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Deadline Day for Referendum Redux (Petition for Second Referendum Certified)

Posted by whforums on July 31, 2008

It’s July 31st — which, normally, would mean dog days of summer. The Town Council and Board of Ed are both mere shapes in the haze, the dog is getting shorter walks and, if I don’t take the trash out more often, it stinks.

But this July 31st is different — today is the deadline for the WHTA to collect enough signatures to force a second referendum on the budget. I haven’t heard or seen any scuttlebutt, so I suppose it would be irresponsible of me to speculate on the potential success or failure of the petition drive. UPDATE: According to a commenter, the referendum petition was certified on July 27th and the referendum is a go. Judy Aron, VP of the WHTA, has confirmed that there are indeed enough signatures for a second referendum.

So, instead, Assuming another referendum, I’m going to turn this space over to you. I’ve got three questions for everyone to answer which may begin to re-delineate the sides of the argument. Feel free to add questions and I’ll add them to the post.

Residents of West Hartford, tell us:

1.) Did you sign a petition for a second budget referendum? Why or why not?

2.) What do you think would be will be the outcome of a second referendum?

3.) Have you already made up your mind about how you’d will cast your vote on a second referendum, or can you still be persuaded?

My answers, and the answers of others across town, after the jump.

1. I did not. Because no one asked.

2. I think the outcome would will be minimal — the council would will make more small cuts, the WHTA will be outraged but unable to force a third referendum (we stop at two in these parts, for better or worse), and we’ll bottle this up until next spring. Then we’ll all hate each other again.

3. I can still be persuaded. Right now, if there’s a second referendum, I’m leaning “Yes.” The “No” side would have to work hard to convince me that a “No” vote would lead to meaningful change. But I’ll listen to reasonable arguments.

34 Responses to “Deadline Day for Referendum Redux (Petition for Second Referendum Certified)”

  1. Cynic said

    As of Monday, July 27, the petition drive was certified with more than enough signatures, and more continue to come in.

    the Referendum will be Sept 30. Unfortunately this falls on Rosh Hasonnah for Jews and religious Jews will need to obtain absentee ballots. They can call the Town Clerks for info. The only other option was to change the Town Charter which could not be done in time for the referendum

  2. Father of 3 said

    1 – yes I signed, but noticed people at Stop and Shop who didn’t ask me to sign (perhaps they thought they knew my opinion already??).

    2 – I agree that the outcome of the referendum will be mostly symbolic – but what other mechanism do we as citizens/taxpayers have to tell the town council that we are unhappy?

    3 – I could be convinced to vote ‘yes’ but its highly unlikely. Voting ‘yes’ merely because you don’t think a ‘no’ vote will make much difference ignores the overall message. Many of us in this town have serious questions about the way the town finances are being handled..

  3. Cynic said

    I signed the petition and will vote no on the budget.

    The Mayor and BOE don’t seem towant to take the budget seriously. They refuse to go tothe departments and look for waste, refuse a hiring freeze, refuse to look at benefits, refuse an audit as done in Enfield to look for waste.

    While collecting signatures I had discussions with 2 elderly who are in the process of moving out of town. They are being replace by families with kids.

    Is the Sisk Prophecy starting to come about?

  4. Judy Aron said

    As of Monday afternoon the Town Clerk informed me that 2,507 signatures had been verified and we only needed 2,233 – since that time hundreds of more signatures have been turned into the Town Clerk’s office.

    People are extremely angry that the budget was not reduced more and I heard today that we have a million dollar surplus.
    Looks like leaf collection can be re-instated in this next go-round.

    People are also irate that the Council and BOE are not interested in doing any kind of management audit to find savings or identify places where we can make better policy.

    My suspicion is that this budget will also be voted down.

    So whforums – is a million dollar surplus enough for you to vote NO???

