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.