To the Editor:
As you may have heard already, the catalog of cuts to programs and teachers produced by superintendent Stacy Buckley in the Jan 6th Goffstown News bears no resemblance to the Budget Committee’s actual recommendations, which are detailed at
goffstownbudgets.com. It is unclear what guiding principles led them to propose such aggressive cuts, or whether the novelty of being tasked with reductions caused them to falter. In any case, those who are dismayed by the Budget Committee’s reductions ought to be far more concerned about the School Board’s proposed implementation of them, which cuts much deeper than the budget would require.
The 2.4% reduction produced by the Budget Committee has been called “educationally unsound” by some. What is really unsound is the policy of pushing budget increases year after year in the absence of any evidence that it is improving education. More than half of Goffstown’s students have been below proficient in writing for five straight years. In that same period, the school budget has increased at a rate greater than inflation. Where is the extra money going? Apparently, not toward anything that improves our children’s ability to write. The burden of proof is on the School Board to demonstrate that performance would suffer if budgets were reduced. Considering that performance does not benefit when the budgets increase, that is a heavy burden indeed.
The disagreement over the school budget is not about whether or not we should fund education properly. All agree to that. This debate is instead about what it means to fund education properly. The Budget Committee has produced a budget that I believe will permit adequate funding of our schools. Anyone is of course free to disagree with this assessment; to do so in a way that advances the dialog, however, requires one to produce evidence to the contrary. To assume that those who favor cuts are uninterested in quality education is to make a false start, and to prevent progress on the real substance of the debate.
Lastly, it has been widely known for some time now that school funding from state and federal sources is likely to diminish soon. Yet we have heard nothing about contingency plans or models for adaptation from the superintendent or School Board. It is possible that such plans have simply not yet been made public. If instead they don’t exist, their absence should concern us, as we so often see unprepared organizations devastated by a crisis. Let’s encourage our leaders to ensure that our district is well equipped to adapt, and that our town does not incur any unnecessary financial distress.