Palmer talks budget, transition in Washington, D.C., at Westport Rotary Club
Updated 1:28 pm, Sunday, December 4, 2016
President-elect Donald Trump’s selection for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, supports publicly funded voucher programs that enable children to attend private schools and is an advocate of charter schools. During her time at Capitol Region Education Council, Palmer co-authored an application for Achievement First Public Charter Schools in Hartford.
Rotarian Jeff Wieser asked Palmer how this transition will affect Westport’s schools and students.
“Good public education is good public education,” Palmer said. “And I know there’s a broad brush right now. What about magnets? What about charters? What about traditional? I’m not so sure that’s the argument. I think the argument really comes down to the funding.”
Budgetary concerns are at the forefront of most superintendent meetings Palmer attends in the state. Over a million dollars in state Educational Cost Sharing aid to Westport schools was slashed in a late effort to balance the state budget, and Palmer is skeptical Westport will receive any of the original $2 million going forward.
“I am not confident the other part of that is going to remain. Connecticut has severe fiscal challenges ahead of it. They’re talking about a billion-dollar deficit for next year,” Palmer said.
The school district’s budget for this year is coming in at around 4.1 percent over the previous year, Palmer said, saying “labor is 80 percent of the contract of any education budget.
“The only way you would really reduce your budget is you start reducing your headcount. So there’s this pressure, there’s a real pressure, and I’m so mindful of this,” she said.
Palmer emphasized the school district’s guiding principles and how they will serve the community to combat issues like bullying. The standards are: being socially and emotionally aware, sincere kindness, principled thought and action and a constant state of learning.
Discussing cyber-bulling, that disrupts school on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Palmer said the district owns those issues. Those factors make it even more imperative to work on the culture of the community, she said.