It’s Easier Than Ever to Weigh in on School Spending
by Jen McAndrew
Whether it’s your family’s budget, or that of a corporation or a nation, annual budgets answer basic questions about how we raise and allocate our financial resources: How much do we have? Is it enough? How much do we owe? How much should we invest or spend? And in what areas?
To put it simply, budgets are a reflection of our priorities. This is particularly true for local governments and school districts, and ever more so in a time of constrained fiscal resources. Where we, as a community, choose to allocate tax dollars should reflect what we need and what we value — today and in the future.
For many of us, those decisions are most personal and most precious when they affect our children. Melrose is a community long dedicated to the health and success of its public schools.
As part of its mission, Melrose Education Foundation strives to inform the public about issues and trends affecting public education in our community. As such, the foundation strongly encourages public participation in the FY2015 budget process — and the time is now.
This year there is a lot of valuable information publicly available via the School Committee and the Office of the Superintendent. For example, did you know that the overarching goals for the FY2015 budget are to:
The original budget proposal and subsequent drafts have made clear the trade-offs and choices we face: new staff positions, increases for professional development, additional curriculum resources (including in the sciences), and new technology investments like website licenses and networks upgrades all have been considered.
In some cases the available funding from local and state sources may not match the demonstrated need, and that too is being discussed and debated.
You can find information and documents about the FY2015 draft budget at: melroseschools.com/school-committee/agendas-and-minutes.
Your views are valued, and your input is needed. School Committee meetings about the FY2015 budget are ongoing. At each meeting, the School Committee has discussed a specific area of the budget in detail.
In addition, the committee is offering new ways to share your views during the budget hearings: At the start of each meeting is the standard public comment period, in which members of the community can sign up (by 7 p.m.) to speak.
And new this year, there is an opportunity for community members to ask questions and have a conversation with the superintendent and School Committee during the budget part of the agenda. There’s no need to sign up in advance.
The School Committee is holding a public forum on the entire draft budget on Wednesday, April 2 at 7 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chamber. At this forum, Superintendent Cyndy Taymore will present the budget, outline revisions from the original draft budget based on available funds, and answer your questions. This is your opportunity to share your views on the critical priorities for the district, funding options, and the impact on student achievement.
As individuals and families, our own priorities will differ. Maybe you are most interested in technology in the classroom? Or perhaps in more staffing and funding for the arts and music? Are you concerned about AP courses? College counseling? Our facilities? The place of the ECC in our public school system? Or maybe you just want to hear more and get up-to-speed.
If you can’t attend on April 2, please share your views with the committee via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whatever your perspective and your role — as a parent, an educator, or a community member — please join in this shared effort. Your participation on April 2 (and via email before or after that meeting) will demonstrate your commitment to being engaged in the discussion of how we fund and operate our public schools for all our children. And that is one of the most important responsibilities of any community.
Jen McAndrew is a member of the Melrose Education Foundation.