GHS PTA: Reduced public school budget will decrease learning potential of our youth, jeopardize the future of our community

Open letter from Greenwich High School PTA Board to Members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation

On April 21, 2020, the GHS PTA Board sent you an email regarding the proposed 2020-21 BOE budget. The proposed BOE budget stayed within the BET guidelines by keeping the budget increase within 2 percent.

To achieve this goal, the Superintendent and GPS Administration worked diligently to find ways to slim down an already lean budget. As we noted in our earlier email, requiring that the BOE stay within a 2% increase, year after year, is unsustainable. Now, the BET has essentially taken away that increase, in a time when our students need it most.

The increase in the BOE’s proposed budget was $3.8MM, with 92% of that increase in fixed costs. The only way the BOE could meet BET’s guidelines was by continuing to look for inefficiencies, cutting funds to curricular and professional development, and maintaining level staffing. How can the BOE continue to meet these strict guidelines, year after year, without adversely affecting learning in our schools? We cannot sustain this model if we want to have a successful public school system.

Now, as our students struggle through Distance Learning, we have no idea what the impact on their education will be in the future. Most likely, our schools will need smaller class sizes to adhere to new social distancing requirements in the fall. Smaller class sizes are difficult to achieve when times are good. At GHS, we are already faced with an increase in student-teacher ratios as a result of increased graduation requirements, increasing enrollment and flat staffing levels.

As a consequence of distance learning, students may need additional programming in the fall to recover from months of not being taught in the classroom. There are so many unknowns that will undoubtedly adversely affect learning and ultimately, student achievement for our students. Any cuts to this proposed budget will negatively impact ALL students in the GPS system in numerous ways. We should be planning on how to recover from months of not being in the classroom and the negative effects it has had on learning and not make the situation worse.

We understand that these are challenging times, but we urge you to reconsider these cuts. The education of our children is fragile at the moment. You have heard from hundreds of parents, taxpayers of Greenwich, who do not want to see the BOE budget negatively impacted. Parents who have contacted us are deeply concerned about how this period of Distance Learning will affect their students’ education in the long term, as well as their social and emotional development. These are valid concerns and should not be overlooked or ignored by the BET.

And, to suggest supplementing these cuts with volunteers, private fundraising efforts and inexperienced teachers, is not a business model that will have a positive outcome on the growth and development of our students. The GHS PTA already provides nearly 6,000 parent volunteer hours to GHS every year. Volunteers may not even be allowed in the schools in the fall. The PTA spends close to $140,000 on our students and $15,000 on staff. These are dollars that are generously donated by our parents to often fill in where the district is unable to adequately provide for the needs of GHS. Asking parents and teachers to carry the financial burden of the town is unduly burdensome during this crisis. It is the
town’s responsibility.

To reduce the proposed budget will decrease the learning potential of our youth and jeopardize the future of our community. Our schools should not be the area where we make cuts, but where we invest in the future. This is especially true in this time of uncertainty.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
The GHS PTA Board of Directors