You’ve endured months of animated discourse surrounding board of education meetings. But now it comes down to you and the ballot box. Don’t forget to bring your own voice to the polls next Tuesday, and vote for a new school budget.
That’s exactly what many others will do across New York next week, making decisions not just on school budgets, but also library budgets, and selecting who will represent them in managing both. The decisions here involve whether to spend money on capital projects, or to create funds that could be used in the future.
Just remember, one decision can affect thousands of students in the East Meadow school district. Some district parents already have threatened to vote against the proposed nearly $238 million fiscal plan. That is their choice, of course. But these dollars are not wasted dollars — especially a district with a 96 percent graduation rate.
But how can a budget be so high for a district with just over 7,300 students? That’s where doing your own research comes in handy. East Meadow school officials offer a complete breakdown of expenditures on the district website, EMUFSD.us.
The best way to help your child and their classmates is by being informed.
The school district has gone above and beyond to ensure you are indeed informed. From YouTube videos to the district’s website — even mailers have been sent home. It’s practically an information overload. But it’s hard to make a decision on whether to support anything without knowing every detail there is.
As you explore, you may see things you like. And you may very well see things you don’t like. No budget is perfect, of course. Yet it’s all too easy to turn against an entire spending plan for even the smallest things. It’s similar to rejecting an entire forest just because you didn’t like a couple of trees.
Not that it’s wrong to vote down a budget. At the end of the day, it is your taxpaying dollars that go into it.
But throwing a wrench in the school funding process can’t come down to nitpicking line items. There’s just too much at stake. If a budget vote fails, school officials can ask you to come out to the polls again either to re-vote on an identical plan, or to consider a revised one.
If that, too, fails, the school board is forced to adopt a contingency budget, which could more accurately be called an austerity budget, since so much of the extras are cut. Programs like student clubs, the arts, or the music department. The programs that make going to school more than just sitting in a classroom.
And turning down this year’s budget could also doom funding for new sports equipment — something East Meadow athletes desperately need.
When a budget fails, students suffer. Not the administrators whose salaries are built into the budget, or the parents who voted it down — it’s the students who wake up every morning, heading to a school that no longer offers a plethora of different classes, clubs and activities that can only happen if the district’s current school budget stays intact
The spending plan is carefully crafted. It maintains all current instructional and co-curricular programs and services, including athletics and art offerings, and maintains class sizes in the district.
But it also allows the district to grow. It supports increased student enrollment in a district that has already seen up to 100 new students a year. It also helps the district continue programs like integrated co-teaching at the elementary level.
East Meadow hasn’t been forced to adopt a contingency spending plan in more than 40 years, because tough times create long memories. Recent budgets have passed with over 70 percent approval, despite spending totals not far from this year’s. Thus, it would be ideal to keep this long-standing tradition of supporting the school district budget alive.
So as you cast your vote on Tuesday, think about the students. Think about the merit scholars. Think about the award-winning sports stars. The artists. The musicians.
Think about the clubs that keep students engaged, encouraging them to get involved. Think about the students who need a little more help to succeed and flourish.
They all deserve everything the East Meadow school district can give them. Let’s make sure they get it by voting “yes” on the budget.