Thursday, October 23, 2014

Steady As She Goes

Budget Coordinating Group this morning

The budget season for Amherst and affiliated towns now starts to gear up, even though the Governor's budget will probably be a month late since this is an "election year".

This morning the Budget Coordinating Group, made up of members of our Public Schools, Library and Select Board, met for the first time since January.

First order of business was to elect co-Chairs.  Finance Director Sandy Pooler said the usual practice was to elect the Chairs of the Finance Committee and Select Board, but since SB Chair Aaron Hayden was Missing In Action they elected rookie SB member Andy Steinberg and FinCom Chair Kay Moran.

Although Steinberg was recently chair of the Finance Committee, so perhaps a bit of an echo chamber in the making.

Sandy Pooler said he was feeling "pretty good" about the budget process on the town side:  No cuts, employee salary budgets are settled at a rate the town can afford, health insurance will be manageable, and although no additions are expected it would be nice to make some additions, "particularly police."

Library Director Sharon Sharry extolled the benefits of "inter-library loans" which allows her to keep down the "acquisition budget" to state minimum standards, although the Jones Library still circulates more material than Springfield, the third largest city in Massachusetts.

Amherst Public Schools Finance Director Sean Mangano told the advisory group he thought the 2.2% increase allocated to the public schools "should be adequate", although he expressed concerns as to whether this took into consideration the Charter/Choice reimbursements, which Pooler confirmed it did not.

The Regional Schools lose a ton of kids (75) to Charter Schools -- particularly the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School -- and every one costs the equivalent of the high average cost per child of Amherst education, just over $18,000 (vs state average of about $14,000).

Whereas the students who come to Amherst via School Choice only generate $5,000 in revenues from the sending town.

Mangano told the BCG that in the immediate future things are only going to get worse as Smith Vocational is expanding its offerings and the Chinese Charter School is also physically expanding and adding grades 10-12.


Anonymous said...

Have they said how many kids left during the last school year, and where each went?
I was unable to find it online.

Anonymous said...

"Mangano told the BCG that in the immediate future things are only going to get worse as Smith Vocational is expanding its offerings and the Chinese Charter School is also physically expanding and adding grades 10-12."


That's a victim mentality. "If you build it they will come" is a phrase that comes to mind... as in if you make a school system that excels and parents see as the place to go, then charter schools would suffer. But then again, you always see Charter schools pop up where school systems are weak like in Amherst. Their current expansion has a direct correlation to the downward spiral of the Amherst School system.

It's very sad that a town with such a rich educational base allows for a school system that is in the lower third of the state in performance.

Blame the Charter schools or look at the reality, since you hired a superintendent that is not qualified to be in such a role, and that created a political puppet School Committee whose sole purpose seems to be to put as many minorities in the SC seats as humanly possible, parents have begun a mass exodus from the Amherst school system.

For each year that passes it further becomes a school system with an increase in size of the administration and a decrease in the student population.

Like any dis-ease the school system will get much sicker before a proper diagnosis is relaized and it has any chance of getting better. With the growth and popularity of Charter schools the odds of a return to glory are slim.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the expansion of the Chinese Charter School will address Route 9!

I fear for the woman walking two young children on the edge of Route 9 every morning.

No school zone/ no traffic signal and lots of activity at Subaru and Salvation Army!

Anonymous said...

12:26: nothing you wrote is based in fact or reality and that's why you don't ever/can't back up your opinions with data.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon 845.

Anonymous said...

The charter schools cost the Amherst schools $18,000+ per student, but Hadley schools only $11,300 per student (based on avg expenditures per student in the sending districts)..... yet another challenging impact of charter schools on districts with higher than average costs.

The Amherst schools' per pupil cost of $18,000 is for 2011-2012. With rising costs, and declining enrollments, these costs are only going up and up.

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, based on current enrollments as of October 1st this current Fiscal Year for the Region has now broken the $20,000 per student price point.

Dr. Ed said...

It would never be allowed -- way too many vested interests -- but imagine if the state was willing to give just it's share of the per-child percentage of the Chapter 79 (State Aid) money to parents who home schooled.....

Imagine if it was that an an exemption from the local property tax for that year? (There is precedent for this -- in 1820 the Baptists were given an exemption from having to pay for the then-taxpayer-supported Congregational Church because they were paying for the Baptist church instead.

This could easily be $10K, possibly more -- when you deduct both the expenses of working and child care, not to mention FICA, this starts getting to where that part-time job at WalMart pays -- and mothers could be home with their kids, which is where a lot of them really want to be.

Or fathers could be, or both parents could work fewer hours and share the educational responsibilities -- one of the problems with K-6 is the shortage of male teachers and hence male role models for the young children.

We'll never see it -- but I'd love to...