Wednesday, October 5, 2016

It Always Comes Back to Dollars

I was out walking at times between the half-hearted raindrops on Saturday, not as my own version of Walktober, but to clear my head and marshal my thoughts which I admit is often more like herding cats.

I don't move with the speed or focus and purpose of Ryan Thompson, the Director of Norwich PublicWorks, but luckily for all of us I don't have his responsibilities (nor sadly, his talents).

And if I were to be honest (a first time for everything), I'd admit it's more a wander than a walk most of the time. Having completed the part of my sojourn that took me down Broadway and then to and through Main Street and downtown I was walking up Washington past where Buckingham School used to be.

Buckingham was our children's first American school; actually, it was Patrick's as Michelle was still too young even for kindergarten when we lived in Germany, but she joined her brother as a Buckingham Bobcat (as I recall) before moving on to Kelly Middle School, before the renovations, and then attending Norwich Free Academy.

Sydney Harris wrote, "the whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows." As a fan of public education in general and Norwich Public Schools in particular, I'd argue our schools have been singularly successful in preparing our children to both see a world, and to seize its opportunities, beyond our municipal boundaries, despite too often and for too long struggling to provide the resources required to enrich and enhance our community and its youngest and most vulnerable residents.    

My kids' school years were marked by scrimping and worse on arts and music education in attempts to save core competencies because the money to fund programs and the professionals to offer them just wasn't there.

A decade and a half before last month's decision by Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher that state funding of education was 'irrational' in his ruling in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Educational Funding vs. Rell, Norwich residents with and without school-age children sensed there was something wrong with the educational cost sharing formula that was supposed to complement and support municipal tax dollars and that instead of the level playing field public education was supposed to create, our children were spending their school years hiking uphill both ways.

And while some see Moukawsher's decision as 'landmark,' I never praise the day before evening arrives (or in this case until after the Connecticut Supreme Court rules on an appeal) all I saw Saturday was a grassy knoll where my children's school once stood until, like Greeneville School across town, it was shuttered in June 2010 in part to save money Norwich Public Schools had never received from the state.

In the light drizzle Saturday, I thought about historian Daniel Boorstin's observation that "education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know" and wondered why getting smart can be so painful. I didn't wonder what had become of the money we never saw. As my mom once told me, "don't ask a question if you can't stand the answer."
-bill kenny

No comments: