Letter: A student's perspective on school funding

To the Editor:

Almost all my life I have attended a Shelton school. From Booth Hill School for K-4, to Perry Hill for grades 5 and 6, to SIS for grades 7 and 8, and now to my third year of attending SHS. The Shelton school system has done me well, preparing me for my life ahead about as best as it possibly can. I've had many wonderful experiences, been taught by some of the best educators around, and have grown up to be the person I am today because of our schools. I am eternally grateful.

It is because of these fond feelings for our schools that I am tired of seeing the education budget be the last priority for our Board of Alderman and our mayor. Year after year Mayor Lauretti and the BOA underfunds our schools; this past year to the tune of $1.23 million. Average CT education spending per capita is $16,592, while Shelton's average per capita spending on education is $13,884 (2015-2016 figures).

In the most recent budget adopted by the mayor and BOA, the mill rate was lowered from 22.21 mills to 22.15 mills. While everyone likes lower taxes, one has to ask, was that really necessary? My parents will be saving a whopping $12 from that tax cut. Others will save anywhere from a dollar to 60 bucks. Not to mention that we live in a city where our median property value ($338,200) is higher than CT's median property value ($269,300) and that our average household income ($109,160) is higher than CT's average household income ($71,346). It’s not that we don't have the money to properly fund our schools, it’s that we constantly sacrifice our schools for virtually meaningless tax breaks. It is in my view that the priorities of this city and of our elected leaders are backwards and misguided.

As a student, I see the effects of our underfunded schools first hand everyday. From aging tech, to larger class sizes (I am in multiple classes this year with the max amount of students, 30, enrolled), to pay to play. The ol' cliché is that nothing is free in life, and, well, the same goes for our low taxes. As we save more and more on property taxes, the BOE, and thus educators and students, are asked to make do with less and less. Pay to play is especially infuriating as students (and the parents paying the bill) are basically being punished for doing exactly what they're supposed to do: staying active and out of trouble after school to make those college resumes look nice and impressive. It is also a bit ironic as the savings from the new tax cut Shelton residents just received is completely wiped out by new pay to play fees for some parents. This all leads a student like me to ask, are your tax cuts really worth sacrificing my education? Or, are low taxes really the end all be all that the people of Shelton seem to make them out to be?

The City of Shelton has been run by Mayor Mark Lauretti all my life. The BOA has also been controlled by Republicans for that same period of time. Those local leaders have continually de-prioritized teachers and students, and have instead prioritized budget cuts and minuscule tax decreases, at the will of the people. It’s time that the city of Shelton took a hard look in the mirror and truly asked itself if it is willing to keep sacrificing education for those tax breaks, or students for those few extra dollars in their pockets.

Matt McGee

Shelton High School student