LETTER: $3.687 million cut to the BOE is gut wrenching

Open Letter to Members of the BET from Sara Selbert Savov & Stefan Savov

First and foremost, I would like to thank you all for your service. No matter how disappointed I am with the vote outcome, I understand that a lot of time and effort has been put into this budget. I would like to especially thank Leslie Moriarty, David Weisbrod and Beth Krumeich for speaking at Monday’s BET budget meeting so eloquently, giving just cause to object the budget cut and to pointing out major oversight by certain members of the BET.

I could spend the rest of this letter pointing out how impolite, not forthcoming and irresponsible certain members were, but it defeats the purpose of this message.

I would like to suggest a revisit of the budget proposed, specifically as it pertains to the BOE. This is an unusual request I understand, but in these Covid times I can imagine anything is possible.

I listened all the way through, disappointed with the “yes” vote to pass the budget as it stood and yet confident that the amendment to the BOE cuts would triumph. I thought the amendment was presented so thoroughly and thoughtfully, that certain BET members would surely come to reason.

I was wrong.

Instead our public school system will be reduced to the bare bones, and our 9,000 GPS children will be the unfortunate recipients.

To say that the $3.687 million cut to the BOE is gut wrenching, is a gross understatement. I (and my family, friends, fellow moms) object to the cuts and feel that instead, you could and should have raised the budget guidelines to at least 3% every year. The 2% barely covers salary and benefits increases. This leaves the BOE with little if nothing to fund educational programs, provide assistance to Special Education, pay salaries and overall be financially healthy. We as a whole should not be afraid to spend money on the future of our children, especially now.

Currently parents and teachers alike are trying to assist and cope with the emotional, social and possible educational outcome of involuntary homeschooling. Please note that no teacher or parent was prepared or opted for distance learning and homeschooling, Covid-19 did not give anyone any advance notice. Children were in school one day, and home indefinitely the next. This is more like crisis learning and by no means even close to a substitute for school. Now with the BOE budget cut, the BET vote has ensured that a crisis situation will continue post a pandemic. This cut will directly impact children’s welfare. Budget constraints will call for reduction of teaching and staff positions, an increase in class sizes, program cuts to school curriculum and an overall defeated public school system operating from the likes of an ICU bed.

It would seem that in a tight-knit community like ours, this would never be a reality. Yet this vote has made it certain that parents must fight for their children’s education and cuts to the BOE budget are always considered plausible. Taxpayers dollars should be allocated first and foremost to the next generation, which is our children. Before certain members of the BET proposed to cut school funding, what else was considered? Was every possible scenario played out? I am not a BET member, but what about the following instead of a BOE cut?

· Use the “Rainy Day” fund of $64 million to cover costs and infuse our educational system that needs it the most. If this pandemic isn’t cause, I do not know what is.

· Hold off on building the Greenwich HS stadium for a year instead of impacting their education.

· Revisit the proposed property tax on private schools. Using the current tuition as a forecast, the private schools bring in between $20 and $40 million a year. Perhaps the discussion should return to taxing the private school property and not cutting money from the children, who after the Covid-19 closings of schools, need it more than ever.

· In addition to the above, please consider that the reduction to the BOE budget directly impacts the property pricing and overall real estate value of Greenwich. Our public schools are listed on various real estate search engines as top ranked, which many buyers use as criteria for where they purchase a home. If the emotional pleas do not move you to act, perhaps our deteriorating financial value will.

We have children who are currently surviving a pandemic and its impact. They have not seen their friends, played a game of tag in the schoolyard, been taught anything in the manner generations before were able- a classroom. This has an emotional impact, and most likely an educational digression. Why would anyone (regardless of political affiliation) choose to cut funding and resources to the detriment of their wellbeing? These kids should be able to return to their school and be met by the best of what we can offer them, not the bare bones. It is a certainty that the children will need MORE, not less from our teachers and school resources. In the time of Covid-19, is it not more important to budget for schools to make up for all the learning lost due to quarantine? Our schools need to add to their resources, not have them stripped down.

In short, I implore you to revisit the budget addressed and voted on April 27th, 2020 so that the funding of children’s education and development are prioritized. I strongly encourage the BET committee to reconvene on this matter and act responsibly, encouraging the development of the next generation. Education should be our priority, so we can build successful future leaders. Please, for the sake of the 9,000 GPS children, take note.

Thank you for your service and consideration in this matter,

Sara Selbert Savov & Stefan Savov