Opinion: Education reform a must to move Norwalk, state forward

By Lisa Thomson

Co-Founder of Red Apples of Norwalk

NORWALK, Conn. – Red Apples of Norwalk is a volunteer, grassroots education advocacy group. We’re moms and educators that want systemic change in Norwalk’s schools because we think kids deserve better – hardly a new concept in the national debate on public education.

Born in 2010, out of a few moms who met at Board of Education meetings, we wanted to raise our activism from individual PTO school fundraising to demanding a more strategic vision for our district. Some BOE members and anonymous bloggers have tried to label us teacher haters. How absurd! Many of our supporters ARE teachers. Sadly, many teachers feel they can’t speak publicly about the system. They’re scared. Some wait until retirement to tell it like it is, but even then, they are wary. I should know – my mom was a teacher.

But here’s some hard data. Connecticut has the largest achievement gap in the country and, while Norwalk does better than the state in many instances, it’s still not good enough for our kids. In the not so new global economy, U.S. students rarely make it into the Top Ten.

So what is it about our advocacy that makes some folks nervous? Nobody likes change. It’s scary, and sometimes those leading or implementing the change stumble. But doing nothing is NOT an option. To ensure that Norwalk’s kids will be ready for the demands of college and career, we need to improve across the board. That’s why Connecticut needs to proceed with implementing teacher AND administrator evaluation and professional development supports; standards for teacher preparation programs by raising GPA scores for college admission and requiring that early reading teachers have the right tools and know how to get kids reading at grade level from the start!

The Common Core standards are also important: Scheduled to be fully deployed by 2015, these standards mean that teachers can cover fewer and deeper content in the 3Rs – consistent with countries across the globe – and, for the first time, will help us compare our students’ performance to kids in other states and countries. We need this information to know whether U.S. students will be ready for college spots and jobs in the future!

These changes are no small feat. More professional development is needed – for EVERYBODY – teachers AND administrators. Gov. Dannel Malloy has led the charge but encountered resistance, mostly from union bosses who too often seem to block progress at every turn. If their resistance stalls reform, Connecticut is more likely to go bankrupt before it closes the achievement gap, gives kids a great education or creates more jobs.

States like Maryland and Florida and neighbors New York and Massachusetts have embraced reform. Other states have focused on the other U.S. hot button – ensuring long-term fiscal solvency with pension liabilities and escalating healthcare costs. However, improving outcomes for kids isn’t so much about spending MORE or LESS money, but about effectively ALLOCATING where the dollars get spent. Some specific questions we’re asking:

• Why are more NPS dollars budgeted for health care per employee than on education per student?

• Why doesn’t NPS know how much it spends per student on the 3Rs?

• Why does NPS spend less than half its budget on actual classroom teachers?

This brings me to another tough, yet important topic – teacher pay. Do we really understand the numbers? Recently, a report titled “Better Pay, Fairer Pensions: Reforming Teacher Compensation” was published by the Manhattan Institute. Two cost-neutral changes were proposed for teacher retirement benefits:

• moving more compensation into salary

• offering more flexible retirement benefit packages

Teachers who change districts or leave the profession before longevity increases kick in are left with very little. For the minority of teachers who stay in ONE school district their entire career, qualifying for full benefits, the system offers a maximum retirement. But this is done by relying on teacher turnover. The many subsidize the few. It also begs the question: Is this the best way to keep our best teachers? Instead of back-loading complicated, longevity steps at the end of a teacher’s career, increases could accrue more evenly, or maybe accelerate faster for highly effective teachers earlier in their careers to help recognize and RETAIN the very best teachers. At the moment, longevity trumps effectiveness, every time.

Shouldn’t parents be able to ask questions and advocate for a quality education for ALL students without being labeled teacher haters? We ALL need to be willing to break away from an agrarian schooling model developed at the turn of the LAST century and look for strategic and technologically innovative ways to deliver better outcomes for kids without bankrupting our cities and states.

Politicians also need to stop making innocuous statements about fully or not fully funding budgets. Instead, we ALL need to know WHERE the dollars are spent and if what is being done, works for kids; not an easy task, especially in a structure steeped in decades-old collective bargaining rules and contracts that favors the status quo. Nationally recognized reform Superintendent Dr. Manuel Rivera and the current BOE are moving to a three-year budget planning process. This should make things more transparent and stop the yo-yo like funding atmosphere.

