Supt. Bourque Says Governor’s Budget Increases Still Aren’t Enough

Gov. Charlie Baker
brought a short smile to the face of many when he unveiled an increase in
education funding in his State Budget proposal two weeks ago, but this week
Supt. Mary Bourque said the proposal needs to go further for cities like
Chelsea.

“Although a step in the
right direction for public education and in particular gateway cities, the
Governor’s FY20 budget does not go nearly far enough,” she wrote in a letter on
Feb. 6.

Bourque said the Chelsea
Public Schools are facing another year where they will likely – as it stands
now – have to cut another $2 million from their budget. That falls upon
multiple years of cuts that have weighed cumulatively on the schools and taken
away core services from students.

One of the problems is
that salaries, health insurance and special education costs are rising so
quickly. This year, she said, they are looking at increases in those areas of
$5.2 million.

Gov. Baker’s budget
proposal steers an increase of $3.2 million to Chelsea over last year, but in
the face of rising costs, that still leaves the schools in the red.

It’s yet another year of
advocacy for the schools to fix the Foundation Formula – an exercise that has
seemingly played out without any success for at least five years.

“Once again we are facing
another year of painful budget cuts because the foundation formula used to
calculate aid to our schools is broken,” she wrote. “The formula from 1993 has

not kept up with inflation, changing demographics or increased student
needs. I am however, encouraged this year that all leaders at the State
level have acknowledged that the formula is broken, including for the first
time the Governor.”

Bourque also spelled out
the complex nature of the Chelsea Schools, including numerous factors that are
contributing to the reduction in funding.

One of the most startling
situations is that there are fewer kids, and with education funding based on
numbers of kids, that translates to even less money for the schools.

Bourque said this year
they have begun to identify a downward trend in enrollment for the first time
in years. She said fewer kids are coming in from outside the U.S. and families
are leaving Chelsea for areas with lower rents and costs of living.

“In addition to the
foundation formula undercounting critical costs, a significant portion of this
year’s $2 million dollar gap is due to student demographic shifts taking place
in our schools,” she wrote. “We are seeing a downward trend in student
enrollment…This year we have noted fewer students entering our schools from
outside the United States as well as a number of students and families moving
from Chelsea due to the high cost of living in the Boston area.”

The Chelsea Public Schools
under the City Charter have until April 1 to submit their balanced budget.
Bourque said they plan to lobby members of the House of Representatives and the
Senate in the meantime to fix the funding gaps that now exist.

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Supt. Bourque Says Governor’s Budget Increases Still Aren’t Enough

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