By Seth Daniel
Revere Public Schools officials are feeling a bit of the ‘limbo’ this month as enrollments in Revere are soaring and state school funding decisions are still in flux regarding how they will approach last year’s problem of classifying ‘economically disadvantaged’ students.
Supt. Dianne Kelly said this week they are waiting for a report from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) about how it plans to approach the funding problem caused by last year’s change from low income to economically disadvantaged. That change left the schools shorted by millions of dollars, even though the real number of poor children never decreased – and actually increased.
The State Legislature was able to fill the funding gap in Revere and many other Gateway Cities, but this year the problem still presents itself now that budget season is back. Kelly said the DESE report was due in December so that they could begin formulating budgets, but the report was delayed.
To date, it still hasn’t come out, and with enrollment in Revere up by about 300 students, there is an uncertainty developing that administrators hoped would have ended with last year’s situation.
“Right now we don’t know much about what’s going to happen,” said Supt. Kelly. “If it’s going to be the same situation with economic disadvantaged that we had last year, that’s going to be a problem for us. Last year, the State Legislature did give us a significant sum of money. That closed the gap for the number of kids we had last year. That’s not going to cover the additional numbers of students we’ve picked up this year.”
For this funding year, the Revere Public Schools have a total of 7,451 students, which is up from 7,170 students the previous year. That’s a difference of 281 students in a year’s time.
Kelly said increasing enrollments have made education funding in Revere complicated for some time. She cited that in the last five years, the district has grown from 6,500 students to the current 7,451 – nearly 1,000 more students.
She recalled that at Revere High School (RHS) alone, when she started working in the district 20 years ago, there were around 960 students at RHS. Now, there are more than 1,800 in the high school.
With many of those new students coming from war-torn countries or recently immigrated to the United States, most don’t qualify for official government assistance programs – and despite being very poor and needing significant educational resources – they don’t count as poor in the new funding formula.
“As we go on year by year and this process plays out, we’re going to get further and further behind financially,” said Kelly.
“We’re the kind of City where there aren’t all these resources just sitting around,” she continued. “We rely on the state for funding and it’s hard to make decisions when the state isn’t getting us the information we need. That’s the challenge for Revere, Chelsea or any other Gateway City. As years go by and we get more and more kids not showing up on the official rolls, the problem will compound itself.”
That said, Kelly indicated she would do everything possible to avoid laying off teachers. She said there would be programs that would be cut before any teaching positions, if it came down to that.
“Our goal always is to not layoff staff,” she said. “We don’t have extra staff here. It’s not like we have these extra administrators or reading teachers or social workers. These are all areas we don’t have enough staffing now.”