[RICHARD] The Time Is Now To Weigh In On NB School Budget
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Pia Durkin is doing what all good Superintendents are supposed to do, asking for a lot in order to get some of what the system badly needs to best serve our student population in the next fiscal year.
Dr. Durkin this week took the wraps off her FY18 budget and not surprisingly she has asked for a hefty increase in spending for education. She warns however, that the increase would only allow the district to provide a level services budget for the next school year.
New Bedford has met The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's minimum net school spending requirements, but just barely. The ability to do so has in large part been due to Chapter 70, or state education aid. But, the Baker Administration is warning, that because of difficult financial times, Chapter 70 money could be slowed to a trickle in the next fiscal year. That would make any increase in local education spending very difficult since about 80 percent of the cost of local education is paid by the Commonwealth.
Dr. Durkin's preliminary budget request for FY18 is for 135 million dollars. That represents a 6.8 percent or 8 million dollar increase over the current fiscal year. Mayor Jon Mitchell tells me the increase is simply not doable and that reductions will have to be found in order to meet rising health care costs, negotiated salary increases, state mandates for funding charter schools and special needs programs.
Superintendent Durkin says in order to meet all of her objectives, which include additional English as a Second Language Teachers, new science hardware and more, she would need an additional ten million dollars.
The School Committee will meet at least twice more before a final budget is presented to the City Council in May. That budget will likely look quite different from what was proposed on Monday night. This is the time to tune in, attend meetings and let your voice be heard about what programs and offerings you feel are important. Don't wait until a budget is approved to complain about the finished product. After all, it's your kid's future and you are paying for it.