  5. whforums said

    My concern right now is that a “No” vote may very well be only symbolic. And I’m all for protest, especially protest via the vote. At the same time, I want to feel like that protest has some sort of practical implication — and I’m not sure a “No” vote does in this context. It’s almost like voting “No,” when you know that that vote is likely to have little to no impact on actual policy, is giving yourself permission for righteous anger. I guess the counter to that claim would be that voting “Yes” for this reason is just surrendering to the morass.

    Judy — I’d be very interested (as I think most readers would be) in your claims about the million dollar surplus. Can you like us somewhere?

  6. Judy Aron said

    I was told there was a million dollar surplus discussed at a recent Town Council subcommittee meeting – but since they have stopped providing minutes to their meetings online I cannot link it anywhere. The last meeting minutes posted were from May…

    as for a No vote being symbolic.. if the Town Council did their job properly the first time around we wouldn’t be doing this again. It’s too bad if anyone feels voting NO is a futile exercise and merely symbolic.. that in and of itself is shameful that the Town Council would ignore the wishes of the citizens that voted them into office. Pretty arrogant behavior I’d say.

  7. Cynic said

    Unfortunately, you feel feel that a “NO” vote is futile and symbolic, but the Mayor and council will assume a “YES” votes means support and gives them the go ahead to do as they please.

  8. Cynic said

    The Town of Enfield has done several interesting things since the Republicans took over last fall. Our Town Council would be wise to take a look at what they have done.

    1- They just completed a Citizens Audit of the Tow and BOE. Cost to the Town zip. Guess what, they found waste, and numerous areas the town could tighten up the budget.

    2- For the tax me more for education crowd the added a line to the property tax bill:

    ” I Support Education $___________ ”

    The line allows the tax me more crowd to put their money where their mouths are. The Mayor inntends to post the total $$$$ collected by this method at the end of the year.

    3- The Town has started to audit all businesses in the town for office property reporting, to make sure all businesses are reporting personal propewrty.

  9. whforums said

    West Hartford Talk has an interesting post about Enfield
    . I’ve yet to see anyone make a significant and legitimate argument against a closer examination of West Hartford’s budget and spending.

    That said, I feel compelled to point out that Enfield should not necessarily be West Hartford’s model for education spending — their CAPT scores, on average, were 25% lower than ours across the board. That’s 25% less of the entire student population reaching “Goal.” No question that that stat provides a ridiculously shallow analysis, and you can bet there are reasons for their poor performance that run much deeper than the town’s budget/spending, but the comparative scores are stark.

  10. Judy Aron said

    I did not see a suggestion that we ought to do an audit because our education system is comparable, and no one seemed to suggest that Enfield should be West Hartford’s model for spending, so I am not sure why you’d bring any of that up. What is admirable of Enfield is that they did an audit simply to see where problems might be uncovered and therefore addressed.

    West Hartford seems to have a spending problem. They continually tack on 5 or 6% onto their budget without really examining the line item in the budget to see if current spending levels are sufficient or if in fact they can be reduced. 7,000 people in the last budget referendum did not buy into the line that “this is a maintenance budget”, especially when they see wasteful examples like catering trucks pulling up to Town Hall, unnecessary construction of islands on our roads and 3 Public Works employees watering one flower planter. The examples of waste observed and reported by people from around town are unbelievable. This is why we need an audit.

    When Town and School Administration is asked to reduce their budgets they miraculously “find” $500,000 here and there usually by eliminating positions that were never filled, or needed, to begin with, or by moving money around (i.e. “pre-funding” etc.). There are clearly some problems within the way we budget that need to be addressed. I especially think we need to take a look at how we purchase gasoline for our town vehicles – and why we have spent money to put the most expensive brick pavers down in areas that are hardly used by pedestrians.

    I think an audit would give us the ability to show where policies can be changed to effect some savings, or begin a program evaluation process that might show what programs are effective and which ones should be abandoned. Many taxpayers are sensing that department heads are padding their budgets and hoarding money to compensate for their poor management skills, and that they cannot seem to make due with what they have. I am not saying that is the case, but that this is what people are feeling. An audit might just show what is really happening and how our tax dollars are being spent. Are we in fact getting the biggest bang for our buck? We keep hearing – even from town employees (even from teachers as well as Town Hall employees) – how much money is wasted.

