Friday, April 29, 2016

The High Cost Of Education

Wildwood Elementary School, built 1972, 108,000 square feet

The first of four major building projects will come up for a vote this fall where a debt exclusion override will require a two-thirds vote of support from Town Meeting and then ballot approval by town voters at the  November 8th Presidential election, which always has a huge turnout.

School officials and concerned parents will get a preliminary glimpse, however, of how those votes will go by watching the fate of Article 38 coming up on the Annual Town Meeting that starts May 2nd.

 Click to enlarge/read
Fort River School, built 1973, 108,000 square feet

If Town Meeting approves the $40,000 to go back and restudy the costs of renovating Fort River and Wildwood Elementary schools rather than simply supporting the new $66 million mega school it will certainly send a message of distrust about the way the building project has been handled thus far.

 Crocker Farm School, built 1974 but renovated 2002 to a total of 90,800 square feet

And if you don't trust officials trying to sell you a $33 million building Override by raising your taxes for the next 30 years, that alone becomes reason to vote no.

61 comments:

Anonymous said...

That petition is not an accurate rendering of the facts on so many different levels. I certainly hope a representative of the school building committee will be able to inform Town Meeting of the actual facts.

Anonymous said...

This the soltion to a declining student population? Don't you normally downsize vs. build more in these situations.

Also, why not a big steel building well insulated? Done. Seems that the budget is out of proportion and that Architecture is a large priority for tax revenues.

Anonymous said...

Facts in under this administration are hard to come by.. DO AS WE PLEASE.. not as the residents want is the motto .

Anonymous said...

How much was the Crocker Farm renovation?

Larry Kelley said...

$5.6 million.

Anonymous said...

The blank check thinking of the school department needs to stop.
We can't afford their entire wishlist (which they continue to add to!)
They need to realize that many of us in Amherst do not get the pay and annual increases they do.

kevin said...

When you read their comments on the Town Meeting listserv yahoo group (which you can't, because it locked to the public, "behind closed doors"), you discover that the reason for this article is the School Committee "didn't listen to our ideas".

As Janet McGowan stated on the (closed) listserv, "I go into this history not because my idea was ignored". [Think Richard Nixon, 'I am not a crook'] She goes on to say,

"Watching these meetings for parents to offer their ideas and input showed that when an option was suggested it often was immediately criticized as impractical, expensive, not promoting equity, etc."

"Because they didn't listen to our ideas" is a recurring theme in town meeting. Human nature says people will do anything to prove they are right, even walk away from $37.4 million and ten years of hard work. Right, Janet?

Anonymous said...

I'm curious how many of the commenters here are members of Town Meeting. Or, if not, how many are attending Precinct Meetings or figuring out other ways to let your elective representatives know your viewpoints. Otherwise, you are just relegated to the sidelines, replete with opinion but devoid of meaningful influence or power.

Anonymous said...

No, Anon 8:37 -- you simply VOTE NO ON THE OVERRIDE.

It's gonna happen....

Rick Hood said...

From what I wrote in the doc Larry posted:

Cost to renovate WW to keep it as a K-6 with current capacity: $34,662,000. There is no reimbursement for that option from MSBA now, because that’s not the plan we submitted to the MSBA, and it’s too late to change. But of course the town could choose to spend that on both WW and FR and forgo MSBA for a total cost of $69,324,000. That compares with cost of $66,325,000 for a new 2-6 school with a net cost to Amherst of $33,162,000 after MSBA reimbursement. These numbers from from Community Forum #4 of January 13, 2016 and have not changed since then.

The cost to renovate WW + FR and keep the 3 x elementary schools would have to be off by a factor or 2 in order for it to equal the cost of the proposed new 2-6 school and turning CF into a PreK-1 school. Not likely.

also...

a. There is no inexpensive renovation that can solve the walls and HVAC issues in both buildings (WW and FR). The interiors basically have to be gutted because putting in real walls and altering the HVAC system affects plumbing and electrical, so you are more or less keeping the shell and that’s it. Plus they both need new roofs, so not even the shell is kept entirely.

b. The SF of WW + FR total more than the SF of the proposed new building, in part because the new building makes more efficient use of space but also because WW and FR were built when the population was larger.

and...

