Sunday, May 2, 2021

Silence is golden, but eyes still see. 

From here and yes, I was raised by Baby Boomers.

The thing about writing a blog for thirteen (missed an anniversary back in March, sorry!) years on school finance in your city is that you can feel like you're repeating yourself.

I am absolutely certain without even looking that I have written numerous other blog posts on this same thing, and we are.

The Worcester City Council Education Subcommittee had one of their periodic meetings with the Worcester School Committee's Finance and Operations Standing Committee on Thursday evening. The meeting lasted for three hours, and among the items on the agendas (there were two; one from each committee) was one on the FY22 budget.

And the massive underfunding of the Worcester Public Schools wasn't discussed.

Now when I talk here about underfunding, there's actually two things that I mean at once:

1. The state, straightforwardly, owes us about $100M more a year. Period, no question. The phase in of the Student Opportunity Act (if/when fully funded) will get us there, but we're coming out of a year when it wasn't, out of a spring when the state ignored our most pressing need on enrollment acknowledgement, and heading into a year when we could well be hit by a whole bunch of kids the state didn't think was coming.
This is, no question, the bigger of the two issues.

2. As I have been saying literally for thirteen years, the city funds the schools at little more than minimum net school spending. They meet their legal requirement, and that is it. It popped up a bit last year, only because we transferred money out of transportation, and it will pop up a bit more for this year, for the same reason, but they aren't committing more actual resources to the schools at all. I have heard nothing that indicates that this is changing.
And while, yes, Worcester is a low resource district, we commit fewer of those resources than most other cities that look like us (I should probably make a chart of this again). Most other cities have been scandalized by how little they spend on their schools, and, recognizing that SOA phase in will take awhile, they've been endeavoring to do what they can for schools in the meantime. 

Despite a presentation that made both of those things clear, this topic literally did not come up. Councilors closely questioned the administration on their spending--as always, well out of their purview--while never even acknowledging the giant dancing elephant in the room.

I genuinely don't know what the deal is with this. We've had councilors in the past that genuinely didn't know this, but I'm not sure how it could be missed that this is the biggest issue now, as we were planning to sue the state to reverse it. And on the local spending, is it just that no one has made a fuss about it in awhile?

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