To the Editor:
After reading The Bee’s coverage of my attendance and comments on the Board of Education budget at the April 2 Legislative Council Meeting, I must respond and clarify.
First, I was delayed by 15 minutes, not 45, due to attending the college fair at Newtown High School with my son, as I stated at the meeting. Second, John Voket, the writer, noted that I “skipped” a Municipal Operations Subcommittee meeting the previous evening. As I am not the first council member to be absent from a meeting, I suggested to Mr Voket that this is a subject for a separate article, with all members’ attendance records.
But third, and most important, Mr Voket misunderstood my remarks on the budget, reporting that my intent was to complain about my child’s classroom experience, which was not the case. Due to The Bee’s length limit, I am not able to share the full text of my remarks from the council meeting. Instead, I will summarize and update them.
I am glad that the council passed the budgets without cutting funds from them. I urge all voters to support the budgets at the first referendum, so that the Board of Education, Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Council see that strong voter support is possible.
However, these are not budgets that invest in the future of our town. My remarks at last week’s council meeting reflected my professional and personal experience with the damaging effects of making the education budget too lean. Having spent time in the schools as a substitute (both leading classes and as an educational assistant) and in my own children’s experience, I have seen that lean budgets lead to larger class sizes, and this increases the likelihood of distractions while lessening each child’s engagement in the material to be learned. When the education budget is too lean, this is the effect, because of the many fixed expenses that cannot be reduced. In addition, meaningful programs that prepare students to contribute to society when they graduate are underfunded as well.
Investing in our schools is investing in the future of our town. Other members of our town boards have heard that families choose not to move to Newtown, or move out, due to high taxes. I believe the opposite: That families will pay a little more for better schools. If you agree with this, and know of stories from families that reflect this sentiment, you must share this information with our Board of Education, Board of Finance, and the other members of the Legislative Council.
At last week’s meeting, several of my fellow council members shared similar thoughts about making the education budget (and town budget) too lean. There were also several remarks about the need for economic development to increase the grand list, leading me to ask to First Selectman Pat Llodra for an update on the efforts of our economic development staff.
Minutes of the council meeting are available online for additional details.
Legislative Council, District 2
28 The Boulevard, Newtown April 9, 2014