Letter Box


A few nagging questions

Editor of the Reformer:

Nagging questions befuddle us regarding school budgets such as that presented by Leland & Gray Union High School.

The economy has hit our area disproportionately hard. Locally, closure of tax-garnering businesses has not been offset with revenue replacements; an aging population is dependent upon phantom interest of CDs; Vermont taxes are notoriously high. Those paying for costly roads and schools are strapped. Limitation of funds: the first leg of the problem.

As to schooling, it is most important to prepare and educate our children. The basis of education is a curious and motivated student, a supportive family, and a dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled teacher. This is the second leg.

The third leg, providing our foundation, is the precise distribution of dollars to best serve the education of our youth. Here, are questions worthy of reply.

Are the families truly supporting students, endorsing efforts of the school, encouraging more difficult but more rewarding courses, feeding children adequately at home, helping with homework (even if just providing time and space), and instilling an ethic-building character? Even poor families and immigrant families have seen these as top priorities. What can the school do to encourage improved family participation and pride in our schooling? Not costly, yet a rewarding endeavor.

Are we listening to the teachers? If scheduling precludes taking preferred and important classes, we are not listening. We should market and facilitate taking of the most beneficial courses. Do the teachers feel that they have adequate input? What are their priorities?

Are our students truly motivated? Is the class mix conducive to the best learning objectives? Is the brighter student being challenged or is teaching "dumbed down" due to needs of other students? Is the government unwittingly restricting efforts in education by demanding more for those with special needs? If so, how not to sacrifice our brightest? Is the lower enrollment in foreign language and math due to the course difficulty, a failure to recognize their vital role, a lack of marketing, or a problem in scheduling? How can we correct this? Are we using our local resources? Chinese can be introduced by "borrowing" from local restaurant workers; Spanish can be marketed by local speakers in fields from agriculture to the arts; French can be enhanced by cultural connections and political analogies. Are we taking advantage of freebees that can excite students to follow promising paths? What do the students think of the situation and how might they solve these problems? With a limited budget, such as they will face in life, and with a pressing need to distinguish the important from the peripheral, what would they suggest? How might they, themselves, contribute? Here is opportunity.

Fancy, expensive equipment may be out of reach. A caring teacher, with a piece of chalk and an attentive student can not be replaced with any piece of elaborate equipment. A student, primed with curiosity and pushed with support from the family, will eagerly tap the knowledge from that teacher. Let’s not lose sight of the obvious.

Blake D. Prescott,

Newfane, April 10

An honest wage?

Editor of the Reformer:

We need some honesty in the debate on raising the minimum wage.

I do not have a strong opinion on either raising or not raising the minimum wage. One of the rationales put forward for raising it is that it will lessen the demand for government subsidies and other benefits as those whose incomes rise as a result will no longer need subsidies and benefits. This is a specious argument: It appears true at first but it is false.

If incomes rise because of improved skills or a business’s success, new wealth has been created and, presumably, the need to provide benefits will decrease. But a government mandate does not create income, it merely transfers it. To the extent that government spending on the less fortunate decreases, the costs to employers increase. This is a tax, pure and simple. What was once Montpelier’s burden is not the burden of private employers.

Perhaps this is the right thing to do, but let’s be honest and call it what it is.

Michael Recca,

Wardsboro, April 13


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