Everyone wants a successful and dynamic K-12 story that reflects the world we live in today. Connecticut and Norwalk need to continue the progress made on reforms, so young families move back into our state, city and neighborhoods.



40 responses to “Opinion: Education reform a must to move Norwalk, state forward”

  1. Sara Sikes

    Excellent editorial except for the part about Connecticut going bankrupt. Perhaps that was sarcasm?

  2. M Allen

    Full sentence: “Connecticut is more likely to go bankrupt before it closes the achievement gap”
    A bit of sarcasm (I think), meaning: at the rate the state is going it is more likely to go bankrupt before closing the “achievement gap”. The finances of this state are in fact horrible. The taxes in this state are horrible. The ability to throw money hand over fist at education is not sustainable given the overall fiscal condition of this state and the many issues it is dealing with. Therefore, something more than just money needs to be the focus.

  3. Lisa Thomson

    Thank you M Allen, that is what I meant. Earnest Hemingway I am not…especially when writing so quickly. I grew up out west and spent most of my adult career outside of the U.S. For such a small state, ‘the steady habit’ motto, culture and attitude seems to be costing residents a fortune and yielding nominal results. Sara, I believe CT ranks second behind IL in terms of long term fiscal solvency. The days of Fairfield County and NYC employment sustaining the rest of the state appears to be running its course. Very scary. Bad glad you liked the rest of my article 🙂

  4. M Allen

    Would it be legal in Norwalk to completely separate the Board of Education budget from the broader city budget and create a separate School tax?

  5. Sara Sikes

    What would be advantage of separating budget? There’s so few parents currently, wouldn’t there be more resistence to raise taxes to fund education?

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Sara, Lisa

      In New York, in most municipalities, the city budget is voted on by the governing board and the school budget is voted on by the public. If the school budget does not pass with a simple majority vote, the Board of Education has the choice of either brinning back the same budget with a better public relations campaign or bringing in a new budget. If the budget fails on the second vote — and the second vote needs a super-majority of 60 percent — then it reverts back to the previous year’s budget. That always mean huge cuts because of the built-in cost increases in energy, insurance and, frequently, salary escalations.

      The good ting about it is it gives more control to the people and it takes the politics out of the equation. You don’t wind up with situations like the governor giving more money to the schools and the city then cutting the school budget by an equal amount. The education professionals and elected school boards get to make their case directly to the public, and the public gets more say-so over the biggest part of their tax bill.

  6. Mike Lyons

    M Allen – no, unless State law changes on local taxation (highly unlikely).

  7. M Allen

    Sara: The advantage? I don’t know if it would be an advantage or a disadvantage. The ability to levy taxes is still intact. I guess it would show in pretty clear terms how much each taxpayer is paying toward a specific line item. Sure they can go look at the budget and drill down, but its a pretty small minority that actually bothers to do that. But see it on your annual bill? Nothing focuses the mind like seeing the amount on your bill and seeing how much is was last year versus this year. And yeah, there would be resistance, wouldn’t there? Escpecially if it was very easy to see that the bill for general city services went up 1% and the bill for edcuation went up 5%. Camouflaging it may be the better route.

  8. Lisa Thomson

    I know in New York, residents do vote separately on school budgets.

  9. LWitherspoon

    Excellent editorial by Lisa Thompson. Thank you for talking about the hard choices we need to make to improve education this election season.
    Many of our politicians and teacher/administrator unions seem more interested in demagoguery over the issue of whether or not we spend more or less money on schools. The most egregious example is those who are howling about cuts to the school budget when the dollar amount we spend on education increases every year. This most recent year’s increase was $6.7 million. We need groups like the Red Apples fighting to make sure that we get the greatest possible value for what money we do spend.
    I will be voting in support of the Red Apple-endorsed slate.

  10. Oldtimer

    Maybe someday they will figure out that the cost of administration would be better spread out over much bigger school districts. The administrators in City hall would not have a lot more work if they covered several towns. If several school districts merged and a lot less administrators were needed, more of the taxes for those communities could go toward teachers. The challenge would be getting a group of communities to agree on a school district merger. Some of the tows around us have lower taxes and marvelous schools.

  11. LWitherspoon

    Lisa, I’m glad you’re asking “Why are more NPS dollars budgeted for health care per employee than on education per student?” But how do you calculate dollars budgeted on education per student? Wouldn’t every dollar paid for teacher benefits count as a dollar spent on educating students? If teacher benefits don’t count as dollars spent on education, what does?

