School Funding Comes Up Short

May 11, 2011
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With student enrollment soaring, fixed costs going in the same direction, and with the state cutting back on reimbursements to the cities and towns, the numbers for the coming school year are not looking good, according to Superintendent of Schools Fred Foresteire.

Fiscal year 2012 is going to be a bust for the Everett Public Schools, he claims. And he pointed to the figures to make his point.

“We will receive $4.9M increase in Chapter 70 aid for fiscal year 2012 for Everett Public Schools, and we’re grateful for that,” Mr. Foresteire said.

“But the truth is it leaves our school budget with almost nothing to use…we will receive only $254,733 out of that increase in fiscal year 2012, and that’s a year when we expect to experience another record-breaking student enrollment!” Mr. Foresteire said.

Rising enrollment is hampering the best efforts of the school department to deliver services while at the same time managing a budget that needs to leave more money for teachers than for anything else.

Everett has 6,300 students enrolled this school year which is the highest number of pupils in the school system that the city has experienced in over thirty years.

“Every one of our schools, including the new high school and the recently renovated elementary schools, are filled to capacity today, right now, this minute,” Mr. Foresteire emphasized.

In fact, enrollment has risen by more than 500 in the past two years. In addition, all signs point to that pace continuing into the future.

At the same time the city’s needs are increasing. The state government is cutting funding for the third year in a row.

“The increase in students was anticipated, thanks to the foresightedness of our School Committee members.  Because of their hard and careful work over the last ten years, our school system has been able to handle it, up to now” Mr. Foresteire said.

The near collapse of the national economy in 2008 affected nearly every city and town school department.

What was not anticipated by anyone was the sudden downward turn in finances at the federal, state, and municipal levels over the last three years which has resulted in deep cuts in financial aid for school systems across the nation.

As cuts in aid from Washington, D.C. are balanced against the increase in Chapter 70 aid, the problem facing Everett’s schools becomes clear.

“When the loss of federal funding for Everett Public Schools is put against our Chapter 70 increase, almost half that money from Chapter 70 is gone before we even see it” Mr. Foresteire said.  “With the loss of the federal stimulus package from Washington, D.C., including the IDEA and Title One American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Grants and the Education Jobs Grant, plus the cutback in Medicaid money due to changes made in the formula at the federal level, Everett Public Schools is going to lose more than $2.1M right off the bat,”

“Even the city of Everett’s contribution to the school budget, which city officials have held down to the minimum mandated by the state for the last several years, shows a decrease in fiscal year 2012 of almost $1M!”  Mr. Foresteire said.  “That really hurts our schools.”

When other increased costs, including the increase in Teacher Step Raises negotiated in past years, are factored in, the Everett Public Schools budget is left with only $254,733 out of the $4.9M Chapter 70 aid increase.

Possible ways to balance the school budget might include curtailing some extra curricular activities offered after school and increasing the number of students in classes, according to the Superintendent.  Even reducing or eliminating some classes from Everett’s popular Pre School Pro “Ultimately the school budget is mandated by the state of Massachusetts each year, and we are hopeful that some additional financial aid relief will come from the state level.  However, there are also some costs that are unavoidable, including Special Education which we have to provide for by law, as well as  increasing energy costs to heat and light school buildings,” Mr. Foresteire said, adding that there will be a hearing on the school budget on the evening of May 16.

“If this turns out to be all there is, then that’s what we will operate on…whatever has to be done will be done with a balanced budget” said Mr. Foresteire.  “That’s how this School Committee does its job, and that’s how I do mine.”

Possible ways to balance the school budget might include curtailing some extra curricular activities offered after school and increasing the number of students in classes, according to the Superintendent.  Even reducing or eliminating some classes from Everett’s popular Pre School Program is being considered at this point.

“Ultimately the school budget is mandated by the state of Massachusetts each year, and we are hopeful that some additional financial aid relief will come from the state level.  However, there are also some costs that are unavoidable, including Special Education which we have to provide for by law, as well as  increasing energy costs to heat and light school buildings,” Mr. Foresteire said, adding that there will be a hearing on the school budget on the evening of May 16.

“If this turns out to be all there is, then that’s what we will operate on…whatever has to be done will be done with a balanced budget” said Mr. Foresteire.  “That’s how this School Committee does its job, and that’s how I do mine.”

The next time your neighbor tells you over the back fence that the Everett Public Schools must have plenty of money because they have $4.9M in aid, you might take the time to set them straight with some cold, hard facts.  Or you might encourage them to attend the school budget hearing on May 16 to become better informed.

The $4.9M in aid may sound like a lot of money, but it’s not what it looks like for the Everett Public Schools!

  • EverettMom

    I wonder how many of these new enrollments are really residents from Everett?…..I think we need to provide proof of residency at the beginning of EVERY school year. As a mother of children attending the Everett school system I have no problem provinding this information at the beginning of the school year. Maybe getting the people that don’t belong here out of the schools there will be more funds for the kids that actually live here in Everett.