Friday, May 24th

STA Asks the Board to Protect the Heart of Programs That Serve the Children of Scarsdale

ScarsdaleHighSchoolWhat is the Scarsdale Teacher’s Association’s view of the proposed school budget? In short, they support it. Here are comments made by STA President Joe Vaughn at a recent meeting of the Board of Education.

My name in Joe Vaughan and I am speaking on behalf of the Scarsdale Teachers Association as the President of the Association.

I would like to begin by applauding the Board on its transparent and thorough process in constructing this budget. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the potential outcomes of the process, for those that have been paying attention to the process, the steps, progressions, guiding philosophies and principles of this process have been clear from the start. Balancing the fiscal stewardship of the Scarsdale Schools with the educational stewardship of the Scarsdale Schools is no mean feat. The Board has the unenviable responsibility of balancing the interests of the taxpayers with the interests of our students and hopefully find alignment between these interests.

A school budget is as much a fiscal document as it is a statement about a community’s values. The community of Scarsdale has always been rightly known to value education. A YES vote for the school budget has always been seen as an investment in the future, a recognition in the centrality of supporting the students of the Scarsdale Schools as a shared community value.

Dr. Drew Patrick and his team have presented three budgets for consideration to this Board. We view the original budget presented by Dr. Patrick on February 5th as a forward-looking budget that seeks to advance the educational objective of the District. Based on feedback from the Board and community input, the budget presented by his team on March 4th pares back the ambition of the Central Office team and is more a status quo measure with targeted attempts to push the educational mission forward. This budget was their attempt to balance the educational needs of the District with what they heard from the members of the Board and some of the community as the potential fiscal difficulty of a budget above the misguided regressive, political construct that is the tax cap law. The budget presented on March 11th further pares this budget, and in the STA’s view it is clear that the March 11th proposal allows a budget to maintain the excellence of our schools but will have direct impact on the experience of our students. As one clear example of many in this budget was evident on slide 15 from Budget Study Session 3 that lists cut after cut that would need to occur in Arts Enrichment programs. Our schools have always prided ourselves in bringing the broader world into our schools and classrooms and to see this cut in arts funding made me not recognize our shared values in this proposal even as I understood the rationale fiscally for why this cut over other cuts.

During Budget Study Session 2, the Board of Education tasked Dr. Patrick and his team to look for those cuts and withdrawals. I think that this was a prudent thing to do, to rightfully know the consequences of making those additional changes. The STA would argue that those cuts and withdrawals go too far as these changes impact the opportunities of young people of Scarsdale. Also, during Budget Study Session 2, the Board tasked Dr. Patrick with showing what would be needed to get under the cap. Once again, this was prudent for the Board to want to know this information to make good, transparent decisions. Hopefully, this Board agrees though that the cuts listed as necessary to get under the cap in slides 31 – 34 of the Budget Study Session 3 presentation are not ones that best support the needs of children.

In response to this presentation, it was suggested that the budget proposal in Budget Study Session 3 did not cut enough because it didn’t yet ‘cut into the muscle.’ I would disagree and say that the cuts and withdrawals presented in the March 11 budget while supporting the core programming absolutely do begin to affect children negatively. But more importantly, I question the basic presumption of the argument that cutting into the muscle is a worthy goal of this process. If we think physically, our muscles allow the human body to propel itself forward, to laugh, to dance, to run, to see, to live a life that is filled with joy and meaning. Why would we want to cut into that which allows us to achieve our potential? The heart is also a muscle, and the heart must be protected just as the STA asks the Board of Education to protect the heart of the programs that serve the interests of children with excellence here in Scarsdale.

The STA supports the Superintendent’s original budget proposal on February 5th as best reflecting the values of the schools. We are not myopic though to fiscal pressures that we all presently face, so, if such a budget is not practically possible, we would join with our partners in the Scarsdale PTC in supporting the budget presented as a more modest step forward than originally presented, and we support the requests of our PTA partners asking for restoration of specific elements to the budget. The STA believes that supporting any other budget that is more restrictive will have negative consequences for students.

Thank you for your time and service to the community. Know that the STA values our partnership with the Board in meeting the needs of our students.

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