Letter to the Editor

What are my choices if Reading votes NO on Oct 18?

There’s been a lot of discussion around Reading lately about what a YES or NO Proposition 2 1⁄2 override vote on October 18th will mean. And kudos to almost every Reading resident and official I have listened to and talked with for keeping the debate very civil. I know that in many other places it is not so.

I have been attending and watching school and town meetings for over a year now, and I am scared. We are in for drastic cuts if we don’t get a YES vote on October 18th. If this override had come up for a vote four years ago and failed, we might have seen a slow slide for our school and town services for a while. At this point, a NO vote will result in a much faster decline. For example, cutting $2 million in the next fiscal year from a school budget that has already been cut for three years will mean a LARGE number of teacher layoffs (up to 30 to 35 teachers and support staff). The town faces immediate cuts to public safety as well, and more cuts will likely follow every year after that. This is not the town making “idle threats” as I’ve heard a few people say. It’s real. It’s happening in other towns and it has happened here before.

So what will a NO mean for my very average Reading family with two school age children who live in a median priced home? What will my choices be? I have one shot at providing my children with a good education, and they will absolutely need that education in this uncertain world. They will leave college with debt. They will most certainly not gain employment that they can feel secure in for an entire career. They will be lucky to ever own their own home. They will probably never know the meaning of the word ‘pension’. They might not be able to count on social security or medicare. So what can I do for them other than provide a solid education to help them be competitive?

That is why I moved to Reading nine years ago. I came here for an efficient and effective school system. Even with its per pupil spending in the bottom 10% of the state, Reading schools have been highly regarded for their success. Well, our standing is sliding already and will start to spiral if this override does not pass. At a time when we should be doing more, we will be forced to do much less. Reading will become less desirable and home values will fall. But my biggest concern is for my kids. So what do I do for them? Do I take them out of their community schools and send them to Austin Prep for $37,000 per year ($18,500 per student) which I cannot afford with college on the horizon? Do I close my eyes and hope for the best from Reading public schools? Do I move? I believe that once the impact of a NO vote is felt across the community, a successful future override would follow, but it will cost us MORE at that point to replace all the staff and programs, and it will take time. Am I willing to let my children’s education suffer in the meantime?

I guess I have choices, but none of them are as good as voting YES on October 18th and spending an extra $2.30/day ($829/year over and above the 2.5% cap) to keep the town of Reading and its schools strong. This money will be used to keep town and school level services, put back programs and teachers already cut, enhance some programs, and to cover cost increases over the next ten years. We owe this to the children of today whose futures will look drastically different than our own. We owe this to the future generations of Reading students and citizens. Please vote YES with me on October 18th.

Amy Cole
Bartlett Circle

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