, Gloucester, MA


December 28, 2012

Editorial: City should move cautiously on added school funds

It’s understandable that the Gloucester Public School District will need some additional dollars to cover costs from an influx of students from the sadly doomed Gloucester Community Arts Charter School.

Indeed, that will be especially true if any of the charter school’s special education students are under mandated programs that can, in some cases, require one-on-one instructional funding.

But any and all school officials may want to hold the condescending commentary suggesting that city schools may now need significantly more remediation resources to bring the charter students up to speed — perhaps forgetting that some classes of charter pupils outscored a number of their city school colleagues this time around in MCAS testing for English Language Arts. And even those charter students who are indeed failing in math — like a number of their city school cohorts — should be absorbed into current remediation classes or programs without significant more taxpayer expense.

There is a context to recognizing that, as Superintendent of Schools Richard Safier notes, the city schools need to make some “additional requests” for money as charter students slip back into their traditional local public schools, but Mayor Carolyn Kirk and city councilors should keep a close eye on whatever fiscal 2012 free cash dollars may now be added for the school district. And above all, they should be assured that any such funding be steered as directly as possible to students and programs directly affecting them – not to added personnel costs and other expenses that should be covered by the city’s $46 million fiscal 2013 school budget in the first place.

As we’ve noted previously, city school officials — who have done a good job upgrading city schools since the charter’s competitive challenge, with the launch of a new “innovation school” program at O’Maley Middle School and other projects — should already be looking toward new steps in providing options for parents and students who want an alternative education program and environment like the charter school has offered. And let’s not forget that many parents have noted how well their children succeeded there after struggling in other school programs.

But beyond the projected new special ed costs, the schools’ free cash request — totaling more than $600,000 — seems more aimed at beefing up capital repairs and maintaining the status quo.

That may not be what best serves the city as a whole.

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