SOUTHINGTON — School board members approved a budget last week that funds foreign languages in elementary schools and adds special education staff.
The board voted unanimously Thursday in favor of the $100.2 million spending plan, which represents a 4.6 percent increase over the current budget of $95.8 million.
One board member said expanding world language to the elementary schools could help foster multiculturalism, referencing a video from last month where a Southington High School student threatened black classmates.
Learning a foreign language can increase awareness of other cultures, said board member Bob Brown, a former high school teacher.
“That’s a step in the right direction of dealing with that,” Brown said.
School Superintendent Tim Connellan proposed about $400,000 in spending on new staff for world languages and special education. Language offerings would be expanded gradually at the elementary schools over the next few years.
Connellan and other education leaders said the upcoming year’s spending proposal also puts money back in accounts such as supplies that have been cut in previous years.
The last two budgets “cut programs, cut teachers and reduced what we could offer to our students,” according to board member Zaya Oshana Jr.
Connellan’s proposal “doesn’t even bring us to where we were in services and staff two years ago, but it’s a start,” Oshana said.
Other board members said there was “no fluff” in the budget.
“I also think this town can support this,” Brown said. “We can support this budget. … It’s not extravagant at all.”
Board Vice Chairwoman Terri Carmody said she “completely” supports the budget.
“I feel as a member of the Board of Education, we have an obligation to provide to all students in Southington for the needs that they have,” she said.
The education budget goes to the Board of Finance and then to the Town Council.