In March, voters went to the polls and defeated a 4.29 percent school budget increase. The school board reduced the budget by $442,744 and put forth a 3.09 percent increase (that would increase property taxes by 3.692 percent). Last week, that budget proposal was defeated as well. Now, as we struggle to find more places to cut, I thought it would be helpful to point out some other numbers that matter.
Our budget represents the vision that our community and school created for our students. It is built around community engagement, innovative teaching and learning, and success for all students. Our vision states that our schools achieve success when they are in partnership with our community. But in our community of approximately 11,000 registered voters, barely 2,000 came out to vote. That number matters.
Many times we’re reminded that Colchester’s per-pupil spending ($12,043) is lower than the state average ($12,789); however, our achievement on standardized tests is higher (statewide: 53 percent proficient/Colchester: 72 percent proficient). Statewide, school enrollment is decreasing, but Colchester kindergarten enrollments are at a ten-year high. Our classroom student-to-teacher ratio pushes the top end of Vermont quality standards at around 22:1 in the lower grades and 24:1 in the upper grades. These numbers should matter as well.
Our educators are some of the best in the state and have been recognized regionally and nationally for facilitating excellent learning. But more importantly, our students are achieving success both while in our schools and once they graduate and reach for college and career goals. For our students and educators to continue this success, we, as a community, must provide them the tools they need.
It’s easy to say no to numbers when every dollar increase puts more stress on our households and families. But we must remember that supporting our public education system is an investment in the future of our community. We each have a part to play to ensure that Colchester remains a great place to live and learn.
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