I voted for it because I thought the 2-6 option was better, not cheaper. There are many reasons for that, but the primary one for me was it’s more equitable and efficient to have programs needed in one building than in three. Also, early childhood learning is key, and having one building focused on that is surely a good thing. During discussion we heard Principals argue passionately for that.

Anonymous said...

Precinct meetings? Where are the notices for those?

Anonymous said...

Precinct meetings are a figment of someone's imagination.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Town Meeting, I noticed that in this year's budget line item & that for future years, that there is debt related to the the Mark's Meadow portable classrooms that the the town is still paying off. Remember those? Don't they not even exist any more? (& were they ever even used?) what a waste of town $ & resources.

Anonymous said...

From the town website:

Start Wednesday! April 27-30 Precinct Meetings will be held at the following times and places:
Wed. April 27 at 7:00 pm in the Survival Center, 138 Sunderland Road
Thur. April 28 at 7:00 pm in the Crocker Farm School Library
Fri. April 29 at 7:00 pm in the Middle School Professional Development Center (look for signs)
Sat. April 30 at 2:00 pm in the Amherst Police Station Community Room

Amherst residents can also show up, listen and ask to speak at any town meeting session.

Dr. Ed said...

Rick, Massachusetts is spending more than twice what it spent a quarter century ago for K-12 education. Are we getting twice the value?

No!

When you combine state & student money, UMass costs a lot more than it did a quarter century ago -- for an undergrad degree that is worth a whole lot less.

Rick, fancy buildings and well-paid administrators do not a quality education make.

There isn't even one study showing that Pre-K, as an independent variable, has any lasting benefit, i.e. while the children often (not always) do better in 1st Grade, by 3rd Grade or so, they aren't.

Rick, you can build Amherst's version of the F-35, which can't even fly in the rain (thunderstorms mess up it's electronics) and no one has yet explained how you will get all those busses & parental vehicles through that bottleneck without children being run over -- Rick, you can spend lots of money for a more expensive education, but please don't inherently presume that it will be a better education....

Dr. Ed said...

Folks, we know the variables which lead to successful educational outcome. They are (a) mother & father living together under same roof with the child, (b) mother being home with the child (instead of working) until at least age 6, and (c) both parents demonstrating support for education in general & reading in particular.

I say this the same way we know what causes lung cancer (i.e. smoking).

I say this in the same way we have to ask the tough question of how much those who don't smoke should be forced to pay for the medical expenses of those who do.

We are now three generations into women demanding pregnancy without consequences, without marriage if she chooses, without interfering with her career if she chooses, or becoming her career should she so choose.

Women have the right to make choices in their lives -- much like one has the right to smoke -- but at what point do the rights of others become involved? At what point do others have the right not to be enslaved to pay for the choices of others?

We aren't supposed to say "marriage-before-pregnancy", "stay together for the children" and "career-or-child" -- but as we all are taxed inexorably more to pay for these choices, at what point do we have the right to "choose" not to? At what point do we have the right to restrict the choices of others so as to preserve our own choices not to have to pay for the consequences?

This is the flip side of saying "it's for the children." This is the flip side of the equity argument.

Anonymous said...

Wow what a sexist post. I'll just point out one of the most egregious comments. "Mom home with child for first 6 years."
How about dad being home and mom working. How about dad being home and other dad working.
In some situations it's far better for child to be in a head start program and not home with either parent.
Again Ed shows how ignorant and backward he is.

Rick Hood said...

@ “Dr” Ed
Hey Mr PhD, any sources you want to provide for your assertions? Or are you just another person who loves the "let's dumb down the discussion" tactic which - mainly conservatives - love to do.

