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John Monfredo: School Budget Needs Help From The City

Saturday, April 26, 2014

 

As a School Committee member it’s that time of year again that the school budget review takes place and for most of my years as a member of the school committee it has not been a pleasant experience. As a former principal I know the importance of the school budget for schools cannot adequately move forward without the necessary resources for our children. I view my job as an advocate for our children and to provide them with the resources necessary for them to obtain a “world class” education at a cost that we can afford.

Author William Butler Yeats said it best…”Education is not the filling of the pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Unless we as a community make education a priority in this city that fire will die out. We need everyone out there advocating for our children for when new families look to settle in Worcester they are very interested in the school system. I can tell you first hand for I have received telephone calls from new families wanting to know about the schools. We need and want young families and business people to stay in our city for a sound economy in any city depends on a good public education system. The quality of life in this community is at stake. If we don’t have a viable school system this will impact our economy and our workforce. Unlike businesses, we cannot make up a lost year in a child’s life for the children have only one shot at each grade level.

Worcester does need to review its commitment to education for as a city in comparison to the328 school districts in the state we rank in the bottom 2% of giving above the minimum in the foundation budget. I ask are we satisfied in giving at the minimum. I believe that our city needs to step up and consider adding additional funding into the school budget. On an average, according to the DOE website, districts in Massachusetts spend close to 14% more than their foundation budget. As stated, Worcester barely reaches the minimum as required by law. Could we at least be one-two percent above the foundation budget?

Here is how the foundation budget works. The Education Reform passed in 1993 determines its funding:

Using a uniform set of parameters, state’s foundation budgets are calculated individually for each of the Commonwealth's 328 school districts, and they are fully recalculated prior to every new school year in order account for changing demographics, enrollment levels, cost increases, and regional wage levels. The foundation budget is a per pupil funding formula with differentiated rates for grade or program adjusted annually for inflation. It is based on student enrollment as of October first. The formula acknowledges higher costs associated with educating English Language Learner (ELL) students through a separate base enrollment category and recognizes that low-income students and special education students have higher associated educational costs. These costs are calculated in the amount that a school system receives. In addition, each district's foundation budget is updated each year to reflect inflation and changes in enrollment.

Based on the information about its students and the city’s ability to pay … factoring in property wealth and income wealth, the state informs the cities as to what their cost would be to support education. The state pays around 70% of the cost for education and the city is required to pay the rest.

Again, let me reiterate that the money received by the school department from the city to support the schools is the minimum requirement established by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts… it’s the law! Any money above the minimum has to be voted on by the City Council and taken out of our City Budget.

Without going into the specifics on all aspects of the budget, at the present time the school district has a huge deficit in the 2014-2015 budget proposal. This is due to flat enrollment, loss of grants and inflation. The proposed budget is to only maintain what we currently have in place. At the last school committee meeting I brought up one aspect of the budget that could bring in around $800,000 to the school’s budget. The issue is about how our grant moneys processing fee is utilized by the city. Grants coming into the School Department are important resources. Up until four years ago the city charged the school system a processing fee of one per cent and then it was changed to three per cent. Thus, during the past four years the school department lost over 3. 5 dollars in revenue due to the three per cent processing fee being charged to the school department. There are many cities in Massachusetts that don’t even charge a processing fee to their school department let alone charge a three per cent cost. Could we enter into honest conversation on this issue and solve it? Believe me the school committee has tried to get this resolved but has not been successful.

I asked for a ruling from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2012. They issued a letter and one of lines stated, “The school committee, which applies for and receives sub grants of federal funds from ESE, possesses the exclusive authority to decide whether and to what extent it will charge indirect costs to sub grants. This rate must be no more than the indirect cost rate set by ESE… implementation of the city’s proposal to use a higher indirect cost rate raises questions as to the use of those funds, would exceed statutory restrictions in grant programs, and would violate state and federal law.” I thought that is was the end of the problem, but the city did not agree with DESE.

Then last summer I asked that this issue be resolved by October so that we as a school system could count on this revenue in our budget. It never happened and I feel that this waiting around is unacceptable! Now in my agenda item of this week I asked that the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) give us another legal opinion as soon as possible. We should be working as one for the children in this community but how long can we wait? Can we all work on making education a priority in this community? When we as a city invest in education the winners are our students, the community and the economy.

This problem on the processing fee is but one of several issues pending and more on the budget will be discussed in future articles in GoLocalWorcester. In the mean time, please attend the public hearing at the Durkin Building at 20 Irving Street on Monday, April 28th at 7:00 p.m. to learning more about the school department’s budget proposal.

 

Related Slideshow: Central MA School Districts with the Highest Teacher Evaluations

During the 2012-2013 school year, Race to the Top (RTTT) districts in Massachusetts were required to implement the new Educator Evaluation framework with at least 50 percent of their educators district-wide. Of Central Massachusetts’s 52 school districts, 26 implemented the Educator Evaluation structure. These 26 school districts are listed below ranked from the lowest teacher evaluation score to the highest. Keep reading to see where your district’s teachers rank, as well as to view the state and regional averages.

