Why I propose looking at Rezoned Schools beginning in the 2019/2020 School Year

Motion: School Committee vote to change the district to a 3 Zone Transportation / Placement system effective for the 2019/2020 School Year and begin notifying all stakeholders. (saving about $600,000 – $800,000)

We have to look at the challenges in doing this rezoning and know that it will be a very distributive event that will upset many students and parents and we have to keep the voluntary desegregation order in mind at all times.

I know it will be upsetting, I know a student who has been in the Pyne from K-6 and now will have to go to the Wang School for 7th/8th will be upset about losing his friends.

The fact that there will be SEVERAL Major bridge repairs going on beginning in 2019 and continuing through the next few years including the “Big Fill” (Lord Overpass project) is another reason we need to reduce the time students spend on a bus! These repairs will cause traffic rerouting and street closures and make traveling in those areas challenging and slow. Why would we want to lengthen the time a student is in transport?

After Salaries and Insurance, Transportation is the next highest expense in the Budget.

“Regular” Education Transportation – $4,423,541
“Special” Education Transportation – $5,160,000

The City Administration of Lowell and the Lowell City Council understand the reality that the MEDIAN INCOME IN LOWELL IS MUCH LESS THAN THE STATE AVERAGE

Estimated median household income in 2016 was: $55,383 compared to the State average of $75,297 and that they cannot (and have not for most of the past 6 years) raised the tax rate the full 2.5% allowed under law because the citizens of this city can’t afford it.

Unfortunately they have NOT FULLY FUNDED TRANSPORTATION FOR THE SCHOOLS Separately from what the provide in a cash contribution.DESPITE the Fact it doesn’t count towards the Net School spending requirements .

Most expenditures from the school department’s budget count toward meeting the NSS requirement. Notable exceptions include the cost of transporting students to and from school; most capital facility costs; adult education costs; expenditures from grant and revolving funds; and expenditures reimbursed by the state.

What the City does is “give” the School System a specific amount of CASH (LESS THAN 15% OF THEIR REQUIRED NET SCHOOL SPENDING)included in that amount is the cost of transportation and Adult Education. The School Superintendent clearly highlights in the School Budget how small the actual cash contribution is.

Total City Cash Contribution $15,736,053 but that gets broken down after deducting these 2 items:

City of Lowell Cash Contribution for Transportation (-$9,600,541)
City of Lowell Cash Contribution Adult Education (-$486,274)

Leaving the Cash Contribution for day-to-day Operations at $5,649,238 out of a 2018/2019 required amount of $47,390,803.00 (APPROX. 12% OF THEIR REQUIRED CONTRIBUTION)

The reality of school choices and what continues to happen is clear, Lowell Public Schools will continue to lose students to charter schools and private schools and once the Charter School opens their High School in the 2019/2020 school year and the Lowell High renovation/addition projects start we WILL LOSE MORE STUDENTS!

The more students we lose the more funding we lose the more cuts we are required to make. The more we cut the better the Charter and Private schools look to parents who want the best, brightest , most comprehensive newest programs and schools for their students (Don’t all of us as parents want what’s best for our students?)

The Collegiate Charter School of Lowell had graciously donated $400,000 toward their busing cost the previous 2 school years. With their building project happening they have stopped that as of the 2018/2019 school year. They also have kindly pushed off changing their starting and dismissal time for the 2018/2019 and would like the Lowell Planning Board to waive the requirement for the upcoming 2019/2020 School year to avoid costing the Lowell School Dept. more in Transportation.

I know a lot of people oppose Charter Schools but the fact is this state allows and welcomes them, so I appreciate this particular schools desire to work with us to limit the expense, we will have to honor the start time change REQUIRED by the PLANNING BOARD for this school sooner or later.

We have to either look at a way to decrease the cost of transportation by going back to the neighborhood type zoning or be prepared after losing Libraries in our elementary and middle schools to lose Art / Music /Computers next!

The taxpayers of Lowell will be asked shortly to take a 6%-10% (in my own personal view) tax increase to fund the High School project. I don’t see the City Council approving another increase to fully fund their transportation obligations, especially since we need our Fire stations and Police station repaired.

While I would love to see the proposed changes to the Foundation Budget get fully implemented the increases proposed by Gov. Baker is a good start but that also means the City will look for ways to reduce their cash contribution to the schools.

The fact that the Supreme Court just basically legalized sports gambling could negatively affect State Lottery revenues which also causes decreases in State funds to city’s and towns. The City Manager already pointed that out to the City Council in last week’s packet, that their unrestricted local aid is getting only a modest increase compared to the possible proposed school dept. increase.

If we don’t look at changing the way we have always done things (or at least for many years) than we can’t expect different results. We have to at least start the process while keeping the consent decree in place and make sure ours schools stay diverse.

I expect people to be unhappy,to complain,to suggest imbalance, unfairness, prejudice, exclusion, hardship, threaten to leave the school system, leave the city, not vote for me etc.

That’s all okay..I know that going in but the shorter time on a bus for our students, the opportunity to get families closer to their homes and their students closer together along with the fiscal reality of the ever increasing cost of transportation is what I have my eye on and that reality means if we don’t cut cost, we cut programs and staff and I will fight to stop that until I am out-voted or voted out!

Author: Gerry Nutter's - Looking at Lowell

I'm BACK...! I've followed the finances and issues with the City of Lowell and the Lowell School Dept. for the past 8 years while blogging and contributing to Saturday Morning Live! After serving 1 term on the School Committee I am back with my view on the events, people and politics of Lowell.

2 thoughts on “Why I propose looking at Rezoned Schools beginning in the 2019/2020 School Year”

  1. Hi Gerry, I don’t see busing ever going away, bringing back the good old days when we all walked to school should first start with the high school the peal back year by year 8th 7th 6th. The dangers involved with j-walking and impatient drivers and the lack of shoveled sidewalks and in many cases students will have to walk in the street.
    Good Luck my friend
    John
    John McDonough

  2. Gerry, I appreciate your sense of urgency here and can see that you are trying to get the big picture. Because moving schools is an emotional issue, reaching out to the community is crucial. Parents, students, and teachers have real concerns with the changes that would come about with redistricting and we need to find a way to engage in real conversation that can move us forward.

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