, Newburyport, MA

January 27, 2014

Focus on what's most important: school budget shortfall

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

We are writing this to the many Newburyport parents who have voiced their opposition to the new projected start/end times for the 2014-2015 school year. It has become clear that there are many of you out there who feel as though the superintendent and school principals made decisions regarding these new times without taking into consideration what’s best for our students. Though we know these changes may be difficult, we couldn’t disagree more.

As educators ourselves, we can tell you that teachers and principals work hard to make the best decisions possible for our kids. Every decision and thought is based upon what’s best for them, given each circumstance. As parents, we may not always agree with these decisions. However, we need to remember that at the end of the day, teachers and principals have done their best with the knowledge they have. They really do work tirelessly each day to ensure success and happiness for our kids.

We know these time changes may be difficult. Everyone is in similar situations and we, too, will have to iron out the details within our own families. However, instead of getting upset about the new times, why can’t we focus our energy on the fact that our school system is facing over a half a million dollar school budget deficit for next year? This, to us, is far more demanding of our attention than what times our schools start and end.

Take these facts into consideration:

Newburyport is below state average for the percent of city budget that goes to the schools. As of fiscal year 2012, 42.4 percent of the city budget was allocated to the schools, ranking us at 292 out of around 340 towns ... We are the lowest out of all our surrounding towns. The state average was a little higher than 50 percent.

The budget will be frozen for two years come September.

Teacher salaries go up every year, federal and state funding has decreased, and Newburyport’s revenue sources don’t make up for these changes.

The Nock and Molin currently share “explore teachers” and there are only two full-time PE and music teachers who see 900 students. How is this OK in a community that supports the arts?

The three elementary schools share one tech person, and the Nock doesn’t have one due to budget cuts.

There is a current spending freeze on all supplies, so teachers can’t even go purchase what they need to teach each day. This is a shame.

These are just a few of the many budget problems we face. We urge you to focus less attention on the new start/end times, and instead put some pressure on the leaders of Newburyport to actually fix the school budget deficit. Remember that our new superintendent walked into this budget mess when she signed up for the job. Let’s support her in her efforts to fix our schools, and stop showing her resistance on such a non-important matter.

Anne Miles

Kara McLeod