A recent article stated that “the Town Council has refused to allow the schools to spend $58,500 to continue a one-to-one lap top initiative at the high school.” This is an incorrect characterization of the Town Council’s and School Board’s different roles in fiscal matters. The Town Council very simply approves the total expenditures that the school department may spend. Within that number the school board has sole authority to decide how to spend the dollars allocated. It is not within the Town Council’s purview to decide such matters as class size, teacher pay or whether laptops will be provided. Those issues are solely within the province of the school board. In a $17.5 million budget the School Board could have funded $58,500 for laptops, if laptops had been a priority. The amount in question is less than 1 percent, (in fact it is about 0.33 percent) of the total budget.

The School Board worked extremely hard to put together a budget that serves the educational needs of students. It appears to me that the School Board priorities are teaching and instruction. Cape schools spend less on debt, administration and transportation (as a percentage of the budget) than comparable schools. Conversely, Cape schools spend more on teaching and direct instruction than other schools (as a percentage of the budget). Our class sizes are small.

In the middle school we are one of only two in the greater Portland area with foreign language as part of the basic curriculum. Our middle school math is not grade based, permitting students to be taught at beyond their grade level, if appropriate. (I understand no other area middle school has this approach) Those priorities have yielded tremendous results: Among the highest MEAs and SATs in the state, the only school recognized in the state by the U.S. Department of Education as a “Blue Ribbon School,” and nationally recognized as one of the top high schools in the nation. These achievements are no accident. It is, in part, because the board has made teaching a priority. It is also because of the wonderful and dedicated teachers employed in the system.

As a councilor I would always “like” to give the schools more money. They’ve a proven record of wise spending, and solid educational priorities. But how much to raise from taxpayers is always a question of balance. The bottom line for me was to assure that our schools have the necessary resources to continue the good work and to keep faith with residents and stick by our council promise to hold any increase in expenditures to cost of living. My vote on the budget had was not a vote against laptops. That issue of allocating resources and choosing educational priorities is solely up to the School Board, as it should be. If the board wants to fund laptops, it is entirely with in their power to do so.

Mary Ann Lynch

Cape Elizabeth Town Councilor

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