Monday, April 7, 2008

A letter from Ed Cafasso

Hi everyone,

At this Tuesday evening’s School Committee meeting, members will discuss how to handle the massive proposed cuts your community’s schools are facing in fiscal year 2009, which begins July 1. You can expect several updates on this topic in the weeks ahead.

The Town of Franklin, on average, spends $2,200 less per pupil than the average for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The state Department of Education tracks school district spending in 11 categories, including administration, professional development, pupil services and operations and maintenance. Franklin spends above the state average in only one of the 11 categories – classroom teachers.

In fact, approximately 80 percent of our budget is driven by compensation to teachers. Over years of grappling with school budgets, the Committee has always tried to protect classroom personnel in order to maintain reasonable class sizes for our students.

But, unless we can improve school funding for the coming fiscal year, it’s unlikely that Franklin will be able to claim an advantage in that category any more.

The current school budget is $54.6 million. In order to maintain the same level of services in the new school year, a budget of $58.7 million is required to meet rising salary, healthcare, pension and utility costs. Maintaining the exact same level of services we are providing this year would mean an additional appropriation of $4 million.

Despite receiving an increase in Chapter 70 state educational aid of $2.2 million, town tax revenues are down overall, so the Town Administrator proposing to give schools only $800,000 more in fiscal 2009.

In order to fulfill our responsibility to submit a balanced budget to the Town Council, the School Committee and Supt. Ogden are considering $3.2 million in cuts, including:

  • 15 teaching positions at elementary level

  • 12.5 teaching positions at middle school

  • 17 teaching positions at FHS

  • A $100 increase in the pay-to-ride bus fee hike, and

  • The end of late bus service for students who need to stay after school for academic, club and extracurricular programs.

Last year, even passage of the town’s first-ever override was not enough to help the budget keep pace with escalating costs, and the schools cut 28 positions. The vast majority of those terminations were not educational positions. This year, the 45.5 jobs slated for elimination will have a direct, negative impact on class sizes in Franklin for the first time.

At Franklin High School, where a reasonable class size range is 22 to 26 students, the class size in September will balloon to 25 to 30. Middle school class sizes will range from 25 to 30, as well. Class sizes in most of the town’s elementary schools will push well past appropriate levels, and will feature 26 to 30 students each this fall.

At our most recent meeting, school principals expressed deep concern over their ability to deliver a top quality academic experience to students if these cuts go through. One even predicted that Franklin’s test scores, which have been outstanding despite lower-than-average per pupil spending, will begin showing declines in only one year.

Members of the School Committee – as well as members of the Town Council and the Finance Committee – need to hear your concerns and recommendations on how to proceed. Everyone recognizes that these are tough economic times, but disinvesting in our schools has no good outcome. It will not help our children prepare for their own economic future. It will not maintain our quality of life. It will not stabilize home prices in Franklin.

Please let me know your thoughts on the current situation. In the meantime, the following links provide additional information on budget proposals and discussions:

School Budget Information Home Page:

PowerPoint Overview on Proposed FY09 School Budget:

Complete Proposed FY09 Budget by School:

Franklin School Committee Web Site:

Franklin Town Council Web Site:

Franklin Matters Blog:

Franklin Town Common Discussion Site:

I hope you will use these sources, as well as newspaper reports, PCC meetings and cable broadcasts, to stay informed as budget discussions continue. As always, I am happy to answer any questions you may have. Thank you!

Ed Cafasso, Member

Franklin School Committee

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