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LETTER: Support the Newton Override; "Our Kids Are Worth It"

A letter to the editor from Newton South English Teacher Corinne Pop supporting the Newton override.

 

To the editor:

Why should you support the override? There are indeed many reasons why you might not want to—but not one of them is as important as the one reason why you should. 

Some people don’t want to support the override because non-Newton kids are educated in the Newton schools, or because construction at North was a botched endeavor. Some people don’t want to support the override because they don’t have kids in the Newton schools, or because they don’t like our government, or our tax rates, or our president, or the state of our economy, or the direction this country is going in. I’m not saying those aren’t valid complaints—but this override is our chance to actually allocate our own money in a way that is targeted at just those things we all, collectively, care about, things that help build Newton as a community. We may not be able to dictate what the state and federal government are doing with our money, but we do have a say in our local government, and particularly with this override. Mayor Warren has worked so hard these past 3 years to prove that he will make every attempt to eliminate wasteful spending. If you still think town, state, or federal money is being spent wastefully, protest it where you see it—but don’t protest by voting no for funding these services that build the community we share.

As a Newton teacher for 14 years, a Newton resident for 8 years, and a Newton parent for 4 years, I have noticed that our resources are getting pretty thin, especially at the elementary level. For the first time, I am able to envision a future in which education in Newton could inevitably falter. Not only will quality educators think twice about accepting a position in a district with run-down facilities, high student-to-teacher ratios, and low salary and benefits packages, but also our students will have to continue to endure unsanitary and even unsafe learning conditions. And while the teachers are unfailingly positive about working in appalling situations for years on end, with erratic heating, broken windows, no working drinking fountains, and water leaks, why should they have to be? While I appreciated the “charm” of skunks living under the outdated modulars of my son’s kindergarten wing at Cabot, I concur that most public buildings are better off without such sounds and scents. 

This override isn’t about paying for the schools and roads; not really. This override is about you, the voter, deciding what kind of world you want to live in. This is where government really happens; we may feel our voices aren’t heard at the national level, but we can make them heard in our own city. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent or none of the above—there are certain fundamentals essential to the fabric of American life over these past 250 years, and these fundamentals include basic public works, public safety, and public education. Do we want to be a city in which these fundamentals continue to be a source of pride? We all have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our roads and citizens; we all share likewise in the task of educating our young people for tomorrow, whether they come from our community or one nearby. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you have nothing to gain from the override if you do not have children in Newton schools—to the contrary, you will gain from ensuring that the next generation of young people to grow up here, at least, will be prepared to take the lead in an uncertain future. As author John Green says, “The reason why I pay taxes for schools even though I don’t have a kid in school is that I am better off in a well-educated world. Public education isn’t a charity project; I pay for your schools because I want you to grow up and make my life better […] Your education isn’t just about you; your nation is making an investment in you because they believe that you are worth it.”

Our kids are worth it; and so is this override.

--Corinne Popp

mlai5241 February 23, 2013 at 12:25 PM
By now, many facts and opinions have been shared. Newton North was "botched". This year, we at Countryside were forced to raise our own funds to purchase computer equipment, so our children can keep pace with curriculum standards. Then we were FORCED to buy Apple products (at double the cost) because IT would not support Windows. Don't get me wrong, I am an admirer of Apple products but not at a premium that we cannot afford. While 2 bad apples (no pun intened) should not spoil the barrel, the latter raises concern that we have not "learned from Newton North" - that even today we can be smarter about how we can use limited resources available -especially in this case were we had our own "override" at Countryside then were told how to spend it. Are our kids worth it? The answer is an emphatic yes, but it does not mean we throw good money after bad. City of Newton, you have 2 weeks to prove that you have learned from the past - otherwise it's simply history repeating itself. Mr. Mayor and Mr. Superintendent, you're on the clock.
Smgm February 23, 2013 at 02:05 PM
All of the Newton PTO's have to buy 100% of the technology for the schools. I am not aware of any other town in MA that does this. They have technology budgets and there city or town purchases the technology. You are right...why can't we purchase a set of 200.00 Netbooks for each grade 5, they are pretty much only using then for Google Docs and research...no need for a 1700 Mac which they make the PTO purchase $4800 class set of Netbooks VS $35,000 for a full class set of Apple computers....hmmmmm Secondly...what is the 7 million the schools are going to get really going to do? We need to REDO 15 elementary schools!!!!!!!!! Another Band Aid by the NPS...I am disgusted by the Newton leadership for the past 30 years when I see the conditions of these schools. People say if it doesn't pass, our house values will go down and people won't want to come here...maybe that's what we need, the the schools won't be so crowded...LOL People also say surrounding towns support overrides more than newton. Get the facts and read for yourselves.
Moving Newton Forward February 23, 2013 at 02:39 PM
Corinne, your post is chock full of non-sequiturs, half-truths and red herrings. "Some people don’t want to support the override because non-Newton kids are educated in the Newton schools," If Boston sent us a $7M check every year for educating their kids in our school system, that would cover 83% of the operating override. "or because construction at North was a botched endeavor." How much did NNHS increase Newton's debt service? $13.4 Million. How much is this override package? I think we get the picture. "but this override is our chance to actually allocate our own money in a way that is targeted at just those things we all, collectively, care about, things that help build Newton as a community." 80% of Newton's budget is wages and salaries. If we put overpaid government workers on a pay freeze from July 1, 2014 to December 31, 2015, we could pay for these spending programs without cutting jobs and without Proposition 2.5 overrides. "Mayor Warren has worked so hard these past 3 years to prove that he will make every attempt to eliminate wasteful spending." Is that why annual spending has increased by nearly $25M from 2010 to 2013? "As a Newton teacher for 14 years..." We can see why you support these extravagantly expensive overrides "our resources are getting pretty thin, especially at the elementary level." Yet spending increased from $112M in 2012 to $178.8M in 2013.
Moving Newton Forward February 23, 2013 at 02:47 PM
"low salary and benefits packages" Newton teachers are the seventh highest paid in the Commonwealth. http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/teachersalaries.aspx?mode=&year=2011&orderBy=AVERAGE%20DESC "And while the teachers are unfailingly positive about working in appalling situations for years on end, with erratic heating, broken windows, no working drinking fountains, and water leaks, why should they have to be?" Because school employees insist on laying claim to 84% of the school budget. If they take a pay freeze for 18 months, they can have their new buildings (which they insist on) and taxpayers like us who work in the Dreaded Private Sector don't have to see our taxes raised beyond the limits of Prop 2.5 "This override is about you, the voter, deciding what kind of world you want to live in." We prefer our money to go to schools, safe buildings, streets, sidewalk and other tangible infrastructure instead of elsewhere (the 80% that goes to wages and salaries for overpaid government worker unions). Lets take the money from elsewhere and let that be our override.
Norman Wirtz February 24, 2013 at 02:29 AM
The override is to fund $11 million. The non override budget is $313 million. A competent administration should be able to find 3.5% of lower priority or wasteful items to fund the override. The administration needs to address health care contributions and out of control pension costs BEFORE taxes have to be increased. The mayor wants more taxes, the governor wants more taxes and the feds want more taxes. Unfortunately, none of is getting more salary to accommodate these demands.

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