Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Waiting for ‘robust’ investment in Easthampton’s schools
I have lived in Easthampton more than a decade, watching with pride as it has bloomed as a cultural destination and a small business incubator. As a parent with two young children, I faced a difficult decision when kindergarten came around.
Not because I didn’t believe in Easthampton, or in the teachers at Center-Pepin. But because the funding of schools in Easthampton is just not adequate for the children of Easthampton.
For too long, I have been waiting for robust investment in our public schools to take Easthampton to the next level. But all I’ve seen is deep cuts eroding them further. The district reports that cuts from 2010-2014 have “had a cumulative impact” of almost $5 million on educational programming.
Again this year, the initial city appropriation fails to even level-fund the schools, cutting $1,469,843 from the district’s requested level-service budget.
Property values, which already took a hit during the housing crisis and long recession, are held back by our underperforming schools. Good schools lift property values; a study from the University of Delaware found that for every $1 of property taxes raised for education spending, home values rise by more than $34.
It’s only by taking that first step of investment that we get to reap the rewards of better schools — for our property values and for our children.
The opportunity exists for our new mayor to oversee this investment in our schools. The tax increase that built our beautiful and badly needed new high school? Let’s keep that on the books, and use that not only to restore the cuts in staffing and resources that our schools need from kindergarten all the way to Grade 12, but to envision a better district.
It would be a start. We must climb out of our Level 3 status and the reputation that is turning away families who would otherwise settle in Easthampton, and sending others to other districts and charters which further drain and strain our budget. Easthampton residents not only deserve this; we implore our mayor to make it her highest priority.
Don’t give up on later start time for NHS
I recently read Gazette reporter Barbara Solow’s column titled, “City in search of plan for later start at NHS.”
If the city was truly in search of a plan (for the last seven years), it would have looked at inefficient, expensive busing and analyze the actual ridership rather than phantom riders who have bus passes but do not take the buses.
We just wasted up to $10,000 – I do not know the exact figure because it is not provided without a request for public documents — by feeding consultants inaccurate information.
Over the last seven years there have been numerous, viable, no-cost proposals presented by over 200 advocates, students and teachers who have wanted to have the high school start time align with teenager’s biological clocks.
How is this issue interconnected with charter schools? PVPA and Hilltown both start at 8:30 a.m. But more importantly, at a charter school, if students came before a board of adults and told them that they were depressed and sad for the first time in their lives when they started NHS, because of the start time, they would be heard.
A town as smart as we claim, with five colleges in our area, could come up with a win/win solution.
It is time we truly examine how we process overwhelming research and who is really behind our inability to come up with solutions. Until we do that, frustrated parents will opt out of the system. We will continue to ask for overrides and make cuts to education because we choose to have empty buses.
For all the students in 2008 who signed petitions to start the high school at 8:30 a.m., I say to you, don’t give up hope.
Renee Wetstein is a lawyer and the parent of three boys. They all attended the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School and Northampton High School.
We risk losing foundation of our public school system
No one in the education profession is surprised by the civil rights data recently released by the Education Department (“US education system rife with inequalities”).
When Catherine Lhoman, assistant secretary of US Department of Education, was interviewed on PBS’s World News, she offered no solutions other than more studies about what should be done.
But the solution has always been clear — fully fund the public schools (including the money promised for regional transportation). Stop draining monies through charter schools and vouchers. Schools are in trouble because of poverty and racial segregation.
This is systemic throughout our society, not just our schools. Look at statistics for incarceration rates for minorities.
Corporate reformers, who are backing legislation for charter schools and vouchers, use linguistic sweeteners like “choice” and “civil rights.” However, by privatizing education, we are losing the foundation of our democracy — our public school system.