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Joining The New Information Revolution

To the Editor:

As we approach the next referendum on the education budget, it would seem appropriate we consider why the budget was voted down on two previous occasions.

Many residents in Newtown are wondering about the reason why we were asked last time to answer  same two questions about the budget being too high or too low. I thought they got their answer in the first budget vote. Are they going to insult our intelligence and ask the same questions?

While everyone is in favor of supporting the education of our youth, there are some residents who question some of the expenditures made for equipment/furnishings made in the new addition to the high school. Our former superintendent seemed to believe that spending money on new classroom accessories like electric boards and other new educational products was necessary to improve instruction. While some teachers and parents would agree, the question remains did we get a return on our school tax investment? Could we have considered spending that money on improving instruction by considering non-technological alternatives that are being used in other schools in the United States and overseas?

I raise this question because we are going through a “new information revolution” that is not technological, according to management guru Peter Drucker. It is a revolution in how we think about existing data and information using new concepts that will add value to what we do in business and in eventually in education. This realization has changed education in other countries with the result that their students outperform their American counterparts in reading, math, and science. Yet we outspend these countries in the amount of money we spend per student with an investment of over $10,000 per student. Now many states have now adopted a new core curriculum as a way of adding value to instruction.

But schools seem to resist fundamental change partly due to the fact that like any institution it is slow to change because there is “a management culture” that defends their understanding of the education process, convinced that  they know best. But that being the case does not justify their inflated salaries going forward unless they can produce not mediocre but excellent results without the increased expenditures of the past. And this is the real challenge we as taxpayers have. We as public investors in the educational enterprise should be informed and should be able to discuss in open forums with students and teachers what works and what doesn't work in the classroom. We have a population of highly educated retired professionals who could play a significant role in bringing their intellectual capital to improving a school system, which can do better by learning to operate with more new concepts instead of just spending because the money is in the budget.

Until we as investors are permitted to evaluate how the expenditures are justified not in purpose but in successful results, we  will continue to pay higher school taxes  without any representation. If you agree, think about this reality when you vote a third time.

Rudy Magnan

60 Watkins Drive, Sandy Hook                   May 29, 2013

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