Putting our students first should be a priority for our city, and we should not give up until we increase the BOE funding for the benefit of our students.
David Gioiello is the Shelton Democratic Town Committee chairman.