As a member of Weston’s Board of Finance, I voted against the cut in the school budget which passed last week, five votes to two. Not only do these five votes fly in the face of public opinion; their message bodes ill for the future of education in Weston.
The tiny budget increase requested by our Board of Education was, for the fifth year running, the smallest in our Demographic Reference Group (DRG). Weston’s per pupil expenditure has grown less than every other in our DRG but one. We probably don’t want to be the town that spends the most on education, but do we really want to be the town that spends the least?
In their continued effort to minimize taxes, Weston’s BOE has stretched elementary class sizes to their limits. In fact, by the time I was out-voted, enrollment projections already necessitated two additional teachers beyond those budgeted. Where will those teachers come from, now that the school budget, widely acknowledged as lean, has been cut to the bone?
But the message delivered by my fellow finance board colleagues was even more ominous: Re-think the way you’re educating, because next year, the budget cut will be significantly larger. Certainly, Weston would enjoy being the school system that revolutionizes public education, but cutting the budget before a new model has been implemented (or even invented) is downright reckless. While parents, taxpayers and homebuyers would love for Weston to become the Apple of education, we may soon be at risk of becoming the Edsel.
By an overwhelming majority, Weston’s voters supported the school budget. Of the 43 citizens who spoke publicly or emailed the Board of Finance, 40 requested that we maintain, or even increase, the budget. To disregard the will of the people may be acceptable in some societies, but not in a democracy.
When Board of Finance members decide that they know better than their fellow citizens, more than professional educators, it’s time to question who the Weston Board of Finance is really serving.
Melissa Koller, a Democrat, is a member of the Weston Board of Finance.