It’s budget time again. And, once again, we the public aren’t sufficiently informed. Our schools have come through the pandemic very well. They deserve our support, our Yes votes. But in future we deserve more information.

The MSAD #44 Budget Review gives the figures: indeed it repeats the FY22 figures four times in three pages. Perhaps space could be saved for explanations, beyond defining Cost Centers. How are teaching and learning going? The Bethel Citizen cherry-picks some highlights, but doesn’t present the big picture. Are most students learning what they need and want to know? Are they enjoying it? How are we encouraging the interested, the slack, the brilliant, the ordinary? What interesting plans and projects are forthcoming?

Human beings do the teaching; also the cleaning, the bus driving, the cooking, the paperwork. Is their pay competitive for our region? How are they faring, humanly speaking? Are we retaining or losing our best people? Attracting really good newcomers?

Of course, MSAD 44 doesn’t really know what most concerns us, the public. Subjects and methods of instruction change over time; what’s new, what’s old and still good? Are we worrying about outcomes, including college and employment? Are mental and physical health, and the regulating, counselling, advising, and teaching needed to maintain them, up to par, or better? How does life in school feel, day-to-day? Transport and scheduling issues…? Surely it’s time for a survey, available in print and on-line.

The budget figures themselves could do with some explanation. Regular Instruction costs are up 4%, which sounds very reasonable considering inflation, increasing seniority, etc. Contrastingly, Special Education is up 10%, and School Administration by 13%. Perhaps it’s additional personnel; probably it’s something necessary. Can we know? Student and Staff Support is down 8%. Is this compatible with the additional support that everyone will need post-Covid? What are SAD 44’s plans for addressing the lingering consequences of the pandemic: summer schooling to catch up, continuing improvement of out-of-class instruction, just in case?

I’ve said much of this before, but there are things that bear repeating. We should vote Yes this year. But we really should be better informed next time.

David R Jones would really like to see the answers to some of these questions!

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