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Why You Should Vote For The Board Of Education Budget



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To the Editor:

My family has lived on Main Street for more than 33 years. I have held an elective office for 31 of those years that include Board of Selectmen and Chair/Vice Chairperson of the Board of Finance. From my view, three false “epiphanies” seem to arise every seven years: 1) our Flagpole needs to be removed; 2) our Volunteer Fire Companies need to be replaced by a paid Town Company; and 3) the Education Budget is neither sustainable, nor is there any relationship between money and quality of education. The third false “epiphany” has returned.

Let’s actually address facts, mathematics, correlation/regression analyses and peer reviewed studies that directly contradict the opinions of the latest well-intended carrier of the third “epiphany,” LC member Derek Pisani (expressed in his recent Letter to the Editor and comments).

Mr Pisani is shocked by the 20-year increase in Education budgets … except, it’s about a 3.3% increase per year. Yearly teacher salary/benefits, medical, service-contractual requirements, and inflation approximate more than that. Little growth, mostly maintenance.

Mr Pisani stated “budget increases do not improve the education of the students.” He cited no authority, and modern accredited peer review studies say otherwise. For example, “The Distribution of School Spending Impacts,” C. Kirabo Jackson; Claire MacKevicius, Northwestern University, July 2021: Meta-analysis of multi-correlation/regression analysis variables.

“We find that school spending impacts on educational attainments are larger than on test scores — when benchmarked against the impacts of other interventions — suggesting that using test scores to estimate school spending impact, while informative may underestimate the long-term benefits of school spending.”

“Using our estimates of the underlying heterogeneity, we predict that a policy that increase per-pupil spending $1,000 for at least four years will lead to positive test-score impacts over 91% of the time, and positive educational attainment impact more than 92% of the time.”

Now, Newtown BoE facts. The Board of Finance gutted their budget by $1,000,000 down to the fixed increases needed to keep the schools open. The BoE will have to find savings of $600,000 to maintain essential contracts and services not included by the BoF. No BoF member, and not Don Ramsey, Alison Plante, Superintendent Melillo, or any LC member could identify a further specific item to cut.

Councilman Pisani stated he analyzed the budget historically. He admitted he never even opened the 2024-2025 BoE budget book!? It is impossible to have done a multi-variable correlation coeffeciency/regression analysis without opening the book. The BoE budget is not a two variable linear equation — money to test scores, or money to students. The multi-variables include not only money, but inflation, fixed teacher contract and benefit costs, insurance, service contracts, State unfunded mandates, varying special ed costs, test score declines (nationwide) due to COVID-related remote learning, as well, to name a few. Unacknowledged were school successes including graduation levels, college acceptances, special ed, etc. Shame on ignoring those.

Facts and Math matter! Please support the Board of Education budget!

My opinions only.

Thank you!

Jim Gaston

A letter from Jim Gaston.
Comments are open. Be civil.
  1. danrosenthal says:

    With all due respect to the author, the $1m “gutting” of the BOE budget is not accurate. At its January 30th meeting the BOE made an unusual move of adding $508,714 (really $524,421 including technical adjustments) to the Superintendent’s request. At its February 26th meeting the BOF reduced the BOE budget by $1,009,083, however they relegated $404,500 to by funded by Capital Non Recurring for a net reduction of $604,883 so the budget before the voters is really only $80,462 less than the Superintendent’s original request.

  2. jimgaston says:

    We will have to agree to disagree. The $404,500 for school building maintenance was in the BoE budget. The BoE wanted control of it. That control is now up to the Town. It was originally in the BoE budget and it was taken out. The Board of Finance does not vote on the Superintendent’s budget, only the BoE’s budget that the superintendent supported. There is no guarantee it will be used as the BoE chooses. It will be used as the Town chooses. Hopefully, the two will work together. With 15 years as Chair or Vice Chair of the Board of Finance I can only remember a couple times when $1,000,000+ was reduced from the BoE budget by the BoF. Whether you want to argue its $1,000,000+ or $600,000 reduction from the BoE budget, the cut was sizable, and again, not a single LC member, BoF member, not the Superintendent, the BoE Chairperson, or Don Ramsey said they could find another specific BoE item to cut.

  3. rodneymunos says:

    The entire budget needs to be cut not raised. The proposed budget now would sit that we spend $2.65 million dollars every week. For population of less than 30k people it is absolutely absurd ! You cannot keep driving older folks out of town just to create a revolving door of parents who come here, educate their kids and run away ! There is no need to be paying 190K annual salary to an ASSISTANT to superintendent, not in the best interest of tax payers ! The voting turnout at 9% is ridiculous ! Lobby lawmakers to change the voting by mail, so everyone gets a ballot in the mail and at least 51% of residents vote to approve, otherwise the budget should not be approved if you don’t have the majority ! Most folks don’t even know when the vote is ! They have taxes bundled with mortgage and don’t even know ! We are raising cost of living for everyone and it is absolutely not necessary.

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