    No one is adverse to paying their taxes – not even me – but I for one would like to be sure that money is not being collected and then summarily wasted just because it can be.

    I will also say that it was not hard to get signatures on petitions this time around either, except that people were on vacation and it was brutal weather to be out doing that kind of job, but in general people are really really angry at how this Town Council handled the last budget reductions – they are angry that they took the easy way out to eliminate leaf collection – which everyone knew was being considered for elimination for a long time now because it is a system that generally is poorly handled and has never been made to work more efficiently. They are angry that an underlying problem as to why our increases will continue such that by the end of 5 years our taxes will go up another 42%, was still not addressed. One only has to read Robert Sisk’s report to see what the real problem is here.

    I also find it laughable that the WHTA is being blamed for elimination of leaf collection by some, when in fact it was the Town Council’s decision to get rid of it; WHTA never suggested that they do so. Yet no one criticized this Town administration’s poor decision to bank on the $615,000 that was not delivered on PILOT grants from the State. State funding always seems to be a crapshoot for these people and it would seem to me that if they were prudent they would at least use last year’s numbers instead of some estimate based on what someone told them would come to us.
    They should know by now not to depend on the State’s word for it.
    We’ve been screwed so many times with ECS money you’d think we’d have learned our lessons.

    Anyway – My advice is that the Town Council better sharpen up their red pencils. It is just a shame that we have to go through this whole expensive exercise again because they didn’t get it right the first time.

  11. Cynic said

    “That said, I feel compelled to point out that Enfield should not necessarily be West Hartford’s model for education spending — their CAPT scores, on average, were 25% lower than ours across the board. That’s 25% less of the entire student population reaching “Goal.” No question that that stat provides a ridiculously shallow analysis, and you can bet there are reasons for their poor performance that run much deeper than the town’s budget/spending, but the comparative scores are stark.”

    I’ll agree with Judy here, no one suggested that Enfield be the model for our spending. Yet,money may or may not be at the root of the Enfield problem as well, they have their own demographic problem, and just because they may throw less money into/at Education does not necessarily mean that money will solve the problem.

    The point for comparison was that Enfield decided to look at where the money is going and root out waste.

  12. Noah Webstar said

    “What other mechanism do we have to tell the town we are unhappy”???

    THIS is the problem. We have such crappy choices at election time that we blindly vote in six D’s to the council. Then, during the “off” year, we complain that no one listens, that no one is willing to hold the line on taxes. And next year, we will re-elect all six D’s once again. I also put blame squarely on the minority party as well, because they can’t get out of their own way.

    We need an aleternative – candidates who are willing to be creative, to protect our interests rather than those of the entrenched town employees. When that happens, we will have a chance to show the “town” that we are unhappy with the status quo.

  13. WH Alum said

    I was not asked to sign a petition, though I passed by them more than once at both Stop & Shop and Waldbaum’s. They were either busy talking to someone else or felt I wasn’t worth their breath since I most likely had at least 2 kids trailin on with me.

    If they had bothered to ask me, I would have said no anyway. I do not feel that rejecting the budget at this moment will do anything besides force more cuts to programs we all love. I will support the budget in the coming referendum. How about a petition to force an audit? Does anyone really feel that voting down the budget now will bring about an audit?

    It will be interesting to see if there really is a million dollar surplus, but I could care less about the leaves. It is not something that most towns around us offer and there will be less mess on the streets this fall going into winter snow. And the edge of my lawn will look much nicer, too. Do we have a mechanism to determine exactly what parts of the budget the surplus came from?

