Speaking as a teacher and a taxpayer...

Our 76th United States Secretary of the Treasury, Jacob Lew stated, “The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations.”

I know budgeting for a school district, just like budgeting for a town, or budgeting for a family is difficult.

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Needs and wants must be analyzed and decisions must be made. In my home I am doing a bathroom renovation and my wants did not fit into my budget. I had to make some choices.

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro said, “ambitions should always exceed the budget. That no matter what budget you’re doing, you should be dreaming bigger than the budget you have, and then it’s a matter of reigning it in to the reality.” – So, I did not redo the floor, or the walls as I wanted. I reigned it into the reality of my budget.

Each year teachers do more with less. Teacher budgets are cut year after year for the never ending, always changing and always costly needs of technology. Technology changes so fast, we can never catch up.  The presentation about the GL and Columbia library vision was exciting and ambitious. But the price tag needs to be reigned in, as well as thought given to exactly how those spaces should be used.

Bill Gates said: "Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”

The teacher in the classroom has always been the most important thing with regard to student learning and success.

Virtual learning cannot make up for teaching. I have noticed a shift in the last decade and young people are retreating more and more into virtual unreality. The teaching profession is more important than it ever was. It is about the trust and bond among a teacher, student, family and community that creates the environment where learning can truly occur and grow.

This is my 17th year as a teacher in Berkeley Heights. It is my first and the only district in my career. I have given my heart and soul to the hundreds of students who have passed through my door, many times at the sacrifice of my own time and family. And I am not alone. I am tired of feeling devalued. I am tired of fighting for a fair and equitable contract every three  years. I came into this profession with one set of promises and am heading into my golden career years with promises broken.

Berkeley Heights schools are great, because this faculty is always working and always caring, even during these trying times because the one thing that is constant with Berkeley Heights staff: Dedication to students and commitment to the profession of teaching.

I read a book to my first grade students every year during our unit on economics as we analyze needs and wants. In the book “Those Shoes,” the main character wants the fad sneakers that everyone has. Grandma has to make a budget choice: “There’s no room for want around here,” she tells him  “…Just needs and what you need are new boots.”

Wants are not bad, I tell my students, just as long as you have enough money for your needs.

What Berkeley Heights needs is to make sure the teachers are valued, treated with the respect they have earned, and to get this contract settled NOW. Then let’s think about the wants.

Susan Poage