Budget Time, Vote, Vote Yes

Budget Referendum Tuesday - why you should vote, why you should vote Yes

I am hoping for a miracle on Tuesday, May 10, 2011. I am hoping that at least one adult in each household with school age children votes in this budget referendum. I would prefer that they vote for the budget - but I would be happy if they simply voted. Just one adult in each household with school-age children at the polls tomorrow would make this year’s turnout the largest in recent memory (my memory - 6years).  Only 14% of registered voters turned out in 2009. That was less that 3000 people in a town with about 20,000 registered voters. Here's a clue to who these voters were likely to be... not parents. I am not trying to start a cultural war. Everyone has a vested interest in a quality public education. The benefits are obvious: highly qualified work-force, more tax-payers, thinking-rational adults that are self-sufficient, low-crime, lower incidences of chronic illnesses and all kinds of pathology, and higher overall quality of life. Parents, however, I hope would want to be extremely vocal in what happens in public schools. So much of public policy and spending occurs without our voice present...it is time to speak-up, speak for our children. Vote yes for quality public schools. 

Quality schools that are interesting places to teach and learn are not cheap. They reflect our best investment in our future, in our community, in our children.  Each child in our public schools does not have equitable access to 21st century technology. We do not have specialized tutors and teachers for all the children that need them, when they need them. Our teachers do not have adequate access to resources and professional development that would enhance their ability to do their jobs and the classroom experience for our students. They are increasingly asked to do more with less… have you tried that, how is it working for you? Would you like to be held accountable in a manner that assumes you had what you needed to accomplish your job when in fact you did not? That’s what we do to teachers every time we cut the budget. District and student goals do not decrease proportionately with student spending, neither by the way do student needs.

Voting no on the budget is like accepting delivery on a contract and then refusing to pay. The time for a discussion on what we can and cannot afford, what we need versus what we want, what investments we will make, is not at the polls. It is in subcommittee meetings of our Board of Education policy and finance committees, our Town Council subcommittee meetings, and community forums that are held prior to budget adoption. Do you know what the attendance is at these community forums – let me give you a hint, you do not need both hands to count citizens in the audience. Effective community engagement is not reactionary – it is proactive and consistent. It is that voice that reflects our values to each other and our elected officials so that our budgets reflect who we are, who and what we value.

Go vote.

