To the Editor:
On Monday night, I spoke in support of the Bristol Board of Education’s budget at the Board of Finance meeting. As a parent and resident of the city, I was tremendously heartened to see so many people attend the meeting and hear quite a few speak. I am grateful to the Board of Finance for allowing public comment, especially in a long meeting to discuss a complicated budget. What I said there follows:
I want to start out by saying that I love my son’s school. His teacher is creative and committed. The administration is terrific. The parents I have met there are nothing short of inspirational. I am more grateful for our experience at South Side than I could probably express. I’ve tutored kids from both high schools in math and science and talked to parents with kids in different Bristol schools and they largely say the same thing: The teachers are wonderful. The administrators are great.
However, I’m standing here because I am concerned. The learning plan that my son enjoys is funded only by the ingenuity and efforts of multiple teachers. When I volunteer in my son’s classroom, I see that the paraprofessionals and literacy teachers who work with the students are invaluable and too few. The staff, the administration, the parent volunteers already have their hands full.
Exceptional teachers cannot do the job alone. Even in a school with a super hero theme.
We are at the point where talented teachers and inventive administration won’t be enough to make up for another year of inadequate funding. I am not alone in this concern.
Our neighbors with a young child have put their house on the market looking for a better-funded school system. I know another Bristol family with strong ties in the area currently looking at houses in Farmington for the same reason. Even in that group of dedicated parents at South Side, some are worried that the resources just aren’t there for their children.
These families have looked into private schools, but tuitions are astronomical. It’s literally cheaper to move to a different district. And people affluent enough to do so already are.
The property-owner in me sees a large portion of Bristol’s tax base in danger of slipping away to towns with better-funded systems while, frustratingly, houses here sit empty, despite the excellent teachers that should attract families to town.
A sensible budget in uncertain times is a hallmark of good government. But I would argue that good government also involves taking the long view.
Financially supporting Bristol’s schools fully not only benefits teachers and students, but also keeps families living, working, and shopping in Bristol and attracts new ones, expanding the tax base, raising property values, and retaining the talented teachers that Bristol should justifiably be proud of.