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Student Voice is a new addition to The Cheshire Herald website, where we will present columns written by students addressing the issues facing teenagers in town. First up is Aneri Pattani, a member of the Cheshire High School Class of 2013. Aneri addresses the education budget, and how cuts to the Board of Education's request impact the students.
Earlier this month, Town Manager Michael Milone proposed a Town budget that would reduce the Board of Education budget by $700,000. Although this may not seem like a debilitating decrease in itself, it is merely one instance in a list of many. For the past two years the Board of Education budget has been decreased, despite Superintendent of Schools Dr. Greg Florio’s repeated proposals for small increases. These proposed increases would serve to maintain teacher positions, provide supplies, and, overall, uphold a high standard of education. Yet, time and again, the proposals have been struck down by the Town.
It seems education has become an afterthought in Cheshire. The consistent decreases in the Town’s education budget show a growing disregard for students and an amazing lack of understanding about what it takes to create a successful school.
The most important aspect of a good education is good teachers. The Town of Cheshire does not seem to grasp this concept. Last year’s budget cuts resulted in several teachers being laid off. My math teacher was among them. He was an excellent teacher – challenging but fair. In that class I not only learned the Pythagorean Theorem but I gained an appreciation and an enjoyment for math that I did not have before. This year in math, I am still learning, but that joy is gone. Not only will I never have him as my teacher again, neither will any other students. Instead, they will continue to dread math class every day. As someone looking at a budget and deciding where to add a few numbers and where to subtract, it may seem that a few cuts to education won’t make a big difference. However, as a student in a school, I know that one subtraction can make a permanent difference.
The lack of teachers not only has an emotional affect on students, it has practical implications. Fewer teachers mean fewer classes and fewer opportunities for students to take courses they want. In fact, just this year many underclassmen at the high school have been rejected from classes such as AP Biology and AP Government because there are not enough classes to include all the students that have enrolled. With most teachers already handling six courses, there are simply not enough available to teach extra classes, and it is the students who suffer.
The education budget cuts in the past few years have also decreased spending for extracurricular activities. Marching band funds have been decreased and students now pay to participate in school sports. Many people defend these cuts by claiming that they don’t directly affect education. However, school is more than just academics. School is about learning – about math, writing, and reading, but also about yourself. It is about discovering what you are passionate about and how that can shape your future. How is this possible without clubs and sports? How will the next Michael Jordan realize his full potential if he can’t join the basketball team due to the $100 fee? How will the next Louis Armstrong discover his talent without a band to join? After school activities are just as much a part of the education process as the school day itself. Cheshire residents need to realize that education budget cuts harm students regardless of the form they take.
I understand that the economy is tight and raising taxes is not high on anyone’s to-do list. However, it seems to me that if the economy is difficult, a good education is more vital to success than ever. Better education leads to better job opportunities. A better education can also produce creative thinkers and effective leaders who may find solutions to the economic troubles we face today. As cliché as it sounds, the students of today are the nation’s future. Isn’t it a good idea to give them the tools to handle that task responsibly? Doing so would not only benefit me and my peers, but also the adults of today and the children of tomorrow.
When deciding the Town budget, there are many considerations to be made. What are dire necessities and what are frivolous expenses? What decisions will keep taxes low and benefits high? However, one large consideration seems to be forgotten an awful lot in Cheshire: What is the importance of education? As a student, I can answer that one – education is everything. My life right now, as well as my future tomorrow, revolves greatly around my education today. That is definitely something worth considering when it comes to the Town budget.