Vote yes.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Malvi Lennon May 09, 2011 at 09:20 PM
I was shocked to learn some of our classrooms do not have access to technology, and that our teachers are required to fill out the paperwork (in their spare time I guess?) to obtain grants, that allows them to have the technology necessary in today’s schoolroom. There is a huge burden placed on good teachers. We expect them to be educators, parent, psychologist, nurse, babysitter, clerk, etc. More resources need to be devoted to the classroom. However, that does not mean that we must increase overall spending. Throwing more money into the same bottomless pit will not produce different results. The majority of the school budget is spent on salaries and benefits for teachers. Worse, much goes to fund a top heavy and overpaid bureaucracy. If we want to offer, a quality and still affordable public education to all children streamline school districts, do away with the multiple levels of meaningless administrators, empower teachers, allow proven administrators more autonomy and authority over his/her school, staff/curriculum, make school choice the law of the state, and do away with “last in” “first out”.
Cari May 09, 2011 at 10:15 PM
I am a single female homeowner who moved to Windsor three years ago. I have no children but I am the daughter of a retired school teacher who taught in a public school system for 36 years. I value education so just because I don’t have children in the Windsor Public School System does not mean that I am ignorant to the cost or needs of educating children. However, when I look at the proposed budget I question what is currently being spent and where. Where I went to high school we had 1 Principal and 1 Vice Principal. I am having a hard time understanding how Windsor High School which is not operating at full student capacity requires 1 Principal, 3 Vice Principals and a Dean of Students. All of these positions come with a high salary . If that many administrators are needed to operate one high school then something is very wrong and we need to question what is happening in our schools and where the money is being spent. This is just one example of where I see taxpayers dollars being spent in an irresponsible manner while our overall school system falls in the bottom quartile. The Governor just passed a budget which includes the highest tax increase in the history of this state that will affect everyone. It does not matter if you are low income, elderly or middle class trying to make ends meet it will not be easy and some will not be able to do it at all. To ask the taxpayers of Windsor to pay any increase at this time is just unrealistic.
Al Simon May 10, 2011 at 02:15 AM
Malvi- who are these "meaningless administrators" of which you speak. And the overpaid bureaucracy. Name them, and tell how much will be saved by eliminating these positions.
Malvi Lennon May 10, 2011 at 02:28 AM
Al, I think Cari addressed the bureaucracy issue rather explicitly. It is a systemic problem typical in most government agencies.
Carol Sama May 10, 2011 at 02:45 PM
I know of no public school teacher in this district without access to technology. I see this comment as incomplete information at best, if not inaccurate. I also do not see Windsor High School as topheavy with administration and as an active parent of teenagers there for the last consecutive ten years I heartily disagree with this comment. Qualified, dedicated hard working teachers and administrators are in demand more than ever. I will support the budget. Carol Sama
Nicola May 10, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Windsor's Public Schools rank very low in comparison with some of the surrounding districts...i.e. West Hartford, South Windsor. Windsor's Public Schools also ranks lower than some Hartford schools. How will the budget help to close the gap? As a mother of an elementary student, I have spent many nights researching all of Windsor's elementary schools and stressing about the academics...I decided to send my child to private school to obtain a better education than I feel would be obtained at Clover (the school district we live in-I was told there was nothing I could do about it). Why is Windsor's school ranking so low? Why isn't a child being taught a foreign language from Kindergarten? Why isn’t there more of a focus on Technology in 2011 in Windsor. Windsor needs to take a serious look at districts like West Hartford to figure out how we can catch up. Google the school rankings like I did. It is really disturbing were we ranked. I love living in this town, but it is sad because like many others have done I may have to move for my child to get a great public school education. The population of the school district is on a decrease because parents want their child to be able to compete on the same level as other children from different districts. One look how Windsor compares with other school districts shows that something is very wrong. This district needs a complete academic over haul. Don’t take my word for it-research schooldigger.com conncan.org Google
Malvi Lennon May 10, 2011 at 04:01 PM
Everyone sees things from a different perspective. This is why I am so glad we have a referendum. Every taxpayer has an opportunity to affirm or reject the budget. I just hope the majority are interested enough to exercise that right
Malvi Lennon May 10, 2011 at 04:14 PM
The stats at Windsor High are even scarier than the stats at the elementary school. I do not understand why performance takes a nose-dive going from Sage Middle to Windsor High. I have asked the question many times but no one has been able to answer it. I also do not understand how school consolidation will help close the achievement gap or, how all day kindergarten will help the kids already in school who are far behind their peers.
Nicola May 10, 2011 at 05:32 PM
Wow, Hall High_West Hartford#27, Windsor High #107 out of 164...unreal. I'm hoping these number are just wrong....it is too sad.
Malvi Lennon May 10, 2011 at 06:50 PM
OK voted at lunch. Does anyone have an idea about turn out? Poquonock School was not very busy when I was there.
Kristin Ingram May 10, 2011 at 07:13 PM
When I ask my college students if they want to me to use the white boards or the computer to do problems in class, they always respond "white boards". They like seeing the problems done out on the board. Technology is not always the answer. We need to make sure our students know the basics. Stop relying so much on calculators and computers. Lets get back to multiplication tables and diagramming sentences.
Malvi Lennon May 10, 2011 at 07:18 PM
Diagramming sentences, did you have to say that? I still remember having to do it and I hated it, but it worked.
R Eleveld May 10, 2011 at 11:21 PM
Nicola, Thank you for providing source references. I advise all to use information from available public and reputable sources. We must have these discussions, and get more people involved in the dialog. The Town side of the budget is tight, the Education side is in my opinion out of control. Since 1993 the student population went from 4,362 students to 3,487 estimated for 2011-12. Inflation indicates that pupil costs should have gone from $6,327 per student to $9,425 per student based upon data available through 2010 [http://www.westegg.com/inflation/]. The budget however went from $6,327 per student to $17,817 per student, an inflation rate of ~10% per year, CPI grew at about 3% per year [ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/cpi/cpiai.txt]. The Town of Windsor side of the budget grew about 5%/yr thru 2008-09. The recent -0- budgets would lower that number but those values are not available to me at the moment. Those are the numbers.
Kristin Ingram May 10, 2011 at 11:56 PM
