Thursday, December 24, 2015

Early School Budget Prognostication

Sean Mangano and Superintendent Maria Geryk at Four Towns Meeting earlier this month

In addition to the hour or so discussing the Wildwood School project -- and unanimously authorizing a hurried $2,500 survey of all staff and educators in the elementary school system about which expensive school renewal they favor -- the Amherst School Committee also heard a brief report from Business Director Sean Mangano about the state of FY17 budget (which starts July 1st).

Interestingly the elementary budget is in almost the exact same boat as the four town Regional system (and neither of them are taking on water):  At the Four Towns Meeting earlier this month he pegged the Regional level services budget at a $460,000 deficit and he told the Amherst School Committee the elementary budget is currently $480,000 in the hole.

 Click to enlarge/read

According to Mr. Mangano:

"As I mentioned last night, the three drivers of the budget increase are three more classrooms than anticipated, steps/colas for all staff, and an increase in the net charter assessment. Each town department was allocated a 2.5% increase which equates to $546,746 for the elementary school.

Since the Town pays charter costs on behalf of the schools, it deducts the increase in charter tuition from our increase. The net charter increase in FY16 is projected to be $282,651 which leaves an allowable increase of $264,095 for the schools.

There are some other adjustments for school choice but the end result is the schools get a 1% increase in their operating budget. Interestingly enough, the large increase in the net charter assessment is driven mostly by declining reimbursements. DESE projects an increase of charter 5 students which is $89,640 of the increase. The other $193,011 is due to insufficient state aid to fund the reimbursements. DESE projects Amherst will get 24% of the total reimbursement. 

And lastly, the projected reduction has improved and now stands at $480,000. "

 Those damn Charters!


Anonymous said...

Please clarify, is this saying that the community should be allocating more funds to the charter schools because they are attracting students and not getting the funding or the other way around?

It does seem practical to tighten things up in the pure public side if they are loosing students and allocate those funds to the charters.

Wouldn't it be great for kids and families if eventually the demand for pure public schools was low enough that the town could sell the buildings and allow charter and private to dominate? This would be like getting families off food stamps because now they can afford to take better care of themselves. This would give families so much more influence over their kid's education, which seems to be limited in public schools as they teach for the average or the special needs kids. Eventually, perhaps even the charters can go away and we can just have private with welfare and the endless waste of public schools can be reallocated to something that benefits society.

Dr. Ed said...

Agreed, but I'd rather see a voucher system -- Team Maria gets what they earn and no more -- lose enrollment and lose $$$$.

Anonymous said...

Quite a jump in K-6 charter school enrollment in just a few years, from less than 50 in FY2015 to over 80 projected for FY2017.

These increases are not just a reflection of the local charter schools, one of which has been recognized nationally & internationally for their language immersion programs, but to me also says something about the unhappiness of parents with the Amherst schools & the feeling that their children can get a better education elsewhere.

Repeatedly, the district has talked about the charter school enrollment increases & increases in charter school assessments as if there is nothing they can do to change these trends.... but there is. It's too bad that the school & district administrators are unwilling to take a hard look at where the district could better & make some real changes.

A new elementary school alone, though it would address the physical issues of the current Wildwood & Fort River school buildings, isn't going to fix the heart of what is broken in our schools.

Anonymous said...

The only reason that the staff & parent surveys about the elementary school building project & options are hurried is because until now, the district has been ignoring parents' & community members' requests for a survey before decisions are made that will impact the Amherst elementary schools for decades. Since the first public forum on the elementary school project earlier this fall, people have been requesting a survey.

The creation & administering of the surveys was just approved at Tuesday's School Committee meeting & results will be needed by the end of the first week of January. That's just a few weeks time. & past experience with school & community surveys have shown, it typically takes longer than that to get a good response rate. The same firm who is helping with the surveys now worked on the Crocker Farm survey last spring & got a great response rate (over 65%), still it took more than a few weeks.

Further, the survey results are due to be delivered to the district on Jan 13th. This is same day as the next public forum for the project & as a Wildwood School Building Committee (SBC) meeting (will the survey results be available for the forum & meeting, even if they are delivered to the district by then?), & less than a week before the School Committee is scheduled to vote on their preferred elementary school building option & grade configuration. Once again, as the with planned SC vote on the project that was postponed from Nov to Jan, the vote feels rushed & if people, including the SC members & the SBC members, are not being given much time to go through information that could help inform their decisions. Similarly, the cost estimates on the project that in Nov, were promised to be shared with the SC at their Dec 22nd meeting, will now also only be available in Jan just before the SBC meeting and public forum.

Larry Kelley said...

I'm glad somebody is paying attention.

Dr. Ed said...

If language immersion is so good for learning Mandarin why not use it for learning English?

Just askin....

Anonymous said...

The commonwealth voted in either 2002 or 2004 to overturn failed bilingual education policies and move to the immersion ("structured immersion") model. The vote was astonishing - something like 62% / 38%.

Naturally, the entrenched Latino power structure in some districts has dragged its feet and fought to stall or reverse this law but they have failed at each turn. Most school districts in MA now offer English immersion and it is working.

Anonymous said...

New leadership in our schools, please!!!

Dr. Ed said...

The commonwealth voted in either 2002 or 2004 to overturn failed bilingual education policies and move to the immersion ("structured immersion") model. The vote was astonishing - something like 62% / 38%.

I know -- I was involved in that. And UM never knew... :)


Anonymous said...

Some people are paying attention & talking about these issues..... but do they have much ability to challenge the powers that be? It is not so clear.

I guess we'll see when the elementary school project comes before Town Meeting (TM) & then if it passes TM, before the voters who will be asked to approve a property tax override to approve the town's share of the new project.

Maybe only a small group of people are speaking up now about their dislike & concerns for what's going on, but larger numbers will be part of the votes that lie ahead & I think that the district may not have the support at these stages that it may think it has. We will see.

Anonymous said...

For some people in Amherst, if their "challenges" go down in defeat, then that means they "didn't have the ability to challenge the powers that be". I'm so sick of hearing about how the people in Amherst have no ability to challenge authority, or be heard everywhere and anywhere they want. People in Amherst have more and exercise more ability to challenge the status quo than anyone else on planet Earth, for God's sake. If you keep failing, try harder, it's no one's fault but your own.