Choice is Clear…Students or Adults?

I’ve suggested $1.3 million dollars in savings by rezoning the schools transportation and eliminating Adult Education both of those motions failed.

A few weeks ago I made a motion to show cuts were inevitable and posted that which got me whacked around. Sadly that time has come.

Tomorrow those of us on the School Committee are faced with what I think is a tough reality with an easy answer ..Is it about the students or not? Each member will have to make that decision. I choose students!

At least 3 – 4 times a week we receive emails informing us that a student from just about any school in the city had to be taken to the hospital for mental health issues.

Many of us who were / are not good students needed other reasons to be motivated to go to school. Some find that motivation in music.

We were presented with a budget that includes eliminating 2 social workers, a psychologist and at the “recommendation of Principals” eliminate band programs at the lower grades offering instead some type of after school program. I hope the Administration has those Principals in attendance to explain their recommendation.

Also included in that budget is a $648,193.000 line item to fund 9 staff positions for ADULT Education. Not just Adult Education for the citizens of Lowell but in their own words “We offer free classes to Greater Lowell adults

There is no doubt that Lowell has a first class top notch Adult Education program but it should never in my opinion take away from programs or positions that support students. The State funds separately a $38,250,000 Adult Education line item. We have a State University, Community College, several very successful non-profits and a great Lowell Plan that should be able to collaborate and find a way to fund this program.

Adult education is Not state mandated, it is not tied into nor does it count towards NET School Spending and it is not allowed to be funded using State Chapt 70 funding. The City Council cannot mandate that it be run. They can threaten to withhold that $648,193 or “suggest” certain things but by law cannot direct how the School Dept spends ANY appropriations.

State law: The school committee reviews and approves budgets for public education in the district. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 37) The committee must hold a public hearing on the proposed annual budget. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 38N) The school committee has authority to determine expenditures within the total appropriation voted by the city or town. The city or town appropriating body is authorized to make non-binding monetary recommendations to increase or decrease certain items allocating such appropriations, but it may not limit the school committee’s authority to determine expenditures within the total appropriation. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 34)

Education Reform was never intended to allow City’s to fund less cash than before Ed Reform but for the State to assist the communities in providing fair and equitable education. Lowell has exploited the legal loopholes to fund less cash than they did before Ed Reform while increasing their chargebacks so they can say they have met it exceeded NET School Spending. That wasn’t done under “professional” management when Lowell didn’t meet their NET School spending because they didn’t inflate the chargebacks and honored the Maintenance of Effort Agreement..it’s only under the “political” leadership that on paper we meet and exceed NET School Spending.

There is no doubt nor argument that the State foundation formula needs an overhaul and improvement but the State supplies $160,069,667 of our $188,908,028 budget with another $12,479160 coming from grants and revolving funds. The City’s actual cash contribution is less than what the city funded the Schools in 1980 when they still had to pick up trash and plow parking lots but couldn’t write it off.

The City is proposing to contribute 33% of their required $49,626,890 Net School Spending Requirement in the form of cash totaling $16,359,201 of that the School District has to pay approximately $11,000,000 in regular and special education transportation leaving roughly $5,359,201 towards the actual operating budget. That amount drops to $4,711,008 if the School Committee chooses to fund Adult Ed.

The remaining $33,267,689.00 the City is responsible for will be “charges for In-Kind Services” meaning it cost the city that amount to plow out parking lots at city schools, pick up trash, fund School Resource Officers, issue paychecks, Auditing services, purchasing functions like issuing RFQ’s and PO’s, and keep the computer network running among other items.

That cost is MORE than the total 2019 budget for the following 17 City Departments combined according to the City budget online!

City Council – Mayor – City Manager’s Office- – Office of Planning and Development –
Department of Public Works – City Clerk – Treasurer – Auditor – MIS – Purchasing – Finance – Budget Office – Library – Law Office – Election Office – Assessor and Veterans Service department.

By eliminating funding for Adult Education we can keep the 4 band positions, the 2 Social Workers, the psychologist and we can begin to follow the results of both the HR and Fiscal Audits and establish an HR/Financial Administrator to insure positions are filled and coded correctly, that safeguards put into place to oversee financial issues are properly followed and to assist the new HR Director and the Asst. Superintendent of Finance in properly overseeing a multi-million dollar department.