2012-02-16 / Editorials

Everyone deserves a say in school budget process

Former East Aurora district teacher and School Board candidate Judith Malys has once again brought up the need for community involvement in the school budget process.

“Shared decision-making,” she said, would see not only administrators and board members having a say in the process, but the teachers, building and grounds staff, and residents as well. Of course, one could make the case that the residents have their say when they vote in May, but that really doesn’t give them any say in the budget development process.

In these difficult financial times, it is imperative that school districts find a way to maintain the quality of education. That means keeping programs that directly benefit students intact. In an increasingly global economy, we simply cannot tell our children to be prepared for it. We must actually prepare them by giving them a quality education. By definition, a public school system requires public monies to fund it. Therefore, the suppliers of those monies, in this case, the resident taxpayers, should have a say in how their tax dollars are spent. While they do get to vote on the final budget proposal, they should also be entitled to involvement in the process of deciding what stays and what goes. This way, all points of view would be represented in the budget process. While it is true that concerned residents can and do make their feelings known at the regular board meetings, not everyone has the time to attend meetings on a regular basis.

Shared decision-making would allow the district’s administrators to explain why they’ve proposed keeping one program or curriculum over another, directly to teachers, parents and residents without children in the district. It would not only open up the process, but also allow insight into the process. Perhaps parents would then better understand the administration’s point of view, and vice versa.

Numerous studies have shown that people tend to get along better when they understand each other. It’s easy to toss accusations back and forth when you have no idea of the reasoning behind the other side’s conclusion. People often become angry and frustrated over things they cannot understand.

If anyone involved needs a good reason to consider this, how about the students? We’d all be doing them a disservice if we made budget decisions without consulting them first. Each party involved should at least have one representative at the table during the process. This way, no one can claim to have been blindsided, and everyone’s interests can be heard.

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