  14. WHTaxpayer said

    1. Yes, I signed a petition to give the council and BOE another chance to do the right thing for the taxpayers of WH.
    2. I suspect the budget will again be voted down but I fear the council will not address the underlying wage and benefit issue, just as they avoided it after the first referendum. Based on Mr. Putterman’s comments at the June 25 BOE meeting, there is scant hope that meaningful change will come from that body either.
    3. I intend to vote No to reinforce the message that the counsel and BOE must address the real issue – wages and benefits that rise, and will continue to rise, at rates that cannot be sustained. The math is simple: wages make up 56% of the current budget and have risen, are rising and will continue to rise at the rate of nearly 5% per year so the overall budget will increase 2.8% (56% of 5%) for that alone. Fringe benefits represent 16.5% of the budget and are rising 12.2% a year so the overall budget will rise 2.0% (16.5% of 12.2%) for that alone. So, even if we were miraculously able to cap operating expense and capital spending at last year’s levels, the town budget must go up 4.8% a year. After the first referendum, the council chose to cut operating expense by eliminating services, selling assets and raising user fees while shielding wages and benefits. This is the behavior that must change and voting No again is the only means the taxpayers have to try to bring about that change. Until the underlying wage and benefit issues are addressed, we can expect higher taxes and reduced services every year.

  15. Jenn said

    “2- For the tax me more for education crowd the added a line to the property tax bill:

    ” I Support Education $___________ ””

    That’s really it, isn’t it? At least you had the courage to come out and say it!

    This is what it’s about, everyone. Don’t tax me for your child’s education. If you want your children to be educated, you pay for it. This isn’t about the budget and none of the budget battles around the state are about the budget. They’re about the future of public schooling. Lots of people in this town would like to see the word “public” taken out of that phrase.

    I’m voting “Yes,” because I care about PUBLIC education. And I care about public education because I care about my kids, I care about this state and I care about this country.

    But as long as your tax bill is lower, right? As long as you’re not part of the “tax me more for education crowd.” I hope people see through what you say to what’s really at stake.

  16. WH Alum said

    They’re about the future of public schooling. Lots of people in this town would like to see the word “public” taken out of that phrase.

    Interesting observation… and many of our competing countries offer a “public” (ie FREE) education up through the college level.

  17. Judy Aron said

    Excuse me but when did public education become FREE? Someone has to pay for it WH Alum.

  18. Cynic said

    Interesting point Jenn, but not quite right.

    My taxes are going up as are everyone elses in town. That is all well and good. But there are plenty of you that get up at BOE meetings etc, and tell us you don’t care how high your taxes go, and you demand NO ACCOUNTABILITY of the administration.

    The Enfield tax bill offered taxpayers an interesting option, in that they can voluntarily pay more to the town. What is so wrong with that. You have the option to do it in West Hartford as well, even though it is not spelled out in the budget. You don’t mind paying 7% a year in tax increases, please feel fee to write a check to the town for the difference between the posted tax increase and 7%.

    Can you afford the predicted 44% (expected) increase in taxes in the next 4-5yrs? Many in town can’t. And should empty nesters move out, remember it takes 4 of these households to support yours, and more families with school age children move in the budget numbers get worse.

    No one has suggested the public School System be dismantled. I have a kid in the system and one who graduated. I like the system but I don’t think it should have carte blanche. All of the tax payers deserve to be considered and respected when asked for money, not just those with kids in school

  19. WH Alum said

    Excuse me but when did public education become FREE? Someone has to pay for it WH Alum.

    Let me clarify my comment for you, Judy. “Free” to the student, meaning paid for by the city/state – either via taxes or whatever means the community has of bringing in the bacon. There are people around the world who believe/understand that a quality education for the children means a better community for us all. And there are countries around the world, many that are surpassing the United States, who offer a public education at the university level. Sorry I did not make myself clear the first time. I figured most people would understand the statement.

  20. Judy Aron said

    WH Alum – your condescending tone is really unnecessary. Of course we all understand what you “meant”, but my friend – education is “Free” to the student only in the sense that a child doesn’t pay taxes. The concept that public education is “Free” is totally wrong even as you “mean it”. I am sure YOU can understand what I mean.

    Ah yes – there are countries around the world that offer “Free” university level education. They also pay enormous taxes for such “Free” education. You fail to mention however that there are many university level courses offered by institutions in this country for “free”, and you can audit classes in just about any college for “Free” as well. Although someone in the end is paying for the instructor’s time and the facilities, unless that is being supplied gratis for whatever reason.

