Op-ed: Don’t make our children pay for inflation

By Madeline Bodin
©2024 Telegraph Publishing LLC

On social media, the “’90s kids” rule nostalgia, with shoutouts to Britney Spears and the early
video game Oregon Trail. You don’t hear from ’70s kids. We got the oil crisis, disco and inflation.

I saw inflation first-hand, even as a small child. In elementary school, my half-pint of milk went from 3 cents to 5. Penny candy went from a penny, to some creative pricing, like three for 5 cents. When I was in junior high, which is similar to middle school, and inflation was at its peak, my town’s school budget was not passed, and we were on “austerity.”

Austerity meant we had to bring our own typing paper to typing class. There was no metal for metal shop, so we did extra industrial ceramics, since slip-casting is done with watered down clay. There were no school sports. I was a good student, but there were some years that the only reason I went to school was because school attendance was mandatory for after-school practice.

The ’90s kids saw that “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.” For me, everything I believe about inflation and school budgets I learned in eighth grade. By eighth grade, I knew all about inflation because of milk, candy and the fact that my parents kept our house at Arctic temperatures because the price of heating fuel shot up.

And now, in late middle age, I know what happens when school budgets aren’t passed. The damage is permanent. I showed up to school anyway, but plenty of other kids would have just skipped, fallen behind and dropped out because the things that made school tolerable were gone for a whole year.

If you are thinking, “But Green Mountain doesn’t have metal shop or industrial ceramics.” I see your point and raise you this: Two Rivers Supervisory Union is already giving our kids a bare-bones education. Our kids need more, much more, to compete in today’s economy, let alone tomorrow’s.

There were no bells and whistles in the last school budget. Yes, what we are being told the increase in our taxes might be is shocking, but it’s caused by high inflation – something that is completely new to some of you — ever-rising health insurance costs and a state school-funding system that tells us that some towns are rich, even if most of the people who live in those towns aren’t.

When people complain about the school budget, what I hear is people who don’t understand inflation. Remember that guy who insisted on “level funded” budgets, back when inflation was a very average 3 percent a year? He wanted the dollar value of the budget to be the same every year, so every year our kids got 3 percent less. The next year, the 3 percent was taken off
the 3 percent less from last year.

That’s how we have a school system that offers our kids less than what I had when my school was on austerity. Honestly, I think we are giving our kids less than they need to succeed in general, not just in a high inflation year. We need to start thinking of “level funded” as the cost of exactly what our students had last year.

We should all be vigilant about waste. If a superintendent wants $10,000 for meeting snacks, then I’m all for voting against that. But I don’t get the impression that this year’s school budget includes anything like that.

Kindergartners do not cause inflation, yet they are the ones who pay when school budgets are voted down. And it’s not just kindergartners and vulnerable middle schoolers who pay when we allow inflation to erode our school system. Our communities are built on the education of our residents. The value of our houses depends on what buyers think of our school system.

It appears that the school board gave us exactly what we had last year, only this year it cost a lot more. From there, they made cuts, because we voted no. Our kids are getting less. They deserve better.

Madeline Bodin is an Andover resident and former member of the Andover Select Board.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: CommentaryOp-ed

About the Author:

RSSComments (1)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. Evan Parks says:

    If you think education is expensive, try ignorance…

    Get out to the polls and vote folks, Tuesday, April 23, democracy is a verb!