The majority of speakers during the public comment portion of last week’s Board of Education meeting talked about the budget, answering a call to action put out by The Voting Moms in conjunction with the PTAs.
Most community members spoke from the heart about the negative impact from cutting foreign language programs, ALP programs, and more. They aren’t wrong — cutting those programs would definitely be an undesirable and unfortunate outcome of the budget process. No one could argue that cutting programs is a good thing for students.
However, the people who spoke so eloquently and pulled at heartstrings about the cuts all ignored the actual numbers and financial reality of the budget.
Two speakers offered rather shocking statistics that should be food for thought for everyone.
First, former BOE member Peter Sherr offered five statistics comparing Greenwich Schools from ten years ago to today.
How in the world did the 2014 team deliver essentially the same results GPS is seeing today, but with 33 fewer teachers and 300 more students? How does that makes sense?
By the way, the district has maintained the same percent of minority students as it did in 2014 (33%) and the same number of English language learners (55.5%).
Yet despite adding 33 teachers to the district, academic achievement has stayed exactly the same.
Sherr alleged that the main difference is the central office and the leadership team.
That’s where comments by RTM member Dave Lancaster came into play.
Lancaster, who is a fourth generation native of Greenwich and attended GPS himself, took a look at audited and published data for the district from the town, state and federal government.
He found that Greenwich spends the most per student ($26,695) of any district with more than 2,000 students in the state by a wide margin. That’s 7% more per student than Westport, 11% more than Darien, 18% more than New Canaan, and 19% more than Fairfield.
Similarly, teachers in Greenwich earn the most in the state, much higher than other comparable districts. He gave the example that over the typical tenure of a teacher, a Greenwich teacher would earn $356,000 more than a teacher working in the next highest paid Fairfield County district.
When it comes to special education, Greenwich spends $45,660 per student, which is 15% more than in the next highest district, Darien; 17% more than Fairfield; and 18% more than Westport.
“I’ve worked in finance all of my professional life and currently work for the London Stock Exchange. I know numbers and budgets. If these were the facts in the real world, with 20% of our children not at reading grade level, which is the case, you would conclude only one thing. We don’t have a money problem, we have a management problem.”
Indeed that would seem to be the case, especially if the current administration requires 33 more teachers to deliver the same academic experience to 300 fewer students.
The last speaker during the public comment period, Jackie Homan, shifted topics away from the budget, and instead asked the BOE what policies it has in place to keep union politics out of schools, especially after the union was exposed for funding a Communist awards ceremony earlier in the month.