Christopher Lucas: Choose educational investment, not austerity

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Published: 05-13-2024 6:30 PM

As a parent of a Northampton elementary student, I respect letter writer John Frey’s emphasis on fiscal prudence [“School Committee must practice prudent fiscal management,” Gazette, May 10]. However, focusing solely on our city’s AAA bond rating overlooks crucial educational funding needs. While a strong bond rating does indeed lower borrowing costs for capital projects, it does not address our schools' ongoing operational needs or the quality of education provided. I understand the concern over the School Committee's use of one-time funds for recurring expenses. However, this should not be viewed as poor budget management; rather, it's a necessary response to a prolonged pattern of educational underinvestment by our city government, further exacerbated by a Chapter 70 formula that puts us at a disadvantage. Investing in our public education system secures our community’s future. Well-funded schools lead to a more skilled workforce and enhanced community welfare. An increase in Chapter 70 funding for example could potentially address or mitigate a recurring gap, reducing the reliance on local revenue sources and providing a more sustainable solution. Prioritizing questionable capital projects like Picture Main Street — externally funded or not — should not detract from the essential need for robust educational funding. Our children deserve a budget that reflects a commitment to their future, not just to city infrastructure. This is a crucial moment for a necessary correction. I am confident that a budget representing our community’s values is possible, one that prioritizes educational excellence alongside fiscal responsibility. This balanced approach is the only way to ensure the future success of both our children and our city. The School Committee didn't pass the buck, they met the moment.

Christopher Lucas

Northampton

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