  12. LWitherspoon

    Is it not the case that at the same time the State increased ECS funds to Norwalk, it took other funds away?

  13. EveT

    Which candidates are “the Red Apple-endorsed slate”?

  14. EveT

    @Oldtimer, yes, “if several school districts merged and a lot less administrators were needed, more of the taxes for those communities could go toward teachers.” This is what many other states do, and you have for example a countywide unified school district. But can you see Greenwich, New Canaan and the 3 Ws happily joining with Norwalk and Stamford in a Fairfield County Unified School District?

  15. Lisa Thomson

    LWitherspoon – good question. Yes … Insurance is part of the cost of educating students. With 1200 or so NPS employees – average costs = 12k/28k per employee (for single or family.) Currently, the budget averages $15k per student for @ 11,000 kids. Healthcare constitutes @ 22% and growing. Almost a quarter of the ‘education’ budget is really a ‘healthcare’ budget. Student programs, positions and other resources have been cut for years, while taxpayers see 3-4% increases, mainly due to rising premiums. Structurally, we are in a financial mess. I have no problem paying more money to staff for rising healthcare costs – what frustrates me is the outright refusal to needed work rule changes for educating kids in the 21st century given the cost structure. Private sector parents and taxpayers get it. I only wish public sector folks did. Ten years ago I paid no premiums – now -$18k per year. Until we have the courage to address these unsustainable structural issues, we will continue to struggle.

    Old Timer – Out west, we have county based services and lower taxes. Merging towns and pulling resources would be great and create economies of scale on so many levels, transportation, administration, etc. Doubtful having 169 insurance policies per town benefits anyone but the insurance companies. But in the state of ‘steady habits’ any attempt at regionalization or county based initiatives would most likely be considered heresy 🙂

  16. Lisa Thomson

    Eve, Red Apples isn’t officially endorsing any slate. There is a one stop shop page on our website for all 10 candidates http://www.redapplesnorwalk.org.

    As a grassroots group of about 150+ folks, there are many moving parts, opinions and priorities on reform. As the individual who voluntarily populates the website from numerous sources – our greatest objective has been opening up the floodgates of information and data in an otherwise ‘closed system.” For that, several of us, who are higher profile reformers get anonymously attacked.

    I am personally endorsing 2 R and 2 D financially responsible women: Haynie, Rosato, Keyes and Harris. Incumbents Haynie and Keyes are responsible for making sure we got visionary Manny Rivera when others resisted. Rosato is my RA cofounder and former NEF Director and knows how to attract outside funders for reform and Harris is the Asst. Dir. Of our Library system and understands the need to get kids reading on grade level early.

  17. M Allen

    Well, would towns like Greenwich, New Canaan and the W’s prefer to pay up to help fund school systems in places like Stamford and Norwalk, or would they prefer we economically desegregate Fairfield County school districts? You want heresy? Tell them the buses don’t stop at the border. I’ll bet they’d rather pay more into the kitty to keep those buses over here.
    I’m always surprised that in the years following Brown v. Board of Ed, that they didn’t figure out buses could mechanically cross municipal lines just as easily as they could neighborhood lines.

  18. marjoriem

    Quote Lisa Thomsom “I am personally endorsing 2 R and 2 D financially responsible women: Haynie, Rosato, Keyes and Harris. Incumbents Haynie and Keyes are responsible fo…”
    Is this not campaigning for the RedApple slate? If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, golly gee it is a duck!
    Yes, education costs are through the roof, but you are getting spin here by the Chief RedApple. Teachers are paid contractually and they get benefits. Teachers even pay a percentage towards their benefits. Would you rather hire babysitters with no benefits. Teachers are the professionals who deliver the curriculum. To attract qualified people, the district must provide salaries commensurate with professionals in Fairfield County. Districts must also pay benefits commensurate with what other teachers get in Fairfield County. It’s really that simple. Of course Sue Haynie’s negotiations wil bankrupt Norwalk this budget go round because of the 4.3% raise she gave teachers.

  19. David

    Perhaps I read this article too quickly, but I’m not sure I saw actual concrete proposals from Red Apples for NPS school reform. Questions, yes, but not concrete proposals. Health care costs are a problem throughout America – structurally, are NPS health insurance plans separate to Norwalk city insurance plans? Is there an opportunity for economy of scale here? Is there any wellness programming prescribed by the city to try combat the rising cost of health care in general? the issue of health care costs isn’t going away any time soon.

