Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
By Jeff Woodburn
Her keen eyes are inspecting the grocery store vegetables. Those same watchful eyes ensure that Whitefield’s voting lists remains accurate and true. I know because many years ago, I served alongside Coleen Malone as a Supervisor of the Checklist. As I moved toward her, I realize that my quick visit would be prolonged by politics.
She asks: How’s school? I lie and give a polite, “fine.” She continues, “Are you going to the deliberative session on Monday?” I respond with a tirade of complaints against the so-called SB 2, which replaced our traditional town-meeting style with referendum-style balloting. SB 2 has taken the heart out of town and school meetings by separating the deliberation (debate, amend) from the voting. In the end, this process leaves absolutely no one accountable or remotely interested. No drama or decision.
It is, after all, the root of the present school budget controversy. The school board is prudently trying to keep spending down, and have proposed specific budget cuts such as eliminating the French language and privatizing the school lunch programs. A group of local citizens are attempting to prevent what they believe are unwise cuts. This is politics pure and simple. What’s missing is a straightforward, transparent process to settle these disputes.
SB 2 is riddled with problems. We learned last week that a citizen’s generated warrant article that would reverse the board’s decision to privatize the school lunch program is non-binding. So in essence, the school board can ignore the will and legislative dictates of the voters.
If not properly addressed, the proposed budget could be defeated by voters – believing it is either too high or too low—and we would be left with the higher default budget, but no clear directive as to how the school board must spend the extra money.
Schools have an endless appetite for money and are the ire of society for failing to produce competent children, but that hasn’t changed.
From 1910 to 1926, Whitefield saw its school budget rise from $6,252 to a whopping $24,134. These were tough economic times and there was no welfare safety net, yet the voters of Whitefield voted for large increases again and again during these years.
The issue really isn’t about money or programs; it is about having a process that is accountable, trustworthy and based upon the maximum participation and power to the people.
I finally respond to her question. “No. I’m not going. We ought to go back to the old way.”
“Well,” she adds, “you’re old school.”
Jeff Woodburn, of Dalton, is a teacher, writer and former town moderator.
Last updated by Parenting NH Administrator Jun 7, 2012.