By Seth Daniel
The State Legislature has made efforts to fill the monumental education funding gap in Revere, Everett and Chelsea – as well as other Gateway Cities – but it has not been enough to save the schools from major cuts which are being announced this week.
The Revere Public Schools have begun to prepare for a School Budget that includes far less funding, as Supt. Dianne Kelly announced $1.7 million in cuts to the upcoming budget and the end to several long-time support programs.
Teacher and staff layoffs are likely to be avoided.
“I’ve cut $1.7 million of the budget already,” said Kelly. “We have a few less positions than last year, but about all of them have been reduced through attrition. That’s good because we’re not putting people out of work. Our commitment, for myself and the School Committee, was to make a conscious decision to focus on people. That means we’ll have to discontinue many important curriculum supports.”
One of those includes the Bay State Reading Initiative, which has been in place at Revere Public Schools for 10 years. That program has been highly successful in teaching kids to read proficiently at an early age and was credited for major gains some years ago at the Beachmont School.
Another program will be the Achievement Network.
Kelly said that is a program that helps teachers and deans crunch numbers from standardized tests – to be able to focus in on specifics.
“Now we have to figure out how to get data and crunch data ourselves,” she said. “Fortunately, we have the 5 District Partnership and we’re looking together to see how we can do something collaboratively to replicate that service.”
Kelly said the School Committee will vote on a slimmer budget than hoped for on June 7. She praised the Committee, Business Manager Matt Kruse and the City.
The budget could have as much as $2 million in cuts when all is said and done.
In other cities, such as Everett and Chelsea, City government has stepped up to add extra funding. Everett could pitch in as much as $5 million later this summer through support of its mayor and its City Council. In Chelsea, the City Budget has included an increase of nearly $2 million for the schools to help soften the blow.
In Revere, however, there are no excess funds at the City level to be able to plug such gaps with City funding.
One hope is that Gov. Charlie Baker would adjust the final budget when he signs it. The Senate had debated the issued ad nauseum last week, and some success was made, but in the end, Kelly said it wasn’t what superintendents in the area where looking for.
She said the Senate did approve some extra money in the budget that will come directly to the district and the student funding formulas were adjusted too. Still, it hasn’t eased the burden, which are the fruits of a change at the federal and state government levels in the way low-income students – now called economically disadvantaged students – are counted. The new formula only counts students whose families are receiving public assistance. It was meant to save time and paperwork, but in effect has excluded thousands of students who are very poor, but are not qualified for or receiving public assistance.
“It’s still just not enough money,” said Kelly. “I can’t help them to understand that increasing the student funding formula isn’t the same thing. To me, it’s so obvious.”