  20. marjoriem

    By the way, Lisa Thomson is the expert because her mother was a teacher? Are you kidding, Lisa? What qualifies y.ou to tear apart a school system? Oh that’s right, you are a mother too.
    I know a lot more teachers, retired and active, than .you do. They are criticizing the RedApples. I would say 100% of those I know call you teacher bashers and disruptive toward children’s educations. Have you spoken with our Literacy Experts who can not fathom why Haynie is blocking their choice of the LA curriculum books? Where do you find the time to make up this nonsense?

  21. David

    M Allen: I’m going to guess that if you’re question was posed to the towns you mentioned, they’d say they’re already putting into the kitty, in the form of ECS money they never get back. The fact that that kitty is not distributed equitably to Stamford and Norwalk is not their problem. I’d guess that’s what they’d say.

  22. M Allen

    Yes, David. I guess that is what they would say. Or it is at least where they would start as some kind of defense. I’m saying… let’s get more. Instead of bleeding the residents of lower-income cities dry from having to support so many have nots by so few of the haves, let’s go where the real haves are: those towns that are still ostensibly segregated from other parts of the state. They want their town to keep looking like Sweden and Norway, then their piece of the state burden is going to get bigger. With Connecticut being as blue as it is, the bluest of all blue states, why not put all that “progressive” power to the test. How many of the blues want actual equality in education?

  23. marjoriem

    Lisa, what Norwalk educators belong to the Red Apples?

  24. David

    M Allen: spoken like a true socialist! Lol. While Connecticut might be blue, those towns are decidedly not. I’d live to see a massive overhaul of how we fund our education system, but at this point and time it’s a pipe dream. All of the towns around Hartford have school systems funded by fairfield county, why would they change anything now?

  25. Lisa Thomson

    Marjoriem – It is not up to me to reveal those educators in Norwalk who support RedApples or education reform in general. When supporters sign on to our website, we commit to a privacy statement to not share personal details, as is standard practice with many activist organizations. You knew that before you asked. It’s up to them to identify with RA or reform.

    I speak out, as does Lauren Rosato, the other co-founder. We are aligned with ConnCan, the statewide educational advocacy group. Those who would oppose our requests for reform are out of step with what is happening nationwide, and with Commissioner Pryor, NCC President Levinson, and nationally recognized Supt. Rivera. But it will take time, due to staff fear over those that would bully and intimidate.

    What I do know is there are 3-4 political camps in NPS who, with their leaders, fight and block any attempt to turn NPS into a DISTRICT, chew up superintendents and when it suits them, create unholy alliances so as to continue doing their ‘own thing’. Despite claims to the contrary, I seek no power, I’m just a parent with a few more years left in the system. FWIW, I became an activist after witnessing, first hand the nonsense, when I volunteered to join the District Data Team under Corda. I have seen a lot. IMHO, the best thing for Norwalk would be for some of these folks to retire after their 40 years in the system and turn it over to the next generation. Just stop the internal fighting. They are holding innocent staff hostage. At some stage, you have to ask, are they in it for the staff, kids and community, or themselves?

  26. M Allen

    David, I am far from a socialist. You know what I am? A fiscally conservative Republican in the bluest of blue states watching my taxes go up and up funding a local education budget for the many on the backs of the few. All the while, certain towns have little to no concern about it because they are isolated from paying for the education of low- and no-income families, not to mention the other services required. So while the idea of nullifying borders or forcing increased cost sharing on those who have the wherewithal to live just over the border from Norwalk is in many way abhorrent to me, I’m really not sure what the options are because the current system isn’t sustainable. Is public education merely the domain of each town or is it a state issue? I’m just saying that under the current set of circumstances, perhaps the old model of one town, one school system is outdated. If it isn’t, then maybe the way taxes dollars are shared are. Consider this the use of an extreme tactic in order to achieve an end goal. Because extreme tactics seem like the only way anything gets done anymore. If you can’t beat them on throwing more dollars at the problem, find the way to get more dollars.

  27. marjoriem

    Lisa, how convenient for you not to be able to name one Norwalk teacher who is a Red Apple. I put out my all-call (and I know many many teachers) and couldn’t find one teacher who is a Red Apple. In fact, I got just the opposite reply from teachers. They wouldn’t be a Red Apple because Red Apples mean Sue Haynie, larger class size, the Red Apples hate Norwalk teachers, the Red Apples don’t care what teachers want for curriculum, the Red Apples supported Marks their puppet, Red Apples want power…..the list goes on and on. Norwalk teachers do not want Red Apples around. Another typical comment was that Red Apples discriminate and want what is best for the high achievers. (Citing the Nathan Hale group of minority students who were isolated from the rest of the students) Lisa, how convenient to say teachers are afraid of retribution from some unknown source and that’s why they won’t reveal their names. Teachers are laughing over that one!

