, Newburyport, MA

May 6, 2013

Education needs to be priority in Amesbury

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

The quality of Amesbury’s civic life and future prosperity will largely depend on our school system’s ability to educate our children well. Students need to graduate from Amesbury High School able to make their way into what’s become a competitive, global economy.

While more money is not always the answer, in our review of the Amesbury schools budget for the coming school year, the answer is (a little more) money, 7 to 8 percent, to be exact. We wish that were not the answer, because, like many Amesbury residents, we are concerned about our high property tax rates. We know that they are not sustainable in the long term. But we cannot afford not to invest in our children’s education. The mayor and the council may decide to invest in “branding” for the town, but investing in the quality of our public schools has to come first, and it will provide the greatest long-term ROI.

We are hopeful that the Municipal Council will prioritize investing in the education of Amesbury’s children over other areas this year. And in return, we encourage the School Committee to work with the superintendent to develop a road map for improved educational indicators and outcomes including: (1) more advanced placement/upper level math and science courses at the high school level and improvements in AP scores (which are a strong indicator of college-readiness); (2) an increase in the percentage of students graduating from AHS in four years (84 percent in 2012); (3) an increase in the percentage of students accepted into two- and four-year colleges (roughly 80 percent in 2012) or high quality training programs; (4) reduction in disciplinary incidents involving police intervention in the middle school (calls to the police have gone from 10 last year to 58 so far this year); and (5) increased academic performance of students in families classified as low income.

The funding for and performance of Amesbury’s school system affects everyone — parents with students in the system and all residents, including students themselves. High school — and younger — students can organize themselves and let our Municipal Council, school board and the broader community know the impact of a poorly-funded school system budget on them. Now.

Frances McLaughlin and Will Nourse