Proposed school budget cuts are false economy

BRATTLEBORO — I really do honor the many hours of work the members of the town Finance Committee put into their efforts for our town. However, I will be the first to say that I very much disagree with the committee's recommendation to the Town Meeting that they vote against the Town School budget unless it is cut.

The committee's proposal to cut more than $240,000 would have an extremely negative effect on the very things that families value for their children: effective teaching, exposure to arts and foreign-language studies, and safe and healthy environments.

Brattleboro's elementary students have made significant performance gains in the past few years. All of our schools are implementing programs to raise the achievement levels of not only our neediest students but all students. These programs are research-based efforts focused on improving teaching and learning, integrating techniques to address student behavior and school climate, and increasing the participation of parents and families.

We also have continued to offer all our elementary students the opportunity to explore music, the arts, and foreign languages: elements important to our community, which has come to pride itself on its artistic and cultural diversity.

Meanwhile, our schools also provide resources that were once strictly the responsibility of the family. These services range from meals to access to health care (including mental health). As statewide programs to assist families in need are dismantled, schools must pick up the slack. Children in distress cannot learn, and the success of all students, no matter their background, is the goal of all our town schools.

The Finance Committee's shortsighted recommendation works to deepen the divide between the haves and have-nots. Families who want and can pay for an excellent education with lots of diverse opportunities for their children will move to private schools. Other families will be left with a more-impoverished and less-effective public school system.

In the long term, this measure will not help the town. It will not attract younger people, entrepreneurs, or artists. This less-desirable system will flatten housing values, because what family or business wants to move to a place with financially- and culturally-impoverished schools?

I hope that parents and the citizens of Brattleboro will urge their town representatives to support this budget. It is an investment in the future of this town.

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