In this new year, I have resolved to balance my focus between work and my family. And as the proud parent of three students in Chariho, my focus on family involves paying attention to our schools. After all, it’s where my children spend most of their waking weekday hours.
With the school budget process underway, and rumors of people already wanting to “vote it down,” I strongly urge all parents and community members to pay attention and PLEASE get involved. Learn the facts and talk with people who have different perspectives or politics. Tell them how important certain classes and programs are for your child, or tell them how you will not be able to make your mortgage if the budget increases too much. Look for solutions and find common ground on a budget we all can support. Because voting down the budget completely, in the face of so much inflation, would have DEEPLY negative, long-term impacts on the quality of education in Chariho. And I want all the kids in our district to get a chance to be proud Chariho graduates.
So far, the School Committee has held two public budget workshops, so there is lots of public budget information you can review.
The next budget meeting is the Omnibus on Jan. 18. This is required by the Chariho Act: The School Committee and superintendent invite Town Council members from Charlestown, Richmond, and Hopkinton, as well as state senators and representatives, and the only item on the agenda is thefiscal year ’24 budget.
Our state officials can offer information about how our budget is tied to the state budget, and how we might increase the funding. These state and local officials are in a position to fulfill their campaign promises, so your attendance at the Omnibus would show them you are expecting results. Plus you would get to see the superintendent and School Committee in action.
The district already faces challenges due to failing to pass last year’s budget, compounded by global inflation and rising interest rates. We have already cut the World Language program from Elementary Schools, cut updated technology purchases, cut after-school buses, cut a math specialist, cut a middle school/high school library teacher, etc. And more cuts to teachers, staff, services and programs are inevitable in the 2023-24 budget, since the proposed 6.64% increase would just maintain current operations.
Remember that behind all these numbers are the children growing up in our district, not to mention the teachers and staff who are trying their hardest to help them recover the academic and social learning they lost due to COVID. They deserve our attention, regardless of how painful a tax hike might be. And I believe we can come together as a community to pass a budget that works for everyone.
I urge you to attend the Omnibus meeting on Wednesday, Jan.18 at 7 p.m. in Room 105/107 in the Chariho Career and Technical Center.