    Education on every level in this country is available to anyone who WANTS IT and it is available in many many forms. Online courses are offered for free by universities such as MIT and Harvard. (ex: http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/index.htm)
    Opportunities are everywhere and in lots of cases the taxpayer doesn’t have to pay for it. I think you should investigate other education options because you seem to suggest that the only way anyone can get a decent education is through taxpayer funded programs, and that is simply not true anymore. And by the way – to get an education does not necessarily mean you need to receive some sort of official credential in the end, nor does a credential mean that you are competent or qualified.

    The many reasons countries around the world are surpassing us educationally is because of the poor standards we have, the lack of discipline in our schools, the breakdown of the family (as they are supposed to support children in home and in school)and the stranglehold of unions in education along with dictates ad nauseum from the federal and state government. We do not stress math or science enough and instead have pushed “liberal” studies in our programs. We barely teach history anymore in favor of “social studies” and the Arts are relegated to “art on a cart”. We are more pre-occupied with accommodating the student then presenting them with challenges and goals. Case in point we have more remedial studies in our “institutions of higher learning” now than there ever has been, and in past times one would not be admitted to a college at all unless they mastered their previous studies. Now anyone can go to college even if they cannot read or do math. That speaks volumes don’t you think? While I am not at all opposed to people getting remedial education to get them up to snuff, the question begs to be asked…how do they get into an institution of “higher learning” in the first place if they need remedial help?

    By the way – For the record, I do believe there is a need for publicly funded education,(it also needs a complete overhaul), but I also believe that many more choices and options should be available for every family, and what I rail against is the monopoly that the government tries to put on education, especially since the federal government has no Constitutional place to dictate that at all. I know you’ll disagree. That’s ok. This is America – we can disagree.

    People who call me anti-public education do not understand at all that what I seek is improvement in public education, more choices in education and that includes more choices in education that are not controlled by the government. I also do not believe that throwing more money at a problem will solve it, and that is precisely what is being done with education funding. The problem is not with how much money they get or do not get, but what they do with the money that counts most.

  21. Cynic said

    Judy, you could have also mentioned that those countries that do offer “Free” University education do not offer it to any and all who want it. It is exteremly competitive and selective, and forget it if you need remedial help.

    Basically, it is almost the opposite of what is going on in this country: Forget Class Standing, half the class is honors, and don’t worry about your grade you can always improve it with extra credit.

  22. WH Alum said

    WH Alum – your condescending tone is really unnecessary.

    Judy – I was simply responding in kind, “my friend.”

    Do you spend any time in WH public schools? We don’t have art on a cart. We have unbelievably enriching arts programs. Some people think it’s overdone.

    At the middle schools, the “Social Studies” program is called History, we have history in the elementary schools (my daughter recently studied the native americans and early explorers) and certainly at the high schools.

    Where I completely agree with you, is the federal government overstepping their bounds and putting these ridiculous guidelines in place (ie: no child left behind.) This is the reason we end up looking so bad on paper and why everything is geared “to the test” these days.

    And Cynic – I actually agree with you for once… those countries do have extremely competitive programs and I know in some cases kids take courses just to take the exam to get into the universities. I don’t disagree that we give too many chances and too many kids just slip on by and get their diplomas and degrees without really learning.

  23. Judy Aron said

    WH Alum – When my kids were in our public school system here in West Hartford they had Social Studies – no real history – and they learned primarily about what bad people White Americans of European decent were and how awful we were to drop the bomb on Hiroshima, and other liberal political biased nonsense.

    They had “inventive spelling” and whole language (which I had to spend years of work to undo and thank goodness they can now for the most part spell and write properly).

    The art program was “art on a cart” in some of our elementary schools and unfortunately a lot of the really great stuff that the school purchased went unused because they didn’t have time to use them.

    Computers sat under clear protective plastic covering because teachers didn’t have the time or patience to learn how to use them.