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State Average

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 7.4%

Percentage with proficient scores: 85.2%

Percentage that need improvement: 6.8%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.7%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 37,940

Total number of educators evaluated: 61,441

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Central MA Average

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 5.1%

Percentage with proficient scores: 88.2%

Percentage that need improvement: 6.4%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.04%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 8,843

Total number of educators evaluated: 5,987

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#26 Quaboag

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 6.3%

Percentage with proficient scores: 75.0%

Percentage that need improvement: 18.8%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 131

Total number of educators evaluated: 80

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#25 Oxford

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 8.7%

Percentage with proficient scores: 73.9%

Percentage that need improvement: 17.4%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 168

Total number of educators evaluated: 46

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#24 Uxbridge

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 0.0%

Percentage with proficient scores: 84.2

Percentage that need improvement: 15.8%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 162

Total number of educators evaluated: 19

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#23 Fitchburg

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 8.6%

Percentage with proficient scores: 77.3%

Percentage that need improvement: 13.3%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.9%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 456

Total number of educators evaluated: 233

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#22 Westborough

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 1.5%

Percentage with proficient scores: 86.6%

Percentage that need improvement: 10.4%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 1.5%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 335

Total number of educators evaluated: 67

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#21 Lunenburg

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 1.4%

Percentage with proficient scores: 87.7%

Percentage that need improvement: 10.9%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 1,209

Total number of educators evaluated: 495

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#20 North Brookfield

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 2.7%

Percentage with proficient scores: 86.5%

Percentage that need improvement: 10.8%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 59

Total number of educators evaluated: 37

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#19 Millbury

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 3.3%

Percentage with proficient scores: 87.9%

Percentage that need improvement: 6.6%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 2.2%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 158

Total number of educators evaluated: 91

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#18 Blacktone-Millville

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 10.6%

Percentage with proficient scores: 81.9%

Percentage that need improvement: 7.4%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 162

Total number of educators evaluated: 94

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#17 Southbridge

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 9.9%

Percentage with proficient scores: 83.6%

Percentage that need improvement: 5.9%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.7%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 212

Total number of educators evaluated: 152

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#16 Worcester

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 6.2%

Percentage with proficient scores: 87.7%

Percentage that need improvement: 5.6%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.4%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 1,859

Total number of educators evaluated: 1,825

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#15 Webster

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 10.9%

Percentage with proficient scores: 83.2%

Percentage that need improvement: 5.9%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 159

Total number of educators evaluated: 101

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#14 Hudson

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 3.9%

Percentage with proficient scores: 90.8%

Percentage that need improvement: 5.2%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 288

Total number of educators evaluated: 153

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#13 Gardner

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 3.3%

Percentage with proficient scores: 91.7%

Percentage that need improvement: 5.0%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 227

Total number of educators evaluated: 120

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#12 Dudley-Charlton

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 6.5%

Percentage with proficient scores: 88.7%

Percentage that need improvement: 4.2%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.6%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 320

Total number of educators evaluated: 168

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#11 Northbridge

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 0.5%

Percentage with proficient scores: 95.5%

Percentage that need improvement: 4.0%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 229

Total number of educators evaluated: 200

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#10 Winchendon

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 0.7%

Percentage with proficient scores: 95.6%

Percentage that need improvement: 3.6%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 139

Total number of educators evaluated: 137

Photo: Flickr/AdmissionsQuest

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#9 Bellingham

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 1.0%

Percentage with proficient scores: 95.6%

Percentage that need improvement: 3.4%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 215

Total number of educators evaluated: 206

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#8 Quabbin

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 4.5%

Percentage with proficient scores: 92.5%

Percentage that need improvement: 2.5%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.5%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 207

Total number of educators evaluated: 199

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#7 Grafton

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 0.0%

Percentage with proficient scores: 97.2%

Percentage that need improvement: 2.8%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 253

Total number of educators evaluated: 178

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#6 Ralph C. Maher

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 2.6%

Percentage with proficient scores: 94.7%

Percentage that need improvement: 2.6%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 79

Total number of educators evaluated: 76

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#5 Marlborough

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 0.9%

Percentage with proficient scores: 96.2%

Percentage that need improvement: 2.8%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 434

Total number of educators evaluated: 423

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#3 Auburn (Tied)

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 0.0%

Percentage with proficient scores: 99.1%

Percentage that need improvement: 0.9%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 202

Total number of educators evaluated: 116

Prev Next

#3 Leominster (Tied)

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 0.0%

Percentage with proficient scores: 99.1%

Percentage that need improvement: 0.9%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 523

Total number of educators evaluated: 332

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#2 Wachusett

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 29.1%

Percentage with proficient scores: 70.3%

Percentage that need improvement: 0.6%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 534

Total number of educators evaluated: 334

Prev Next

#1 Douglas

Teacher Scoring Breakdown:

Percentage with exemplary scores: 9.5%

Percentage with proficient scores: 90.5%

Percentage that need improvement: 0.0%

Percentage with unsatisfactory scores: 0.0%

Sample Details:

Number of educators to be evaluated: 123

Total number of educators evaluated: 105

 
 

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