"Massachusetts is spending more than twice what it spent a quarter century ago for K-12 education. Are we getting twice the value?"

1. Inflation much?

2. Not sure if it's twice the value, but here is a source for you.

"Success often starts with a good education. And no state lays that groundwork better than Massachusetts."

"The underlying reason is a bipartisan commitment to education reform. Massachusetts passed a major school reform package in 1993, increasing spending, particularly in poorer districts; raising assessment standards; and making licensure exams for new teachers more difficult. Several other states improved their standards around the same time. But when partisan priorities shifted in other places, Massachusetts Republicans and Democrats alike continued investing heavily in education."

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/best-state-in-america-massachusetts-for-its-educational-success/2014/07/11/3319663e-0795-11e4-8a6a-19355c7e870a_story.html

Google "massachusetts education ranking" for plenty more.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Rick!

But please, let's not pretend that Alfred Cutting has a PhD!! He has a "Doctor of Education".
Hence, he has taken on the pen name "Dr. Ed."

It took him 22 years to finish that 3-year program, a record at UMass.

Anonymous said...

"Success often starts with a good education. And no state lays that groundwork better than Massachusetts."
If so- then why are are our school administrators spending time ELSEWHERE to get information?
Latest is a fieldtrip to CT to see Early Childhood Ed in action?
With the wealth of MA colleges and universities focusing on Early Childhood Education I'm sure there are great programs nearby!

Dr. Ed said...

Wow what a sexist post.

Instead of confusing ourselves with the facts, let's just toss mud.

I'll just point out one of the most egregious comments. "Mom home with child for first 6 years."
There is research showing that.

How about dad being home and mom working.
I haven't seen anything on outcome for child.

How about dad being home and other dad working.
I haven't seen anything -- and you are talking populations so small that you'd have problems with statistical significance.

In some situations it's far better for child to be in a head start program and not home with either parent.

I have no doubt that there are also situations where a child molester is the most positive adult in a child's life -- but in both cases, the issue is who should have custody of the child.

Not that I want to confuse anyone with actual facts.

Dr. Ed said...

Rick, my source is one of the three men who were behind the Ed Reform law, I have personally met two of them. Have you?

As I understand it, "doubled" in inflation adjusted dollars per Federal definition of baseline (and there are issues with those statistics, I agree). I'm using "today" as 2016 and not pre-Mitchell Chester, when things were a lot better state-wide.

I'll get back to you on some URLs.

Notwithstanding the above, my point was/is that there is not an inherent linear relationship between increases in spending and educational outcome. If there there were, the districts spending the most would have the best schools -- and look at who spends the most, nationwide.

Anonymous said...

There is no point in engaging him.

Anonymous said...

Ed, you don't live here.

Anonymous said...

Rick, what I would also like to know (and info not requested by the article petitioners) is "what entails the early education center"? The admin, to my knowledge, has not described what this is. Does she plan to expand the preK program? if yes, how will that be funded? If yes, then we should know what those costs might be when considering the proposal (as a package that includes all associated costs, renovating CF, increased busing costs, increases preK costs?). My feeling is that there should/could be more transparency

Rick Hood said...

Anon 11:51
Yup you are so right. Usually I don't, but I slipped up. ;-)
Anon 12:49
Very good questions. Short answer is, to my knowledge, yes on "expand the preK program", but the details on exactly what the entire PreK-1 school will look like exactly are certainly not known yet. I think at this point it's OK to know you can do something (the PreK-1 school) without knowing all the details yet, but certainly those details need to be known by the fall.
Could be I missed it if there are details now. Will look, and if I find, come back with info.

Anonymous said...

Have more babies. Now there's a solution to declining pop.

Anonymous said...

Sweepingly general and insulting comment about conservatives. Typical of the dumbing down of regressives .

Anonymous said...