    I had to do so much supplementing of real academics because they spent a lot of time in class doing meaningless trash like “word finds”. They spent lots of time making quilts for AIDS babies instead of teaching my son how to read and write properly and then had the gall to say he must have a learning problem since he had trouble reading and writing!(PS – he doesn’t and didn’t have a learning problem!)

    They spent more time concentrating on who my kids sat next to then what was going into their heads. Meanwhile, a neighbor of mine had a son who was yelled at for using a dictionary on more than one occasion! Then in the Middle school the books they read were mostly depressing contemporary garbage instead of classics.

    In Middle School the Spanish language class consisted of talking about why we invaded Bosnia while my son was chastised for trying to learn how to try to conjugate verbs in the back of the room on his own. God forbid they actually taught something out of the Spanish book. They barely used it.

    My kids complained to me all the time how bored they were and that other kids made trouble when the teacher wasn’t being uninterrupted with phone calls to their room. There was so much instructional time lost that these kids had to spend hours making it up doing homework.

    By the time my son got to Middle school the curriculum was so awful that we had to remove him. The principal at the Middle School said he was sorry he couldn’t accommodate my son’s academic needs and that we should look into private school. They told me and my husband quite frankly that they felt that if they were satisfying the needs of 85% of the student population then they felt they were doing their job. We wondered what happened to the other 15%.

    Yes – I have spent time in the WH public schools and I do a fair amount of talking to parents who endlessly complain to me how deficient it is as well as to merchants who tell me how these kids can’t compute.

    You can see the positives – and maybe the system works for you – but it doesn’t work for many others and there ARE problems. I think you better take off your rose colored glasses and see that this school system has problems and there ARE kids in school of all colors, economics, and ethnicities (rich and white included) whose needs are not being met for a variety of reasons – reasons which by the way are not just a product of circumstances at home.

    You can throw all the money in the world at this school system – that doesn’t make it perfect, and the reality is we have as a school district fallen woefully behind. You can sit there and blame it on being in the wrong DRG – but when even our rich white kids come out of the system and they are unable to count change then you better look again.

    There is a reason why kids are attending private schools and homeschooling.

  24. whforums said

    “You can throw all the money in the world at this school system – that doesn’t make it perfect, and the reality is we have as a school district fallen woefully behind. You can sit there and blame it on being in the wrong DRG – but when even our rich white kids come out of the system and they are unable to count change then you better look again.”

    There’s no question school spending needs to be wise and appropriate, and I wouldn’t oppose a closer look at how we’re spending (not by me — by people who know how to look at these things) our “education money” to see where the waste may be, etc. That said, I have to take issue with the claim that “we as a school district have fallen woefully behind” when our CAPT and CMT scores demonstrate that the district remains well above average.

    I don’t disagree that there is a lot about public education that’s broken right now — including classroom discipline. But the only way the argument that we’re “behind” holds water is if you argue that the district’s significantly above average performance is symptomatic of how below average Connecticut’s schools are as a whole. This site ranks CT as having the third best public schools in the US in 06-07, so, if you buy their methodology, it seems difficult to argue that WH is “woefully behind” in the context of US public education.

    I don’t in any way mean to devalue your experience or the experience of your kids, Judy — I have no doubt that the public school system isn’t the right place for some students or some parents, probably for a million valid reasons. But I also want to defend our teachers as trained professionals who are doing what they’re doing in class because they believe it’s in the best interests of the vast majority of the students.

    I’m beginning to compose my thoughts on the next referendum. I’m simultaneously grateful and bitter about the fact that we’re limited to two — god knows we don’t need to extend our town divisions, but capping referenda seems to significantly undercut the will of the vote.

  25. Judy Aron said

    Sorry – but according to ALEC, CT ranks 18th in the nation (which doesn’t even put us in the top quarter) – but we rank 4th in spending

    2007 Report Card on Education.
    Read the full report

  26. Zohan said

    Would you like to quote a report from any sites that aren’t pushing a Libertarian agenda?

