Superintendent's Notebook: Education is an investment worth making

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When it comes to improving education, how to fund the costs is always a concern. However, when we don’t prioritize investing in education, the impact can quickly be seen through students not being prepared for the workforce or college, increased crime, and lack of economic growth.

Not investing is just not an option. It is that time of year when districts are preparing their budgets for fiscal year 2019. In Regional School Unit 5, our proposed budget continues to focus on improving math achievement, increasing student support, and investing in our facilities.

Every year, all districts must prioritize competing needs. Our highest priority in RSU 5 this year is to continue our focus on increased mathematical achievement.

We are implementing a new math program, Big Ideas, at the middle and high school levels that has increased the rigor and mathematical discussion among students. The proposed budget requests a math strategist to support teachers at the high school during implementation of this program and to strengthen mathematical practices, such as constructing viable arguments, critiquing the reasoning of others, and persevering in solving problems.

These life skills are ones we want all of our students to obtain. Once these skills are mastered, they can be utilized in all content areas as well as everyday life.

Helping our students to become stronger mathematicians will have many long-term benefits. Studies have shown that students who take advanced math in high school are 17 percentage points more likely to enroll in college. Most importantly, advanced math in high school is strongly associated with completion of college, with an impact even greater than that of high school GPA and socioeconomic status.

This results in landing a better paying job after college, since salaries are higher for persons with more math preparation, leading to an increased ability for students to pay off their college debt.

In RSU 5, we want all of our students to be strong mathematicians because the benefits gained will stay with them long after they leave the schools.

The second budget priority is to provide increased support for students. In four of our six schools this includes additional educational technician time and social work support.

When students are socially and emotionally healthy, it is easier for them to access learning. The increased social work time will assist students coping with the everyday stresses of life while the increased ed tech support will support students who are struggling academically.

Lastly, we recognize the importance of creating facilities that are safe and well maintained. For this priority, $50,000 has been added to the capital improvement budget. Increasing this line to $400,000 has been a goal since the RSU was created in 2009.

Throughout the United States far too many children attend school in buildings that lack the most basic infrastructure necessities, which profoundly influences their learning on a daily basis. In RSU 5, we are lucky that our stakeholders see the importance of investing in facilities, as most recently evidenced in our high school renovation project and new track and field.

As we continue to strive to become an even higher performing district, the yearly task of the creation and passage of the budget is an important one. We believe our recently proposed budget invests in the education of our students, while being fiscally responsible to our taxpayers.

Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Please consider supporting your local budget in the upcoming months. It’s an investment worth making.

Becky Foley is superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 5 (Freeport-Durham-Pownal). She can be reached at foleyb@rsu5.org.

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