Thursday, April 25, 2024

Cuts Hurt Kids—But They Hurt All Of Us, Too

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by Liz Gramling

This week, the Board of Ed voted 4-3 to send a budget proposal to the Mayor that includes extensive, damaging cuts. Among the things on the chopping block are many staff positions, including all elementary and high school library and media specialists, math and reading coaches, the entire ALPHA program, and two elementary assistant principals.

What would these cuts mean for our students and staff—and ultimately, our whole town?

If you’re like me, there were no reading or math coaches when you went to school. What do they do? The short version is they provide safety nets for our struggling students, opportunities for challenging our high-achieving students, and are a critical part of our entire elementary school system executing unified, well-crafted math and reading curricula. This is especially crucial as our elementary schools roll out a new reading program next year, as mandated by the state’s Right to Read law.

Nowadays, school librarians are so much more than many of us remember from our school days. Yes, they still read books and manage libraries and help students select just-right texts. But now they are “library and media specialists” and a core part of what they teach are computer skills and Internet safety. These are the “technologically savvy” skills our Stratford Portrait of a Graduate promises our graduating students will have.

We know our students need to be able to use a variety of computer programs, navigate online resources, and understand how to interact safely online. They also need to be computer savvy to take all the mandated state tests and evaluations that are administered every year.

The ALPHA program has been a part of Stratford schools since the 1980s and now serves more than 40 of our most at-risk high school students—students who struggle in the large-scale traditional high school environment due to a variety of issues, such as depression and homelessness. The program allows these young people to succeed as learners and last year the program graduated 12 of its 13 seniors. Without ALPHA, these students will be sent back into the same school environments where they struggled.

And perhaps you look at your neighborhood school and think it won’t be your assistant principal who is cut. You are probably right. But eliminating two positions—at any level, really—will shake up our schools district-wide as folks with tenure are given the option to move into other positions. Staff cuts at any level will affect all our school communities.

Budgets are tough subjects to discuss and, sometimes, understand. But for years, our schools have been underserved by our Town budget. Yes, we’ve had surpluses, but never for good reasons (like not being able to find the staff we need to hire). Isn’t it time to stop making our schools do more with less? Isn’t it time, as a Town, to start looking elsewhere for cuts? Or to start being honest about our tax rate? 

School budget cuts will hurt our kids, but they will hurt all of us, too. Struggling schools devalue property, discourage businesses from investing in our Town, and hinder our future leaders. These cuts are losses for our entire Town. I encourage you to write to the Town Council and Mayor and let them know you value education in Stratford and that these cuts will hurt us all.

1 COMMENT

  1. A very well thought out and clear description of what is happening to our schools and, as a result, our community and all of us. Thank you, Liz Gramling, for your strong effort to support our schools and community.

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