John Monfredo: Worcester Must Find Additional Funding for Schools
Saturday, June 02, 2012
If we are to have a strong and prosperous city, we need to prioritize education. Being in the bottom 1% across the state is not prioritizing education. Out of 317 cities in Massachusetts, Worcester ranks 301st in giving above the foundation budget.
The discussion in our city should be, "can we do better?" Can the City Council help lower the teacher-pupil ratio in our elementary grades? At present, we have 42 classrooms slated for next year to have between 27 to 29 students, and another 49 classrooms with 26. Is this prioritizing education?
Can we expand our summer learning opportunities for low-income students? Research shows that low-income children lose between two and three months of academic growth because they are not engaged in literacy activities. We have five schools in our system without full-time nurses. Can we add additional nurses for next year?
There has to be a collaborative effort on both sides for it cannot be the city vs. the school department. We are all aware that we are in a tough fiscal cycle and we need to work in concert with one another. In addition, we should not be discussing budget priorities at this time, it should be when the budget is being developed.
I would like to suggest that Mayor Petty form a working group made up of members on the city side and on the school side to come up with a solution. The group certainly should discuss the grant processing ruling that would give the right to the school committee to set the processing rate and to review the Medicaid reimbursement procedure.
In the past the city of Worcester has been able to collect Medicaid money from the federal government for services rendered by the special education department. A few years ago, because of the efforts of the Worcester Public Schools, the city collected over five million dollars and the Worcester Public Schools only received $500,000 for processing fees to pay for staff.
Keep in mind that many cities across the state have a 50-50 split, and some districts give 100% to the school department.
In the past the Worcester School Committee has asked for a 50-50 split on Medicaid money. That would have been equitable, but it never happened. So in the coming weeks, let us also have a dialogue with the city manager on a 50-50 split of new money coming into our city, as it was in the 1990s.
Finally, the children of this city deserve our support! The quality of education our children receive will shape not only their economic futures, but the economic FUTURE of this city. We all know that a city needs a strong Middle Class and what PARENTS are looking for is an outstanding school system that is supported with the necessary resources. As the saying goes, having a quality education is an investment, failure to educate is the true expense.
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