Summary of requests to date as midyear cuts lurk on horizon

Principals and administrative leaders for public schools in Arlington are seeking to keep their highly touted educational system on course. With midyear state budget cuts looming, those involved may end up singing with the Rolling Stones: "You Can't Always Get What You Want." For now, they are trying.

School budget logo"You can't always get what you want ..."-- Rolling Stones

Below is a summary of what each level of the town's school system wants -- from AHS to Ottoson to special education to elementary. These requests were presented without dollar figures, and School Committee Chair Bill Hayner has requested administrators to return with "bottom-line" specifics.

A chief unknown lies at the state level, where Governor Patrick has proposed midyear cuts, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo says he will resist reducing Chapter 70 funding to towns. 

Cindy Starks, the School Committee budget subcommittee chair, says Arlington could see reductions in:

    * Special-education reimbursement: "We are shielded a little about this," she wrote, "because we bank one year’s money and use it the next year, but this means we have less for next year."

    * Metco: Margaret Credle Thomas, the director, "is already figuring out ways that we can make do with the smaller amount and what has to change to do that."

    * Transportation: "I am not sure the amount or impact of this one as of yet, but this will definitely hurt Minuteman."

Here are the wish lists:

ARLINGTON HIGH SCHOOL

Current staffing request: three full-time equivalent employees (FTEs). That would be:

    * One new dean to cover rising expectations, evaluation and enrollment;

    * A 0.4 FTE in science, necessary for curriculum requirements and safety issues; position would be connected to a current 0.6 position (currently 11 classes more than 25;

    * A 0.2 in math (computer science);

    * In world languages, 0.2 to 0.6 (0.2 Italian, 0.2 Mandarin, 0.2-0.4 Spanish);

    * In family and consumer science (FACS), 0.2 to 0.4 (reflecting increases to FACS and woodworking);

    * In visual art, 0.2 to 0.4, to accommodate enrollment.

Read the full background presented by Dr. Matthew Janger, the principal, to the School Committee on Thursday, Dec. 4, plus any reaction from the committee >>

OTTOSON MIDDLE SCHOOL

School Committee logo

Current staffing request: 6.1 FTEs. That would be:

    * Two full-time cluster teachers;

    * A 0.6 FTE in FACS, bringing the number to three FTEs in that area;

    * A 0.4 in technology, bringing the number to three FTEs in that area;

    * A 0.4 in digital modeling;

    * A 0.4 in art;

    * A 0.4 in physical education;

    * A 0.4 in ACE;

    * A 0.5 social worker;

    * One school nurse.

Read the full background presented by Timothy Ruggere, the principal, to the School Committee on Thursday, Dec. 4, plus any reaction from the committee >>

SPECIAL EDUCATION

    * One full-time psychologist for each school, requiring an additional 0.5 FTE to make this support available full time at the middle and high school;

    * To avoid spending close to $140,000 for contracted home services, create elementary speech-and-language pathologist positions with flexible hours (number not specified; currently, at the elementary level 6.4 FTEs maintain an average caseload of 33.2 students);

    * One new classroom at the Menotomy Preschool (current total of six);

    * An early childhood education coordinator become full time with transitional responsibilities to the seven elementary school teams.

Read the full background presented by a series of administrators to the School Committee on Dec. 4 plus any reaction from the committee >>

SEVEN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

    * One full-time social worker in each elementary school;

    * Professional-development time for teachers and a 0.5 FTE literacy coach in each elementary school;

    * Support in the purchase of a STEM curriculum;

    * One full-time kindergarten teaching assistant;

    * Increase salaries for teaching assistants.

Read the full background presented by a series of principals to the School Committee on Thursday, Nov. 20 >> 

In response to YourArlington queries Friday,  Dec. 5, School Committee member Starks called DeLeo's pledge not to cut Chapter 70 funding "nice, but the money has to come from somewhere, so we are still waiting for the other shoe to drop."

Asked about local impact of possible midyear cuts, she wrote: "I am not sure anyone has figured out what the dollar amount impacts are to Arlington as of yet, but the following is from the Mass. Budget and Policy Center

Titled "The Governor's 9C Cuts and Context," the Nov. 20 release says in part:

"The need for mid-year budget solutions highlights two realities that have shaped Massachusetts budget debates for years: our national economy is still recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression and we continue to have substantially reduced revenues because the state adopted over $3 billion of income tax cuts during an economic bubble in the late 1990s (described HERE). Those tax cuts led to deep cuts in funding for local aid, education, public health, and other investments that can strengthen our economy, expand opportunity and improve the quality of life in our communities. In addition to forcing painful cuts, the loss of $3 billion in revenue has caused ongoing fiscal instability.
"These long-term challenges are now compounded by a few short-term ones: a coming automatic reduction in the personal income tax rate, non-tax revenue collections that are below projections, and additional economic development spending commitments that were made with the expectation that there would be more revenue available than is currently projected. The administration estimates that combined these have created a $329 million gap for the rest of FY 2015. To close this gap, the Governor yesterday announced $198 million in cuts to executive branch agencies as authorized by Chapter 9C of the General Laws (explained in What are 9C Cuts?). The Governor also proposed additional solutions in areas beyond executive branch agencies -- including to local aid -- that can only be implemented with legislative approval.
"The $198 million in 9C cuts to programs within the executive branch include:

....

"$18.7 million to Regional School Transportation, bringing funding down to FY 2014 levels.

....

"$1.0 million to Extended Learning Time Grants.

"Additional proposed cuts to non-executive branch agencies, which the Governor cannot implement on his own, include:

"$25.5 million in cuts to Unrestricted General Government Aid, which would bring general local aid down to FY 2014 levels."

For solace, school leaders might fall back on the wisdom of the 1969 Stones' hit:

You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you might find
You get what you need


Oct. 15, 2014: Public schools' enrollment continues to rise


 This story was published Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014.