SHERR: Stay Calm – Our Schools are Funded

Letter to the editor from Peter Sherr, Republican BOE member

If you read the recent news about 2021 school funding, you would have thought evil politicians were hell bent to destroy Greenwich Public Schools. Fake news if there ever was such a thing.

If you’ve been at home trying to educate your children, you know the stress level you and more importantly your children are experiencing. It was exceptionally reckless for elected officials, school administrators, and others to rile parents that school budgets would be cut, teacher jobs eliminated, or special education aides dismissed. When a false rumor started circulating that one or more elementary schools would be closed, our school leaders had an obligation to immediately disavow this fallacy. Yet someone thought it would be a good idea to let these falsehoods fester raising parent anxiety to a fever pitch. Despicable!

Here is the truth. No one cut anything. Let me say that again – NO ONE CUT ANYTHING.

The Greenwich Finance Board (technically known as the BET) did what they have always done.

In times of crisis, they protected public education in Greenwich. During the 2008-09 financial crisis, the Republican-led BET decided to fully fund Greenwich Schools at a constant rate while school systems throughout Connecticut were hacking away at their budgets. When the effectively bankrupt State of Connecticut cut off $6Mil reimbursement funding, the same group filled the hole with local funds to keep the schools budget level.

Past is prologue. On Monday, the Republican-led BET did exactly what they have always done.

In the face of the worst economic disaster of our lifetime with millions of people out of work and U.S. economy shrinking by $1 TRILLION DOLLARS in February and March alone, they approved a NO-CUT budget that provides exactly the same operating funds for schools in 2021 as in 2020.

Feeling misled by fake news? You should be. What the six Republicans of the BET did is reject the Schools’ request for an annual $3Mil increase to do what? Wait for it. Raise staff and executive administrators’ paychecks next year.

Our teachers work hard to assure our children are well educated. They deserve to be well compensated and they are. Greenwich spends the most per pupil of any regular school district in Connecticut. Our teachers are paid the highest teacher salaries. Their Cadillac healthcare benefits are truly 1990s (don’t we all wish we could have those back?). This will all still be true with this budget.

So rather than falling into the muck of party politics and preying on the anxiety of an already vulnerable community, I’m thanking Bill Drake, Andy Duus, Karen Fassuliotis, Debra Hess, Mike Mason, and Leslie Tarkington for maintaining funding for Greenwich Schools. I appreciate their diligence and common sense in the face of one of the worst disasters of our time.

As a long-standing BoE member, I’m keenly aware the success of Greenwich Schools depends continued funding and commitment by generous taxpayers.

Unleashing a very public attack on the people elected to “mind the taxpayers’ money” breaks faith, undermines inter-government cooperation and ultimately undermines Greenwich Schools.

I’d like to know who encouraged who in the BoE leadership and Superintendent’s Office to effectively yell “FIRE” in a crowded theatre. It was reckless and unnecessary.

Parents, taxpayers and kids – Stay Calm, Our schools will continue to be well funded and staffed.