By Sharon Beloin-Saavedra | Board of Education President at June 15, 2012 | 8:30 am | Print
Budget season is a difficult time of year. Similar to basketball, the Board’s budget season has gotten longer and longer. For Board members it begins in January and ends in June. For Administration it begins in October. As we implement one budget – we almost immediately begin work on the next one.
Having been flat funded for the past three years on top of continuously receiving the minimum allocation allowed by State law, the Board is facing the cumulative effect of past reductions. We have reduced our workforce by 50 positions over three years. We are facing another possible 50 or so position cuts in this one year – and that number is lower than anticipated because we are contemplating completely decimating our operation line items (art/music supplies; computers/projectors/smart boards; custodial supplies; instructional supplies such as copy paper and other consumables; transportation). People vs. materials and supplies that is our dilemma.
We are looking at restructuring grade levels at several schools – this would help to equalize class size throughout the district and reduce the number of elementary teacher cuts. Disrupt children’s current placements to minimize teacher cuts and the impact on class size…another impossible situation.
As a Board member, you want to grow and develop the school system and increase offerings for our students – it is not acceptable to offer the minimal. What is required vs. what should be available and provided? Urban districts are struggling to provide what is required….this is a civil rights issue and discrimination in equal access. As we adopt the common core on a state wide basis and we institute academic standards that all children must meet….the state must give our students the same tools used in suburban classrooms. Show the same respect and value for the lives and futures of urban children that other children around our state receive.
The achievement gap is directly related to the resource gap – a community’s resources or the lack there of and the capacity of families to support their students education. Is it a wonder that the achievement gap has the greatest concentration in the 12 poorest communities in the State? Of course not. What do these 12 communities have in common? What does the rest of the state have in common? Resources my friends…resources!
The State wants to eliminate the achievement gap by infusing themselves into the solution. Alliance Districts, Network schools, pilot evaluation programs and the ability to dissolve an election by disbanding a local Board of Education. When a community has a high concentration of students with social/emotional and or academic needs beyond what the standard core curriculum provides – the expenses to the system increase. Meet each student where they are at and move them forward is our goal and our duty. Some advance more quickly than others. No judgement needed. Students are individuals and need to be treated as such.
New Britain was a leader in providing all day kindergarten. We were one of the first communities to offer Universal ADK – that is saying something. To keep ADK we eliminated other programs. This is how our budget discussions go. Now, over the years we have had to eliminate the paraprofessionals in those classrooms and increase class size because we could not afford additional kindergarten teachers. This is one of the ramifications of flat funding. Helping Urban students achieve their potential is not about additional mandates and additional oversight…it is about equalizing the playing field and equipping our schools, our teachers and our students with the same instructional tools students in wealthier communities have access to. I am a frustrated Board of Education President because I see the solution so clearly – Education is a civil rights issue. It is the moral question of the day. I need to see some courage. I am not about the next election – and some would say that is a good thing – double meaning.
But while I am in office, I will use every platform I have to advocate for my kids – the students of New Britain.