Thursday, March 1, 2018

Opinion: Fully Fund Reasonable School Budget

Submitted by Lisa Loomis, member of the Board of Education. The Middletown Eye welcomes all signed opinion letters, email.
Dear Middletown Residents,
Some of us are concerned about the achievement gap between our white children and our children of color. Some of us are concerned about our property values. These concerns are one in the same.

The quality of the local school district is a significant influence on where people choose to buy houses. At the Westfield Meet the Candidates event during the past election cycle, a gentleman pointed out that if you look at the ranking of Middletown’s schools along with the mill rate, we aren’t giving people much incentive to move to Middletown. They can move somewhere else and pay the same mill rate and send their kids to better schools.

First, many of our children get an excellent education from Middletown Public Schools, but the reality is that most of those kids are white. I do not believe Middletown schools get the public credit they deserve. However, district rankings are based on standardized test scores, which are a very narrow way of judging the quality of a district, but it is the current measurement, and our scores are low, and they are low because we are not educating students of color. If you want your property values to go up, our school district’s ranking needs to go up, and to do that, we need to close the achievement gap.

We have hired a superintendent who is prepared to do just that. His track record in Norwalk public schools in unassailable. He has spent the last few months meeting with hundreds of members in our community to hear their thoughts and concerns about our schools. Drawing on those meetings, he has put together a budget proposal that includes strategically aligned initiatives to advance educational opportunities for all Middletown’s students, as well as make progress in closing the achievement gap. At the same time he has trimmed other areas of the budget and changed how we use grant funding in order to produce a request that asks for a very reasonable 2.22% increase.

At tonight’s budget workshop with members of the common council, former Mayor Guliano and Mrs. Kleckowski explained that they need to consider the entire city’s needs when deciding on the budget, the implication being that they might not support Dr. Conner’s full budget request. Sean King clarified that 2.22% is the average school budget increase for the past 7 years, and the city’s budget has risen by an average of 3.5%. This means that the school’s portion of the city budget has been shrinking. While the education budget makes up a very large portion of the city’s budget, other municipalities actually invest a larger percentage of the budget in their schools.

We must give Dr. Conner the resources he needs to do the job we hired him to do. To do that, people who want to close the achievement gap, people who want to improve our test scores to attract more people to Middletown to increase our property values and widen our tax base, need to go to the upcoming Common Council meetings and tell them to fully fund Dr. Conner’s very reasonable request.

Lisa Loomis
Board of Education

No comments: