Monday, December 3, 2012

Paging Daniel Patrick Moynihan*

*Senator Moynihan is popularly credited with the line "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts."

As part of the preparation for tomorrow night's tax vote, City Manager O'Brien is recommending, among other transfers for FY13, that $528,527 be transfered to the Worcester Public Schools from free cash to cover the gap in state funding on charter school reimbursement. As has been discussed in the past, the Board of Education continues to allow new charter schools to open, while the Legislature continues to level fund charter school reimbursement. Thus the gap.
This recommendation is great. It is very helpful to have the city recognize this as a problem--perhaps they could join us in calling on the Board of Ed to stop creating it?--and the funds, which we did not expect, are very useful. We will not have to transfer half a million dollars from classroom services to pay for this bill foisted on us by the Commonwealth.

In today's Telegram and Gazette, the City Manager is quoted as saying:
As a result, the city’s contribution to the Worcester public schools will exceed the minimum contribution by $1.5 million. 
He also makes this claim--twice--in the budget memo that backs up the Council item.

This simply is not the case.

You might recall from the November 1 meeting of the Worcester School Committee that Mr. Allen informed us that the city is $1 million under minimum contribution for foundation funding for FY13. We expect very shortly to receive official notification from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, though, per the administration's memo, the following was confirmed today:

The Worcester Public Schools did not meet the required spending in FY12 by $1,500,195.  This spending shortfall is carried forward to the next year in order to be made whole.  As of today, the City is failing to meet net school spending in fiscal year 2013 by $945,650.

In order to create a $1,500,000 surplus out of a $945,650 deficit, it appears that the City:

  1. ignored prior year requirements, in direct disregard of previous DESE notifications, as well as 603 CMR 10.0, which requires that "an amount sufficient to meet the carried forward spending obligation must be appropriated by the municipality or municipalities responsible for the financial support of the school district." In other words, the amount you didn't pay last year? You have to pay it this year. 
  2. ignored--again--the simple fact that transportation isn't included in the foundation budget. 603 CMR 10.0 gives a list of what counts and what doesn't. Transportation--which went up by $1 million for this fiscal year, both for increased costs and for increased services--does not. Thus the funds that WPS expends on transportation--all $11 million of them--do not count towards the foundation budget required spending.

You can hate that. You can try to change that. You can even go into Boston or Malden and argue with the powers that be over it.

What you don't get to do is pretend that it isn't happening. 

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