By Gordon Davis
The Worcester School District is being underfunded at least $91,000,000 per year. This is according to the calculations found in M. G. L. Chapter 70 and the statutes for special needs education.
The purpose of this money is to ensure that school districts with low incomes and property values receive resources similar to those of wealthier school districts. This makes sense, especially in terms of the low classroom sizes needed for quality education and for the intense educational effort needed by some special needs students.
However, for years – or decades – Worcester has been shortchanged by millions of dollars. Thinking of it as a tax refund might bring clarity. The State owes you a $2,000 refund, but only gives you $1,500. This is certainly unfair and possibly unlawful.
The excuse I most hear is the money had not been proposed in the Governor’s budget. This go along to get a long mentality is objectively harmful to the children of Worcester. I understand that several legislators have raised a fuss about the Governor’s education budget. Good for them!
I was surprised when a person who supports the Worcester Public Schools asked me what our School District would do with the money.
The answer I had for him was fairly easy, but also incomplete:
1. Ensure that special needs students get all of the resources that are required for them to be successful.
2. Reduce the student-teacher ratio so that all students can get more individualized instruction.
3. Institute additional Advanced Placement courses to ensure that the students who are seeking college preparation get it.
4. Establish a school similar to the Nativity School in the Worcester Public Schools for children at risk.
5. Repair and modernize the school district’s buildings.
6. Establish an exam school for science and mathematics.
There does not seem to be any urgency in our delegation to the State House, members of the Worcester City Council or Worcester School Committee to get this money. In fact, I have heard only four people in the City talk about it and two of them are in CPPAC. Another person is in the teachers’ union. State Rep. Mary Keefe is the fourth.
This money would not only help Worcester students be successful, but it would also add to the economy of the City. It would be a net gain, as more money would come in than leaves.
It would also mean scores of new jobs.
Hopefully, most of these jobs would be obtained by Worcester residents.
The additional money and the improvements to the Worcester School District would have the additional effect of helping to stop the drain of money to the charter schools.
A new exam school in Science and Math, a middle school based on the Nativity School model, additional Advanced Placement courses, and smaller class sizes should make the Worcester Public Schools even more attractive to students outside our District.
The students of Worcester would benefit more when the Worcester City Council stops its pipe dream of making Boston “jealous” and when the Worcester School Committee stops selecting candidates based on popularity.
I hope this wish list comes about within my lifetime.