  28. M Allen

    Pssst, Marjorie: I’m not a Red Apple. But I’m pretty sure there is a good reason Norwalk teachers don’t want Red Apples around. Probably the same reason Norwalk teachers don’t want anyone else around who is going to stick their nose into the Education Industrial Complex. They have a vested interest in the status quo. It’s OK to say that. Protecting your personal interests is not a crime and you should feel no fear for saying so. We all do it. Better to own the truth than shun it and pretend otherwise.
    Moreover, perhaps there are teachers that agree with Red Apples. Even if you couldn’t find any in your braod circle, statistically out of a crowd of 1,300+ teachers and administrators, you’d have to think some of them had some Red Apple tendencies, if not outright support. The brainwashing can’t run so deep as to include 100% of everyone in the industry. But based on what you wrote above, they may actually be a tad scared to stand up publicly. Doesn’t it feel good to stifle those people? It does have its rewards.

  29. Lisa Thomson

    Marjoriem – you don’t like me – it’s ok, I get it. But reform in public education is bigger than you or me or Norwalk and it’s coming whether you like it or not and regardless of what I write. The only questions are 1) how long will it take, given the strength and resistance of the NPS status quo and 2) whether you/they will be successful in running another superintendent out of town? That is what is at stake in the BOE election this year and those paying attention know it. With so many candidates running- Rs, Ds and a 3rd party, specifically backed by the union chiefs, voters will not be in short supply of candidates. We’ll see what combination joins or rejoins the board on Nov. 5th.

  30. marjoriem

    M. Allen, why would teachers support a small group of women who constantly bash them. Why would teachers support a small group of women who don’t support the curriculum choices made by expert teachers (the language arts literacy program). why would teachers go against the unanimous vote of principals who do not support Red Apples? This group of women, small as they are, are not educators. They throw out propaganda and expect people to believe them. I would believe you more if the teachers threw their hat in with Mickey Mouse. Teachers aren’t stupid!

  31. M Allen

    Marjorie – why would the teachers believe or listen to anyone who isn’t one of them? But if they were one of them, they probably wouldn’t disagree on anything but maintaining the status quo. So what kind of circular logic do we want to use here? If you aren’t a recognized teacher, you have no say because only teachers know best. Why is any of it propaganda? Attack the ideas and defend your positions. But don’t fall back on “teachers aren’t stupid” as a reason why anyone should believe them without question.
    Luckily our system wasn’t designed in such a way that we allow only the professionals within the system to make all the decisions. Not the militarty, not the police, not the teachers. It is why we have civilian government and oversight. Teachers don’t own the only good ideas out there. Whether it is Red Apples, the teachers or any other group out to try and make a difference in education, neither side should feel they have the end all answer. Because obviously you don’t.

  32. David

    M Allen: tongue in cheek! No offense intended. I agree, I’ve long said that you cannot separate education from economics, but too many people see it as an expense rather than an investment. There should be a massive overhaul if how education is funded, on that we both agree.

  33. M Allen

    David, it is both. Edcuation is an investment, health care is an investment. But neither are free and neither are god-given rights. They are choices we make based on economic circumstances. The real problem arises when we try and address these big-ticket issues outside of the concept that they have an actual cost. When we simply try and say: its the right thing to do. Because then, we need to be prepared for an open-ended line of credit.

  34. M Allen

    Marjorie – serious question: What if we “fully funded” the education budget based on a top-down view rather than allowing the bottom-up drive the decision of what the top-end should be?
    Scenario: what would happen if we gave full authority to the “education professionals” or their personally chosen representatives. All education-related workers would be employed by this entity. The city then gave them a budget based on how much taxpayers were willing to spend, but not how to spend it. “Here is X, spend it as you wish to pay your employees and educate the children. But you will get no more than X in year one then X+Y% in year two, etc.” How would that work? The city controls its costs and the professionals control the spend and fight amongst themselves for pay versus student welfare.
    PS – I’m not trying to ask an impossible question. I just want to get a feeling for what level of authority you would like versus what level of accountability.

