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Letter: Don't Let Possible Cuts to School Budget Impact Learning

The Board of Education is scheduled to adopt the 2013-2014 budget tonight. A special meeting is scheduled for Wednesday evening if a vote is not reached tonight.

At the last Board of Education meeting, the Board instructed Dr. Title to cut $1.5 million from the proposed Education Budget. This has become a hot topic in Fairfield. It is important for the residents to know that the bulk of the increases to the education budget are from healthcare costs and pension expenses and not from the increase in student programs. 

We need to make sure these cuts do not impact the instruction in the classroom for our children, as teachers and programs are the daily source of education for our children. Reductions need to begin in Central Office, not the student programs or services. Year after year, the administration deftly rallies the parents to protest cuts to the proposed education budget, by strategically stating student programs and services will be eliminated. Central Office needs to examine the efficiency and effectiveness of its top heavy staff.   After all, isn’t the Educational Budget supposed to benefit the students, not enrich administrators?

As costs increase year after year in the Education Budget, the Fairfield Administration must be opened minded to creative alternatives to keep and reinstate our student programs and services as opposed to eliminating them as they have done in the past.   As several BOE members stated at the last meeting, the school system is “not about employment, but about the kids.”  Our school district needs to understand that the more we cut these programs, the more it hurts the students’ learning in the classroom.   Central Office is not student facing, but primarily an overhead expense.

As the request to cut the budget is a very difficult one for the BOE members, many have recommended some creative ways to reduce the budget and potentially add revenue. Some BOE members provided specific cuts while others asked the Superintendent to provide the details as to where he would like to see the cuts.

First, Look at Central Office

Since most of the increase comes from employment, some suggested reducing and consolidating clerical staff and business service staff; changing the responsibilities of Curriculum Leaders to Curriculum Coordinators, which would allow them to teach in the classroom and assist at the schools; and cutting positions on the Central Office staff, of which Dr. Title would be given the option as to which Central Office professionals to eliminate.

Second, Look at Board of Education Expenses

Other line items that are not student programs but could be reduced are the CABE (Connecticut Association of Boards of Education) membership ($20,000) which not all BOE members utilize, as well as the $3,000 BOE workshop fees.

Now, Look at Student Programs

Other suggestions were focused on student programs, such as reduction of music, chorus and orchestra programs/ class time at the elementary level; removing extended day kindergarten and implementing only full day, as this would reduce busing; increasing class size which would need to be readdressed at the next contract negotiation; reducing world language programs in the high school; and removing high school guidance counselors through consolidating the students to fewer counselors. Another suggestion was to allow students who play a varsity sport to receive PE credit if the coaches were PE teachers. This would be a way to cut back on PE in the high school.

If You Eliminate Programs Then Offer Alternatives … (at No Extra Cost)

There was discussion to eliminate the Gifted Program at the middle school level and to look at reinstating levels in the curriculum, such as reinstating an additional level in math and language arts, while implementing enrichment programs in the Unified Arts Program (possible STEM programs or journalism courses).  Dr. Title was adamantly opposed to reinstating leveling in curriculum as he stated, “Balance is beneficial to everybody.” What does this exactly mean?

Adding Revenue

One BOE member suggested adding “pay to play” and “pay to participate” which would cover all activities, not just sports. One BOE member suggested selling signage on the high school fields to sponsors. Others suggested raising rental fees charged for using the school buildings, as this would reduce the cost of custodial time charged to the district for after school and non-school events.

Although increasing the fees in theory should cover custodial charges, the education side does not receive the fees rental. Ironically, these rental fees go to the Town not the Education side, so it would not offset the Education Budget.

Looking at Less Expensive Alternatives for the Future

A discussion on the cost of tuition for students placed in programs outside the district prompted a request for a cost analysis of a therapeutic day school option. This program of course would require additional staff and building space, but in the long run might reduce the cost of outplacement.

We need to make sure the cuts to the Education Budget do not impact the instruction in the classroom for our children.

Hopefully, Dr. Title will not feel a need to return money, , to the town after cutting our children’s programs and services.

