Today’s story in The Hartford Courant quotes David Sklarz, the school superintendent, as saying last night that he faces “the most difficult reductions that I’ve had to present” in searching for ways to pare $1.8 million from the next education budget.
Now I could understand why this year posed problems if we were in the middle of a recession, if people were losing their homes and jobs, if everyone was taking a hit. But that’s not the case at all. The stock market’s soaring. Jobs are plentiful (though I recognize good jobs are still hard to come by). The economy is treating us kindly, for now.
So why are we in a budget-cutting frenzy?
Simple: because the town council is more scared of the West Hartford Taxpayers Assocation than it is of the voters.
As a result, it whacked $1.8 million from the school budget, threatening to wipe out Quest, erase extra help for our most troubled schools and even slice away full-day kindergarten at a handful of elementary schools. A disaster looms if these cuts go through.
Yet Theresa McGrath, president of the tax group, told the school board last night to find even more cuts. Why don’t we just put closed signs on the doors of our schools and tell our best and brightest kids to move, quickly, to Simsbury or Farmington? This is all nuts.
The story in the Courant today is typically awful. It mentions that a handful of parents spoke to the board, pleading for some programs. None of them are quoted by name. Only oneschool board members is quoted, so we really don’t know what they’re thinking in any detail either, which is a shame.
I’m afraid that the Courant’s lackluster interest in the crisis facing our town is going to make it so most parents are barely aware of what’s happening, if they know at all. Information is scant — whichever side you come down on — and there’s no place to get the facts that we need.
The one school board member who is mentioned in the story, Terry Schmitt, said the list of proposd cuts is a “classic example of how unfortunately wrong” McGrath is about the severity of what’s at stake.
This is a moment of truth for West Hartford. We need to defend our schools against a spurious attack by council members and self-styled taxpayer advocates that will gut good programs and set back education.
It’s not going to get easier for us in the next few years. If we start scaling back now, we’re in deep, deep trouble.