A teachable moment?

los-bart at blackboard.v2Well, how’s this for summer entertainment! Since we last met, the school budget has gone down to a second – and particularly ugly – defeat. The NO’s far outnumbered the YES’s: 3,584 to 496. The “Too Low’s” modestly outnumbered the “Too High’s” – 2,042 to 1,833. But to hear the blank-check-for-the-schools crowd tell it, that was a clear mandate to goose the budget back to a level the superintendent is comfortable with. Perhaps we should go back to his “Leadership Council’s” original recommendation of $40.2 million that would have increased taxpayer funding of the schools by 12%. That’s the trouble when all you see is one side of the issue – no amount is too high.

Cutting to the bone? Or removing a few cushions?


If we had a nickel for every time the word “devastating” was used to describe the proposed $500,000 reduction to the school budget, we would be able to fulfill that long-held dream of retiring to a tropical island. But, alas, it is proving impossible to turn rhetoric into an income stream.

Please take a quick peek at the following chart of just how that $500,000 reduction was going to be achieved. As you will see, the first $300,000 or so was mostly accounting gimmicks and reductions with minimal or no impact on the kids. It was only that last $180,000 – the major slashing of sports and after-school activities – that hurt. And that slashing was meant to hurt, make no mistake about it. Having unnecessarily inflicted that pain, the superintendent got the attention of the school parents and misled them into thinking the academic sky was falling. We’ve used the word before and will use it again – cynical.

los-500k cuts chart.v2For an “official,” though less informative, version of this chart, please follow this link. Our earnest hope is that a few of those who have taken the School Board bait will actually read and understand the above chart… and realize the results of the reductions are not devastation – most of them don’t even rise to the level of inconvenience.

 Into the Wayback Machine…

los-wayback machineSherman: “Where to today, Mr. Peabody?”
Mr. Peabody: “Today Sherman we only go back to 2011. We’ll be visiting the posh Boston suburb of Belmont, where the school budget is facing a $2.9 million shortfall. A huge community outcry has arisen over threats to make deep cuts to music, art, foreign language, social studies, and library programs. Let’s see what Belmont’s superintendent of schools, George Entwistle, has to say…”

los-entwistle quotes-2011For full article, click here.

Sherman: Wow, Mr. Peabody, that rhetoric sounds awfully familiar!
Mr. Peabody: Yes, my boy, once you learn a good scare tactic, you should never let it go.

 Our List of Budget Reductions

As faithful readers know, we here at LookOutScarborough.com are not educators. (In fact, some of our non-fans question whether we’re actually human.) Be that as it may, we contend that you don’t have to be an educator to find legitimate areas of the school budget to analyze for potential savings. We hope that at least a few of those who are blindly rallying to the School Board’s defense will join us in the future in a thoughtful review and analysis of the school budget. Come to the School Board Finance Committee meetings and pull up a chair.

In the meantime, here’s our list of some of the areas of the school budget that we believe at least deserve analysis and consideration.

los-budget savingsShould we at LookOutScarborough.com be making these suggestions? Absolutely not, but if the superintendent refuses to take a serious and honest look at the school operations – and share it with the public – then we have no choice but to suggest relatively uninformed, but plausible, areas for review.

A Suggestion Everyone Should Love?

A real wooden Suggestion Box. 12MP camera.On July 10, we emailed School Board Chair Beeley asking her to consider streaming and recording all future School Board Finance Committee meetings. Currently the Town’s Finance Committee meetings are streamed and recorded and made available on the Town’s website. The School Board meetings are also made available in this manner. The School Board Finance committee meetings are where the infamous $500,000 reduction list was concocted. The meetings are critical to an understanding of the school budget and yet they can be held at very inconvenient times (recently one was at 9:30 am on a Monday and another at 8:00 am on a Wednesday).

Anyone who wants a thorough understanding of the school budget should be able to attend or at least review these meetings.

We have not yet received a reply from Chair Beeley to this suggestion. Let’s hope she shares our interest in having full and transparent public access to the School Board’s operation. How could one be against that?

dogblog--coming attractionsTown Council meeting:

Wednesday, July 15, 7pm at Town Hall.

“First reading” of the proposed school budget for referendum #3.  Should be interesting to see if the blank checkers have their way with the Council.  If their public comments are any indication, expect lots of hubris and some rather bold demands.

That’s it for now, folks!  Mark August 4 on your calendar — Referendum #3. We may be going for a record here…

Be neighborly,

TT Hannah




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