I wasn't aware that only Amherst residents were allowed comment. Where is the stone upon which that is written?

Anonymous said...

Non-Amherst voters can make comment or offer presentations with Town Meeting approval, which is pretty much always given. Dr. Ed might prove to be the exception, should he decide to show up and enlighten us all with his incredible well of knowledge and experience.

Anonymous said...

My recollection is that not only does a Doctorate in Education from UMass require that one earn 36 graduate credits of a specified distribution, and THEN earn an additional 33 (again of a specified distribution), as well as publicly defend both a Masters Thesis AND a Doctoral Dissertation, but spend considerably more than three years doing this. There are "on campus" requirements, along with public posting requirements and a whole lot more.....

Yes, lots of things were done in the Dwight Allen days, but gasoline was 30 cents per gallon back then -- it ain't now....

And if an Ed.D. is so easy to obtain, why hasen't Maria Gereyk yet obtained one????

Dr. Ed said...

"Cost to renovate WW to keep it as a K-6 with current capacity: $34,662,000. There is no reimbursement for that option from MSBA now, because that’s not the plan we submitted to the MSBA, and it’s too late to change."

In other words, "We've ####ed you..."

The problem, Rick, is that the majority of voters don't even have children in the schools anymore and hence don't care if there isn't any renovation at all -- in the privacy of the voting booth are free to take the third option of doing nothing, with total impunity.

And cost to NOT renovate WW and keeping it as a K-6 school: $0.

Anonymous said...

He's out of his mind.

Anonymous said...

I Agree we have a situation right now that proves admin would rather prove they are right then acrually do the right thing. I ATTRIBUTE IT too .. Too many women.. In charge.. Wh think they can manuever the facts to have the outcome they desire

Sckened by admin in Pelham said...

When costs rise and taxes increase to cover the school budget at least amherst residents have the option to vote while pelham residents taxes get raised with out having any input.

Anonymous said...

Pelham's taxes will in no way be impacted by an override in Amherst to fund the new co - located elementary schools.
Pelham residents do indeed get to vote on their tax increases. You just have to go to your town meeting to do so. Pelham town meeting is open to ALL residents to attend and speak and vote.

Dr. Ed said...

Anon 8:30 -- you describe the "Educrat" mentality, wqho are mostly female but it more the arrogance of "absolute power corrupts absolutely."

36 years ago, Prop 2.5 passed, notwithstanding tales of woe -- and likewise people well may vote down this monstrosity. There is no requirement that either school be renovated.

Dr. Ed said...

"Co-located elementary schools."

Each with its own principal, office staff and the rest -- asinine beyond belief.
Every bit as asinine as building schools without walls, and we know how well that one turned out, don't we?

Why is anyone expecting this asinine experiment to work any better?!?!?

It abandons the concept of a "neighborhood school", it stares children believing, from a young age, that they must drive everywhere -- the ultimate irony in anti-car Amherst. You will have smoke-belching busses clogging streets and the rest. Whatever...

Never forget that the infamous 22-story Southwest Towers were merely three "co-located" standard-sized dormitories that were merely "stacked on top of each other."

How'd that work? Honestly think that making the same mistake again will have a different outcome???

And I was right on Peoplesoft, wasn't I???

Anonymous said...

OK, Larry. We're on to you.

Just how much ARE you paying ED to rile people up on your blog???

Umhm.


Larry Kelley said...

Nothing.

I don't need to pay anyone to rile people up.

Because all too many people are easily riled.

Anonymous said...

Nobody pays Mr Ed. For anything.

Anonymous said...

Is there any evidence that Ed has ever persuaded anyone of anything?

Anonymous said...

"Or are you just another person who loves the "let's dumb down the discussion" tactic which - mainly conservatives - love to do."



-Rick Hood



Bigot.

Anonymous said...

If Ed yelled "Fire!" in a crowded theater, would anyone there move?