 

Dawn Llewellyn

fully involved February 06, 2013 at 02:31 PM
Ajack Your remarks are not factual. Any Educational budget is driven by wages and benefits, its a service that is being provided not widgets. There is not a disproportionate amount of wages and benefits at the adminstrative level, in fact, a comparison was done by in the Operational Audit which determined that there were too few Adminstrators. Your statements about the the increased insurance cost demonstrates your lack of understanding of the facts. The Town IS the insurance carrier, The towm moved to a self-insured plan more than four years ago for the BoE and certain town employees. Under this plan employees and the town pay into the insurance plan. A portion of those payments go to a plan adminstrator, the remaining go into a medical trust fund. The town is liable for the first $500,000 of claims by individual in the plan year, to be paid out of the trust fund. Last year their were several employees that had castastrophic illnesses that depleted the trust fund below acceptable levels. The liquidity of the trust fund is determined by accuarial tables that project the expected experience going forward based on previous experience and the demogrphics of the insured pool. The last several months have shown a decrease in the experience of large claims indicating that the numbers going forward should be lower. Insurance executives and Obama care have nothing to do with the issue before us. To suggest otherwise is simply a political ploy.
fully involved February 06, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Ajack Your assertions on Special Education again show a lack of understanding of the facts. A child or family cannot be denied services based on financial concerns, its the law, and there are numerous means of redress if some suspects that is the case. What the District does not do is ask the families to submit for reimbursement from their insurance carrier for covered services as other towns do and is permitted under the law on a voluntary basis.... food for thought.
Ajack February 07, 2013 at 02:46 AM
fully involved, your assertions show a lack of understanding of how the system 'actually' works in this town. You are speaking of the hypothetical, ideal situation that you are told is the norm is this fine community. What actually happens to many people is often quite different. The numerous forms of redress, that you mention, although actual, are in fact, extremely hard and costly to access by the 'average family'. The deck is often stacked against these people who have tried to access them to address the denial of services. One only has to look at the numerous law suits and Federal investigations filed against Fairfield Special Education by parents for failure to address the needs of their children and the numerous negative outcomes from these law suits to see that the town, by using it's 'legal' muscle, paid for with our tax payer money can be and often is the victor in such situations whether right or wrong. There is nefarious support by the State of the towns, as evidenced by the records.The outcome in often in the favor of the town and rarely for the parents. It's just fact. The average citizen is unaware of many of these proceedings that have occurred and of the duress suffered by these families when they have tried to simply access services. Go check under F.O.I. and view the court records for our town in these matters, before you quote chapter and verse. See how the system 'really' works. Ask the public and you'd be surprised! Law that is bent is still broken.
Ajack February 07, 2013 at 03:01 AM
The influence of Obama Care on our medical system has yet to be felt. Wait about two years when the full force of this invasion of personal liberty is fully enacted and tell me that it hasn't effected you. Wait. Yes insurance executives have everything to do with health care costs as do doctors and our employers and now the government in every aspect of our care. Yes , as I stated and as was reported, the costs were extremely high for that one year. What I heard was the town reacting to it by possibly having to increase payments to cover the insurance costs for future years like this. The point of an insurance actuary is to calculate and make predictions based on past data for future considerations. The insurance spokesperson, told the town, more or less, that our costs could possibly have to go up based on that one year blip.
Ajack February 07, 2013 at 09:39 AM
Arizona has a very different view on helping it's students. It is far different than what was experienced while in Connecticut. The powers that be seem to sense when a child is in need, much better. We have varying types of state governments to offer the people different possible scenarios to obtain a quality education and thank God for that. People can move. Connecticut is losing people. Connecticut has the highest taxes in the country and a shrinking pool of future job prospects. If it were not for New York City and the people who work there who bring money back into this state, it would be in very deep trouble. Over 47% of Connecticut's budget comes from Fairfield County. It's citizenry have developed a 'New York' taste on a 'Connecticut' budget and has acquired that taste at the expense of the local, long time citizens, the families who made this state such a wonderful place to live at one time. Fairfield does and has produced many good students. It is my fear that as the budget cycle turns for the worse for the tax payers, as the local towns and the state government administration fail to recognize the on coming train wreck of an economy that we are facing, that the children, the most innocent of it's citizenry, will be the 'victim's here when draconian budget cutting time comes around ....and it will sooner or later. Our current spending levels is the problem.

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