A bit late on this post, but in the interest of giving credit where due...
At Tuesday night's Worcester City Council meeting, there was some outspoken support for education in discussing the FY16 budget. An item filed by Councilor Gaffney recommended that the city either not raise taxes at all, or if they were raised, to direct the funding to OPEB, or OPEB, police, and fire; oddly, it appears that Gaffney was partly justifying this based on an assertion that chapter 70 was cut last year and wasn't this year, which is untrue (it was fully funded both years).
The following was said by other councilors in response (and my thanks to Worcester Magazine reporter Tom Quinn, who liveblogged the meeting; all quotes taken from his notes):
Councilor Economou: As a district councilor I think it's premature to make that commitment when the majority of calls I get are about streets, sidewalks, playgrounds, schools.
Councilor Rushton:This is about numbers. Nothing more than numbers. If there is not the 2.5 percent increase, it means 15 million will not be there to fund services. The order is kind of wishy washy – it says don't raise it, but if you do, I want it to go to three categories – police, fire, OPEB. You're eliminating WPS. The 15 mil will be coming out of the classroom.
Mayor Petty;We're not going to do the fire and police motion at the expense of teachers, public works, city hall administrative offices.
Councilor Rosen: The schools are short teachers. I know what it's like to teach in schools without sufficient numbers.
Councilor Rivera: The facts are, when you break this down, we're cutting public works, police, firefighters, teachers.
Now, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding, and so we won't draw any conclusions on this until we see the actual FY16 budget. As has been pointed out a couple of times already this spring, the required contribution of the city to WPS for FY16 went up by $1.6M; usually it goes up by more like $3M. Thus this would be an excellent year for the city to make up ground on underfunding the schools. We remain $3M under minimum school spending; if the city doesn't start to make up ground on that, and doesn't keep up the funding required for transportation, we could be looking at $4.5M or more underfunded for next year.
I'm encouraged by the words. I hope it's more than words.