  27. Judy Aron said

    Zohan – What difference does it make if the facts speak for themselves? have you got a problem with real data? ALEC is a Nonpartisan individual membership organization of state legislators – so I guess you have a problem with bi-partisanship. And I guess you also have no use for free markets or limited government. That’s ok – to each their own.

    Perhaps you’d like to cite some facts from a group or website that spouts only a liberal agenda. That would be entertaining. Your comment is not surprising though since you are using the name of a title of a movie with the ever idiotic Adam Sandler – but I guess some people actually waste their time with that type of mindless trash. Did you actually pay money to see that movie? If you did, you can thank the free market that brought it to you (smile).

  28. Cynic said

    Judy, you forgot they hate facts.
    Their claims don’t hold up when the numbers come out so they spin it.
    Look what just went on wuth the Mastery Tests and CAPT tests, They’re thrilled with the results, despite the fact that we dropped to the bottom of our DRG

  29. whforums said

    Cynic, I like you, but come on. The only argument I made re: our DRG was that it was one tool by which to analyze our testing performance and as such should not be considered an absolute gauge. And regardless of whether you believe that CT has the fourh best education or the 18th best education in the states (or some number in between), it doesn’t alter my argument that, based on those numbers and our above average test performance in the state, it’s very difficult to argue that West Hartford’s system is “behind.”

    I also think it’s important to implicitly and explicitly value our teachers as trained professionals who are working their butts off for our kids and producing results that are nationally and locally viable.

  30. Cynic said

    no offense was meant to you, WHforums. Frankly, I did not find your comments outrageuos. My comments was actually directed at newspaper comments by the BOE and Administration that referred to their delight with the systems performance on the tests.

  31. Judy Aron said

    Where did anyone here say that our teachers were not valued? Where did anyone here say that they were not professional?
    I’d like to see the unions and the administrators and state mandates get out of the teachers’ way so they can actually do what they were trained to do.
    The thing that puzzles me is that with all the money in the education budget why is it that teachers still have to buy materials and supplies out of their own pocket?

  32. Zohan said

    LOL…the name was actually a parody of that awful trash. Sarcasm doesn’t translate well on the internets. Any group whose website promotes “Limited Governments. Free Markets. Federalism.” is not bi-partisan. Stop lying to yourself.

    Also, your immediate assumption that I would go to a liberal source for a rebuttal is a great self-indictment of your own political viewfinder. Left, right, left, right. No middle.

  33. WH Alum said

    Judy – If I felt my kids had the same experiences yours had, then I guess I would feel as outraged as you do about the system in general. But I have learned that all of life is about one’s own perception. You and I could have the exact same experience, and walk away with two completely opposing perceptions of that experience. I have a feeling, that would certainly be the case between you and me. I don’t paint the whole world rosey, but I do weigh the good and the bad, and in the case of WHPS, I myself and my kids have experienced much more good than bad.

    I’d be curious to know how old your children are and when they were in the schools. My kids had some “inventive spelling” in the very early grades, but they have certainly been held accountable for proper spelling as they have moved upwards.

    Each of the experiences you mentioned are hard to understand out of context. The child using a dictionary – was it during a test/quiz or some other inappropriate time?

    At one point did that principal tell you that you might want to consider private school for your son? Was it in the first conversation of difficulty or after many attemtps to please you? Did you have your son tested for learning difficulties? If he had no identifiable learning difficulty, then they could not give him an individualized plan, right?

    I’ve not seen a clear plastic covering on a computer in a school since my kids started. From what I hear from teachers, they are climbing over each other to get lab time, more computers in their classrooms, or mobile labs for their buildings. Our schools are full of Smartboards, digital cameras, and video editing, and the websites include blogs and wikis for student interactivity. Guess what? All that technology and the training that goes along with it costs money. Some teachers manage to get grants from outside the district, but I’d guess that the vast majority comes from the school budget or PTO fundraising efforts.

    …there ARE kids in school of all colors, economics, and ethnicities (rich and white included) whose needs are not being met for a variety of reasons – reasons which by the way are not just a product of circumstances at home.