  35. marjoriem

    M Allen, I have two completely different topics to answer here:
    (1) and I quote, ‘But if they were one of them, they probably wouldn’t disagree on anything but maintaining the status quo.’ How ridiculous! Why would you even think that? Many of our teachers keep updating their knowledge by taking courses and changing their methods according to the new methods espoused by the leading researchers. I have witnessed this myself. Teachers are NOT unwilling to change. They are unwilling to change if change is based on in researched based whims of people who advocate strategies and programs that do not work! Would you visit a doctor who claims he can cure your cancer with a one size fits all vitamin program? If you are asking whether teachers would change and give up salaries? Benefits? Would you? What change from “status quo” are you referring to?
    (2) you know the teachers work under a contract. All staff does, including the custodians. You know the contract includes class size limitations. You know benefits are included for teachers. These costs are a given. Teachers already pay a percentage of rising benefits. What would you suggest happens if additional teachers are required because of class size? What would you suggest if benefits skyrocket? What would you suggest if the State Department of Education demands programs, evaluations, inserice costs be included in the city’s budgets? I am willing to listen. How would you handle unpredictable costs when funding is so limited?

  36. M Allen

    1) By status quo I mean whatever the group says is the status quo i.e. they won’t speak out against the warrior faction.

    2) You would be forced to make choices Marjorie. And the outcome of all of those choices wouldn’t always end up with an upside. Contracts? Those costs are given? Nope, not a given. Nothing is a given. That is the joke of multi-year contracts obligating raises and benefit changes. If you were given a set budget, I bet you’d find a way of making do. Because that is what people in the real world do when they don’t have a limitless pocket of people to reach into and tax for any and all “unpredictable” costs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a city saying: our budget will not increases more than X%. If it does, cost savings will need to be found or cuts made.

  37. marjoriem

    M Allen, what everyone doesn’t realize is that the Haynie 4.3% salary increase for the union teachers is going to force those cuts. I’m guessing the cuts will be in the millions. Yes, plural of million. Where are those cuts going to come from? Haynie lost the arbitration battle for class size as well. This superintendent is going to have to make some extremely difficult cuts. Schools will have nothing left except a principal and teachers. Perhaps schools will be shut down. I am not dealing in scare tactics. It will be the reality. Just like union contracts are the reality. They are legally binding. How are you going to change that?

  38. marjoriem

    Also, the propaganda that the Apples spew forth ( at an alarming rate) regarding the scared teachers and the scared administrators hiding behind their desks because of the possibility of retribution is not true. If teachers disagree with the union, they are vocal about it. If administrators disagree, they too are vocal about it. It happens that both teachers and the union have never been so strongly against any group as they are the know it all Apples. Really, do you think our teachers and administrators don’t have minds of their own? Only Mrs. Grey scared the pants off of teachers! LOL

  39. M Allen

    Marjorie – I don’t think teachers are stupid or silent. While I would bet they speak out internally or to the union, I don’t expect that too many speak out publicly in opposition once a course has been plotted by leadership. Why are they so against Red Apples? Is RA making a case for reforms so out of bounds with other reform-minded groups? Or are they just the local reform group so they get the attention from our teachers? Imagine if some group here in Norwalk were calling for vouchers. I bet RA might sound like moderates to you then. lol
    Back to the budget – what were the options for increases that Haynie was to blame for? 0% year 1 and 4.3% year 2? Average of 2.15%? Could she have gotten less than 4.3% in year 2? Maybe. Imagine the outcry then. And what would that have done to year 3. What about years 4-20? The number is going up (and up and up). I highly doubt that next year will be the one that breaks everything. If it does then we have more serious problems because the concern can’t just be year 2 or 3. This is a forever problem, unless you see public education having a finite lifespan.
    I think its pretty obvious we have to find a better way of doing it. But that is the debate, isn’t it? Or at least one debate. How to do it, how to pay for it, what to expect the outcome to be. Do we really think we can eliminate the achievement gap? Its a great catch phrase: narrow the achievement gap. But how far can it be narrowed and do we have realistic expectations for that. Money can only do so much. The hearts of teachers can only do so much. The curriculum can only do so much. If money is not an issue, magic can be worked, albeit with diminishing returns along the curve. But money is an issue isn’t it? I don’t know. This is a debate that will go on forever or until it all comes crashing down. I’m pretty sure it will be the latter because taxpayer money is becoming more scarce. Sorry for going off on a possible tangent. Net net – 4.3% next year isn’t the end. I’m more concerned about the long-term trend than individual years.

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