Anonymous said...

If the theater really was on fire?

Well, we have the video from the Station nightclub....

Anonymous said...

Town meeting members and Amherst voters need hard numbers on the cost of the new building, costs to upgrade Crocker Farm, costs of adding more preschoolers, increased costs of busing, the costs of renovating Fort River and Wildwood, If it's a good plan, it will withstand scrutiny. Don't expect my vote and taxes without information.

Anonymous said...

The call for more information is a call that can be made ad infinitum. Actually, that seems to be what opponents have planned.

Anonymous said...

How would history be different if the suspicion (correct) that our ship in the Gulf of Tonkin might not have been dodging torpedoes been investigated? If it had been known (then) that a hard-over rudder would be confused for an inbound torpedo (by the electronics of the day).

Amherst voters are being asked to sign a blank check to Team Maria.

Anonymous said...

You are right we don't need more information - a $60 million MEGA school is all the information I need

Dr. Ed said...

Except that it will inherently either come in over-budget and/or with some expensive other things needing to be finished.

My guess: $80M-$100M....

Anonymous said...

The town's share of the cost of the new school is about $33 million. Not $60 million.
By the way. It's not a mega school at all.

Anonymous said...

With lofty real estate property valuation, and property tax rate of 2%, Amherst property owners are bleeding through the nose year after year. With many family houses without school age children, and many student rental houses, I don't see why Amherst property owners want to support another tax override, and carry this burden for next 30 years. Amherst school students enrollment goes down year after year, and there are many quality choices in the region, private schools, charter schools, vocational schools, home-schools. I don't see a new mega school building make ANY economic sense. Both WW and FR are built in the 70s, and have plenty of useful lives going for years into the future. With a per student spending of $20,000 in Amherst schools, Amherst school leaders have not learned the lesson of fiscal responsibility.

For many Amherst tax payers, on November property tax override ballot question, the only prudent answer is a NO.

Dr. Ed said...

Rick -- FYI:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/04/30/a-revealing-new-twist-in-the-common-core-state-standards-controversy/

Dr. Ed said...

When it is all over, the town will be paying a hell of a lot more than $33M
Possibly more than $60M -- this is the same kind of "leverage" that got us Common Core, at a price higher than without the Federal $$ in the first place.

And the SW Towers aren't mega dorms, either.

Anonymous said...

Common Core doesn't cost anything. You can download the common core education standards for free.

Anonymous said...

Just think of all the money we would save if we simply closed all our ES and told everyone to send their kids to one of the options you list. That's what I would vote for.
Further, Fort River and Wildwood do NOT have many useful years left. You clearly don't have a child attending one of those schools.

Dr. Ed said...

Anyone who believes the Common Corpse standards don't cost anything probably believes you can run your electric drier for free as it doesn't take quarters.

And as to sending all the ES children elsewhere, welcome to a world where the majority of taxpayers don't have children in those schools. Welcome to the mentality of "if we make it suck badly enough, they'll leave and we will save money."

So what if FR & WW don't have many years left -- when they are no longer usable, other schools can go on "double sessions" and while that sucks, it also meets reg mandates.

I usually don't mention this because I actually believe in education, but taxpayers can simply vote "no" with total impunity. While there are quality requirements for SPED, there really aren't any for regular students. There is nothing preventing Amherst from reigning in it's school budget by intentionally having schools that suck.

There particularly is nothing preventing Amherst from having school buildings that suck.

Anonymous said...

There always seem to be openings in the Pre-K already. If it isn't full, how will it expand?

Anonymous said...

Ed is clearly off his meds this week.

Dr. Ed said...

Personal attacks do not negate validity of message.

If the majority of voters vote "no", there won't be a new school.

Dr. Ed said...

0h and Larry, note where this is posted: http://townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2016/05/01/icymi-watch-precious-snowflake-go-berserk-at-umass-event-on-political-correctness-n2155841