GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 8, 2013

Letter: Schools at least need 'level service funding'


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Level service and level funding are two terms that only get mentioned this time of year when the city is going through the budget process.

For families, level service would mean paying for your housing, utilities, food, clothing, transportation insurance, loan payments, and all the other things you find necessary to survive so the quality of your life doesn’t necessarily get any better, but doesn’t get any worse.

For schools and city government, level service would mean having the necessary staff to provide the same services, available during the same hours and days, of the same effectiveness and efficiency, paying for building and road maintenance, insurance, utilities, equipment replacement, loan payments, and all the other things that are necessary. Some families have disposable income and are able to go on vacations, send their children to summer camp, go to concerts and movies, attend professional sport games, or all the other things that improve the quality of life.

Some school systems have revenue beyond basic support and are able to have the latest technology in their classrooms, librarians in their libraries, tutoring for students in need and programs that challenge exceptional students, adequate time for teachers to collaborate, and sufficient administrators to guide and evaluate staff, and all the other things that will improve student achievement and better prepare our children to succeed in an ever increasingly competitive world.

Costs of almost everything goes up one year to the next. If a family is level funded and receives no additional income one year to the next, they have to cut back on their disposable income expenditures until they are gone then start cutting back on what they thought to be necessary. If a city department is level funded, it has no choice than to cut back on the service that they provide.

If a family is confronted with new expenses — a son or daughter going to college, unexpected medical condition, new baby, etc. they either have to cut back expenses or increase their income. If the School Department is confronted with additional expenses — like new special needs students, 130 new students because of the closing of a local parochial school, and a failed charter school, and a new evaluation system that will require 15 hours per teacher by an administrator — then we have to ask the community for more money or cut back in other areas.

The difference is a family has some control over its income, and has the choice of getting by with less.

The School Department has no real control over its income while it has to comply with state and federal law that mandates that all students will show academic progress, that communities have the responsibility of educating all children from 2 years 8 months until they are 22 years old, and that we will implement the state mandated evaluation system.

It is the School Department’s job to manage our program as efficiently and effectively as possible, but ultimately it is the community’s responsibility to pay for those programs.

So while this paper and some of the community is absorbed in the actions of one School Committee member, the budget put forth by Mayor Kirk underfunds the School Department’s level service budget by $482,000.

If this concerns anyone, then the public hearing on the city budget is Tuesday at 7 p.m.

JONATHAN POPE

Chairman, Gloucester School Committee