@ Malvi, we need to return to the basics. Once we get that down, we can expand into other areas. If we can't teach our students the fundamentals we are doing them a huge disservice.
tchjjal May 12, 2011 at 12:52 PM
More money does not guarantee better results! We need to privatize the education system. It's more efficient and the standards are higher. The board of education costs us more than $15,000 per pupil - and from every bleeding heart liberal, it is not enough money - nor will it ever be! The town would be better off giving out vouchers to the school of their choice. When enrollment is down, than costs for the town would go down.
R Eleveld May 13, 2011 at 02:03 AM
tchjjal: Look up my comments and you will see I have been reporting aspects of the BoE budget. We need to rethink education. In Washington DC they have school choice and it is popular with parents feeling they have more say in the process. School Choice is about empowerment of the PARENTS! Why are politicians afraid of school choice? We also need to stop the 'social engineering' of our kids, and go back to the basics of Reading wRiting and aRithmetic, the 3 R's. I had a HS teacher tell me if they did a better job before they got to HS the job of the HS teachers would be so much easier. I also keep asking why do teachers NEED tenure? Someone please tell me a logical explanation. Isn't a duty of the unions to protect the employments rights of the rank and file?
Malvi Lennon May 13, 2011 at 03:14 AM
Ron asks why politicians are afraid of school choice. I do not think politicians are afraid of school choice. I think the teachers union is afraid of school choice and politicians (particularly democrats) are afraid of the unions - specially the teachers union. During his last state of the union address Mr. Obama highlighted a school in CO, which a few years back, was one of the worst schools in the country. Today many of the students are accepted into universities and others go on to tech schools. So what changed? Well as part of a pilot program the teachers union lost bargaining power over the teachers at the school. The principal has absolute autonomy of curriculum, staffing, discipline, etc. The first thing the principal did was fire all the teachers and made them re-apply for their jobs. He only re-hired six, the rest of the positions were filled with new staff. Now being the union supporter that he is I am sure this successful school was featured by the president because someone did not do his/or her homework but it affirms the reality that teachers unions is not a pro children pro education organization.
R Eleveld May 13, 2011 at 01:29 PM
I stand by my comment that unions promote mediocrity and not excellence. If all people are treated the same, then overtime performance regresses to the mean, and then the mean moves lower. Human nature is EXTREMELY powerful. Any person over time would think: Why should I work harder, if what I do is not appreciated, either by recognition, and compensation? Compensation is an element to the work dynamic, but more importantly is the feeling of fulfillment that employment provides, and the knowledge through performance measures of your work output! Excellence must be recognized and promoted, which is a combination of recognition and compensation. That is why people get bonuses! It is a pocketbook recognition. Unions however want all people treated similarly based upon service and education, easily measured elements. Not performance which is difficult to measure. So no individual benefits from their extra efforts, which results in a why work harder attitude? On the other hand if you have tenure, your work product can be mediocre, because you have little risk of the ultimate sanction. Termination! Why is it often noted anecdotally that younger, newer teachers perform better, than some of the more experienced tenured teachers? The laws of economics and human nature are not utilized for the benefit of the teachers, administrators, parents, taxpayers and most importantly THE STUDENTS!!!!
R Eleveld May 13, 2011 at 01:57 PM
A good question. Please provide a citation to comments like the CO school. I like to look at the facts and its adds to the credibility of your comments. I did find this link [http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/28/nation/la-na-denver-school-20110129]. It seems from what I read, that performance numbers are low and improving, the union removed itself from the school, and all teachers resigned and a very small number were rehired. It is not maybe an answer, but it is worthy of consideration after all the President did mention the school. I think your comment of who is supporting who is an element to opposition to school choice. Remember people and money are powerful elements which liberals always complain about when it is business, but unions ARE businesses also, and BIG business at that. School choice allows the consumer to control what it is they do, and in that selfish, self centered choice they provide benefits to the community at large. People usually want the BEST for the LEAST. It is called competition. Let the markets do their job. I would direct you to a very interesting article in Imprimis a few years back about School choice and its implementation in New Zealand. It is worth considering and the results are surprising. Read the section: Subsidies, Education, and Competitiveness[http://www.hillsdale.edu/news/imprimis/archive/issue.asp?year=2004&month=04] Imprimis is a free publication.
Malvi Lennon May 13, 2011 at 02:34 PM
The remarkable turnaround was largely credited to Bennet and Kristin Waters, the school’s principal at the time, who helped make Bruce Randolph the first Colorado public school to request and gain significant local school control over their budget, staffing, schedule, school calendar and curriculum. The effort helped pave the way for the passage of Sen. Peter Groff’s Innovation Schools Act of 2008, which provided a pathway for public schools in Colorado to gain autonomy through innovation status. http://thedenverdailynews.com/article.php?aID=11472
Malvi Lennon May 13, 2011 at 02:35 PM
Sen. Michael Bennet and the school's principal Kristin Waters, convinced the Colorado government to give the school almost complete autonomy from the state's education bureaucrats over budget, staffing, schedule, school calendar, and curriculum. One of the first things they did is terminate all of their tenured teachers and told them they could re-apply for their jobs. Only 5% got their jobs back. 95% of the tenured teachers weren't up to par. The Gate's Foundation has done significant research into why public schools fail. Their conclusion is that it's all about teachers. The producer of the movie "Waiting for Superman" came to the same conclusion. Good teachers succeed and bad teachers fail our children. It's not any more difficult than that. In the private sector a business can: A.) fire bad employees and B.) pay good employees a lot of money. You can't do that in government. That's the problem. It has to change. If we're really serious about fixing the public schools, we need to give principals the ability to terminate bad teachers and reward great ones with substantial performance bonuses tied to international test scores. http://jwpegler.blogspot.com/2011/01/real-story-with-obamas-colorado-school.html
R Eleveld May 13, 2011 at 02:48 PM
Thank you.
Catherine & Dennis May 14, 2012 at 02:25 AM
I believe Mr. Eleveld's comment says it all. The call to throw more money in a bottomless pit is ridiculous. There must be accountability before another dime is spent. The enrollment is going down, the scores are awful. Pay for performance. 60% of the tax base is more than enough. Maybe a budgeting class? Who would teach it? $17,817 per studen is outrageous. How can people possibly be for spending more????????


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