99 Days Left: Education and Spaghetti Sauce

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99 Days Left: Education and Spaghetti Sauce

Postby Andy Sylvia » Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:38 pm

The other day I was walking a neighborhood in Souhegan Village, when I met a voter who brought me an interesting question.

She talked about two of her sons, one in private school, the other in public school. The one private school was older, she thought she would be able to put both of them in private school, but it turned out not to be the case, and she didn't want to separate the older child from his friends he had made and she could afford to send one of the two kids to private schools.

She wondered why the two children received such different educations despite going to schools only a few miles apart from each other. The private school child received much more emphasis on a core curriculum while the public school child in her eyes was not being challenged.

She also said the private school staff were being paid far less and received fewer extraneous assistance in teaching, yet the results she was seeing from the private school were greater than those she was getting from the public school child, who was getting far less homework.

I can't affirm or oppose her assertions in regards to the private school she mentioned, and while I was on the School Board Budget Committee last year, I have to admit that our job seemed to be one of oversight rather than real hands on fiscal policy in the school district, due in large part to the excellent job the School Board did before we convened shortly before the Deliberative Session in the spring.

However, when I was going over those budgets, it was difficult to discern what the value of each line item was, due in large part because there were so many.

This was part of why the woman I talked to wanted to see our town's school budget cut. "When I go to the supermarket, I see so many brands of pasta sauce now that I can't tell them apart, I get overwhelmed" she said. "So in the end, I just look for the price, and find the cheapest one."

I believe a government budget is no different than that woman's dilemma with the spaghetti sauce as well as how she viewed the educations of her two sons.

If the choices that need to be made within a budget are overwhelming and it isn't clear what value one would get from spending on a certain item, it's understandable that people would go into a default mode and make a decision on the clearest value you're going to see on just about any spreadsheet: price.

However, with her kids, she saw more than just price. She saw something that may well be intangible in terms of her childrens' education, but is never the less just as valuable as the money spent on it, if not more so.

It appeared that she agreed with my belief on budgets that any dogma of an extreme, whether it be cutting everything or spending indiscriminately without understanding of the cost, wasn't a particularly good idea.

We had a good discussion, and even though she didn't say specifically that she'd vote for me, she offered me a Fresca since it was a hot day, so i'm guessing i've gotten her vote.

And to top it off, I was actually aiming to talk to someone else in her house that wasn't home....
Andy Sylvia
 
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