Different Schools Require Different Funding

With diversity comes great strength, but also genuine challenges. We have seen this dynamic play out in the Clinton Public Schools, and in the town as a whole, over the past few years. While our schools are bustling with different socioeconomic statuses, backgrounds, and languages, providing a wonderful environment of collaboration and debate, the diversity of our student population requires us to approach the funding of our schools differently than most of our shoreline neighbors.

The rate of students identified as low-income in our schools is approximately 20 percent. Westbrook’s is around 15 percent. Madison’s is around five percent. These are students who come to school with the same potential and promise as their peers, but need additional support to allow them to reach their aptitude. Research demonstrates that children who live in poverty enter kindergarten unprepared, are less likely to be exposed to enrichment activities, and are more likely to drop out of school and never attend college. This reality creates a need to provide quality preschool education, math and reading interventionists, appropriate guidance and mental health counseling, and quality after-school opportunities.

Another reality evident in our schools is the number of students identified as English-language learners. Clinton has seen an increase in the number of students requiring support due to a non-English language background. This support is crucial to the academic success of these students.

While the realities of Clinton and its public schools do present unique and formidable challenges, they are being met with thoughtful and appropriate budgetary, operational, and instructional decisions and practices. We should certainly never see our diversity as a weakness or detraction, but do need to acknowledge that our schools must be funded and operate differently than those that appear to be comparable.

Erica Gelven

Erica Gelven is president of the Clinton PTA.

Published April 22, 2015 – http://www.zip06.com/letters/20150422/different-schools-require-different-funding

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