    I don’t disagree with you there, Judy. And I know parents who have sent their kids to private schools or magnet schools outside of town for their own reasons. One size does not fit all in education, and you can find smaller class sizes and more personal attention elsewhere. But the “variety of reasons” you mention require special staffing of many different kinds, staffing that we might lose with the budget cuts. And some of our classes will have more kids in them because of the last round of cuts. How are the teachers supposed meet each individual’s needs with 5-7 more kids in the room?

    I agree “throwing money” at it does not necessarily help the situation, and I don’t disagree with an audit. But voting no on this budget is a message to cut programs/staff/services right now, without doing an audit to find out if there truly is waste and where that waste might be. That will not benefit any of our children, and programs/positions lost now will be much harder to add back in later. I will still support the budget in this go round, and respectfully request that the WHTA and others find a way to bring about an audit before the next budget season begins. Perhaps you might even find a way to work with the people at WH First cooperatively to make that happen.

    Pitting neighbors against neighbors and seniors against young families is getting old. The sky is not falling, the actual $$ saved per household is negligible, overall our test scores are relatively good, and there is much to celebrate in our schools as this new year gets underway.

  34. Judy Aron said

    Yeah, I agree “Pitting neighbors against neighbors and seniors against young families is getting old.”

    But the real unreported truth is that many young families and registered Democrats voted against the budget. This budget was not just voted down by old people and “anti-education” people or even Libertarian leaning Conservatives who “lie to themselves”.

    The fact is that the sky IS falling for those who are being shoved out of town – maybe that’s not you – but how about considering someone else’s plight? This “let them move if they can’t afford their taxes” (aka – the Marie Antoinette approach, taken by some) is a great insult and injustice to the people who have lived here for many years and helped build this town. Why should they move? Because expensive brick pavers have to be laid down at Bishop’s corner or because the Board of Education/WHPS like their regularly catered meals from Russell’s Caterers or Prospect Cafe? or even because we have administrators who are willing and able to feather their own nest and retire on 6 figure incomes? Come on now.

    The actual money saved per household may have been small the last go around – but that was because this Town Council didn’t do their job. The administration and WH First were also just focusing in on the increase – not what we are paying in total! Have you seen the cumulative effect from the past five years? and what you are paying monthly for services? Is $700.00 PER MONTH going to local government acceptable to you? Do you realize that at the rate we are going that will rise by 42% more in 4 short years???? Can you afford that? Bravo to you if you can. There are many who cannot, and all that we (the 7,000 who voted against the budget last time) are asking is for some fiscal restraint and accountability. I don’t think that is too much to ask for.

    Yes, West Hartford is a great place, we want to keep it that way – NO ONE IS OUT TO DESTROY THAT! Our schools can be better and the way we run our town can be better. And it doesn’t cost a fortune to do that either. And one thing is very certain we have to get our money back from the State and stop doling it out to every other town who claims they have a greater need.

    I would love to sit down with you and tell you what the schools did and did not do with regard to my kids’ education, and why we ultimately took them out (11 years ago) of “one of the finest schools around”. Bottomline is that our needs were not met and we were asked to go elsewhere. That doesn’t make me anti-education. It means I am paying huge taxes for services I don’t even use and haven’t used for the past 11 years! And when I see that money wasted the way it is it is really annoying.

    As for WHFirst, we invited them to work with us but later found out that their proclaimed “objectivity” was smoke. I would sit down with them in a heartbeat if they were truly objective. I truly hope that we could work together in the future at the state level to get back more of what we send to the state in Income tax – end unfunded state mandates and fix binding arbitration. We should get much more state funding in the form of whatever ECS or other grant funding there is (without strings attached) because quite frankly the fact that we get 12 cents back on every dollar that our residents send up to the state in income tax is unacceptable.

    Cutting the budget would benefit our children if reductions are made in the right places. Lower taxes in this town benefits EVERYONE including our families and that includes our children.
    Lower taxes comes from prudent spending and creative income generation. Neither of which I have seen of late.

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