Photo: Campaigners at a recent Precinct Meeting.
What are the schools our students deserve? That is the question facing our community next Tuesday.
As an educator, union member, taxpayer and resident of Belmont all my life, I have seen a cycle of underfunding education that has brought us to this point. The response now from those against the override sounds familiar; they simply say we can solve the problem without an override. That solution, however, simply places greater burdens on students and educators.
Our town has one of the state’s best public school systems, and it is essential to invest in our students’ future to maintain that excellence. Attacking educators’ compensation is deceptive and ignores how hard the Belmont Education Association and Belmont School Committee have worked together to operate within the town’s means.
An override is needed to sustain the schools and address increasing enrollment over the next three years. We need to support the children of Belmont and to support the town’s Financial Task Force, which is recommending passage of the override.
Since 2009, an additional 317 students have entered into grades K-12. Even with a highly trained and capable staff, larger class size means less individualized attention for our students. Class sizes have increased beyond School Committee-recommended maximums. Without additional staff and resources to address these concerns, students will not have the same learning opportunities and programming as this year’s graduates.
Belmont is a residential community, and homeowners bear much of the funding for our schools. This is a choice we make to maintain Belmont’s character and ensure our students continue to perform to the best of their abilities. If we do not want commercial development, then we need to be prepared to pass this override to address increasing enrollment. This override is an essential investment to maintain the value and quality of the entire community.
Over the past six years, teachers have forgone compensation to support our students. Your child’s teacher has given back salary increases to fund the schools and prevent the need for an override. It is erroneous to characterize our agreement as expensive and our methods as “more aggressive.”
While some choose to criticize teacher salaries, ours are lower than competitive communities. In a state analysis of average teacher salaries in towns with the top public high schools, Belmont places last behind Concord-Carlisle, Wayland, Weston, Dover and Wellesley.
As educators, Belmont teachers strive to provide the best possible outcomes for all students. We have been doing more with less for too long. Based on comparable communities, our salaries are not the issue.
As residents we must place our children at the center of the conversation and this decision. Please raise your hand to support our students and vote “Yes” next Tuesday.
(Editor’s note: Sullivan is the president of the Belmont Education Association, the negotiating agent for Belmont’s educators.)