Editorial: Budget plan takes wrong direction

When we look at the budget the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee has finally decided to put forward, the old saying “penny wise and pound foolish” springs irresistibly to mind.

The decision has been made to so closely tailor the spending plan to the money that the two communities will pay that it results in changes at the schools’ expense.

That doesn’t sound wise, given recent history, and is more of a step backward than the move forward — the direction the school district should be taking after escaping the state’s Level 4 designation for under-performing.

What do Gill and Montague get for the 1.875 percent increase if the proposed $17,286,612 budget is approved?

The budget plan is to add three positions that do not exist at this time: a middle school health teacher, a literacy coach for Montague Elementary School and a behavior specialist for the elementary schools.

But at the same time, the budget eliminates enough full and part-time positions to equal what the committee is calling the equivalent of 11 positions. This includes the high school Spanish teacher, a math teacher and a custodian.

At this point, perhaps, everyone should take some time to think about what helped land the district in this predicament several years ago. In 2007, David P. Driscoll, state commissioner of education, recommended that Gill-Montague district be labeled as “under-performing” because the district wasn’t spending enough money, leading to deficiencies in how the system was operating and, the state decided, in how its students were performing.

“During the period of review (2002 to 2005), severe fiscal constraints limited the district’s capacity to develop educationally sound programs to meet the needs of all students,” Driscoll wrote at the time. The communities, he argued, needed to examine more clearly the connections between education and funding.

Obviously no one wants to go back to the days of fighting over school spending and refusing to pass budgets until they hurt the district more than the taxpayers. And certainly no one in the district wants this budget to be a red flag for the state Board of Education — which surely is watching closely.

We urge the communities to listen when Superintendent Michael Sullivan says the budget cuts are significant and harmful — and then to make a better effort to find a balance between necessary money for the schools and the burden on the taxpayers.

Maybe a start to make the schools better is to examine how the money is spent and that includes the Teachers union...retirement, health care and all the other costs involved. Maybe making school as long as it is in Japan or any other country that out performs the U.S. Those countries spend less per pupil and get a better result. I was just in Spain visiting a niece who is a teacher there(for less money than here). From a discussion with a teacher who retired last year in Gill I am surprised. I am moving there sometime soon and noticed the schools are rated a 4 on a 10 scale. If I had school age children I would be very concerned.

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