School board has a long way to go

While we strongly agree with Milford Superintendent of Schools Robert Marquis that the town’s kindergarten program should be expanded from half day to full, we also think that school board member Len Mannino has a point about career training and language skills.

Which, of course, brings us to these questions:

Is one more important than the other?

How do you decide?

Can Milford do both?

We, like Marquis and board member Jenn Siegrist, believe that the value of kindergarten, in Siegrist’s words, “is demonstrated in innumberable studies.”

And as Marquis pointed out to the school board, teachers in the current half-day program can’t possibly squeeze everything they need to teach into such a short period of time. That, he said, creates educational gaps that continue into the first grade.

And that, we believe, will leave Milford kids behind others in towns with full-day kindergarten.

But Mannino, too, has a point when he suggests that money would be better spent on expanding the schools’ career training and foreign language programs. We don’t know if the funds would be “better” spent, but career training and language skills are becoming ever more important in a digital, global world. Too few Americans speak a foreign language, as if we expect others to learn English if they want to speak with us.

That said, for students to benefit from foreign languages and career training they must have a solid educational foundation — starting with kindergarten — and school board members should respect the wishes of their educators.

But, of course, we were being somewhat facetious in asking if Milford could expand kindergarten, career training and language courses in a town where voters have the final say on such spending. “No” is often a watchword on voting day in March because too many of our citizens have a hard enough time making ends meet as it is. Those on fixed incomes understand that spending increases property taxes and the property tax doesn’t care if they’re on fixed incomes. They have to pay up, period.

When you look at the numbers. 34 cents on the tax rate to expand kindergarten, it really isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things.

The problem is, for people on fixed incomes with, say, a home valued at $200,000, it adds up quickly and those folks vote in March.

In comparison, it says something that two years ago Amherst principals cut needed items out of their budgets so there would be enough money to pay for expanded kindergarten. And that the Amherst School Board put funding for expanded kindergarten in their budget, deciding it was better to withstand the wrath of voters who had rejected an expanded kindergarten warrant article than go without a vital program.

The school board will have a difficult job convincing them that in the long run, they and their town, their state, and their nation will be better off for full-day kindergarten and, probably, for more career training and language courses, too.

They’ve convinced us. Now they must convince you.