Rate this
Editorial
Let’s get the school picture now

City Council review of Mayor Scott Avedisian’s proposed $283 million budget starts tonight at 6 and continues tomorrow and Thursday at the same time.

If previous hearings are a guide, this year’s review promises to be at times tedious and seemingly dealing with minuscule matters, at other times, enlightening and even humorous.

As the council opens with a review of the school budget, tonight’s hearing also has the potential of being contentious. City Council President Donna Travis, as well as other council members, have expressed their displeasure with the school department, especially over the condition of the Potowomut School when it was handed over to the city. In the words of some who have toured the premises, the building was used as a “storage dump” for unwanted books and equipment.

Shameful enough, but let’s not get distracted.

The real issue is how much are the council and mayor prepared to spend on schools? More properly, how much are these elected officials willing to have taxpayers spend on the system?

The School Committee and the school administration evidently aim to show support for their $160.6 million spending package by packing Council Chambers. That may help their cause, but we feel schools would be better off defining and explaining their choices.

At this point, as Mayor Scott Avedisian has proposed, we don’t know what level funding will mean for the school program. Seeing that some members of the committee don’t even know what level funding would mean, we doubt that will be discussed.

As Superintendent Richard D’Agostino has said, the committee has reviewed the budget and they have determined that it contains what is required. There isn’t a fallback position. Should schools not receive their full request, will the committee return to wrestle with cuts?

That hasn’t been the tack of other department directors. If council members ask about cuts in their departments, they’ll get answers as to what they would choose to eliminate in the way of services.

In going into tonight’s hearing, schools would do well to consider the same approach. Choices are best made on sound comparable information. The council and the taxpayers deserve to know what schools would cut if its budget request is not fully funded.


Comments
18 comments on this item

Next year's school budget will top $17,000 per pupil, for very mediocre-at-best results. And that's simply the average. The cost to educate one kid in Warwick's public high schools is significantly greater. It not costs about 20% more to send your kid to a Warwick public school than it does to send him to URI! This 'investment in our future' seems to be ever more expensive with virtually no fiscal accountability. Next year, Bishop Hendricken's tuition will remain under $13,000 per pupil. That's a lot of money, but not close to the cost in Warwick's public schools. The city would do well to consider a voucher plan by which the city would pay the first, say, $10,000 for a student to attend whatever high school will accept them; private, parochial, or Catholic. The city (i.e. taxpayer) would save a considerable amount on every student who opted out of the government system. Or, we can all just sit back and watch the school department continue to waddle into city hall chambers every year, ask for more and more money in order to educate fewer and fewer students, then threaten to cut the usual suspects (art/music/sports) when reasonable questions are raised by those who foot the bill in the first place. It's arrogant, entitlement madness!

Please paste this link into your browser and take a look at the school and city budget numbers over the last 6 to 10 years and then decide who is responsible for the annual tax increase, the schools or city.

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6P1sIPd4PTdZHY1TE5WUmgzYWs/edit?usp=sharing

Bob, John Stark will not do this, he will continue to look at things his way and ignore the truth as he has done for years. I will make it simple. The city budget has gone up over $30 million annually over the last 5 years. The schools are still operating at 2008 levels... the same level as 5 years ago. Schools close building, city does not. Schools cut programs, city does not. Is this simple enough for you John? Continue to ignore the truth until you can't afford to live in Warwick anymore and blame it on the schools while the city laughs at you every time they get your taxes and cash your check.

Mr. Cushman and Mr. Maloney, Your correct, the schools have managed with the same funding and the city has been pretty much solely responsible for the yearly tax increases. But, JS is correct in it is ridiculous how much it costs to educate every child. Warwick, Rhode Island and all over America we should move to a voucher system.

Patientman I have always stated that the Warwick School Department needs to continue to consolidate and cut costs. But I can't stand the hypocritics including the Mayor, Council President Donna Travis and other member of the City Council when they contiue to castigate the school department and knik pick over line items when the fact is that school budget is funded by local tax dollars s $500,000 over the 2008 allocation, while the city is $35,641,138 over the 2008 allocation.

The fact that this mayor and some council members are not willing to address the spending increases on the city side is political grand-standing.

Yesterday I learned that the city screwed up the healthcare contract so bad that just one line item 75-160 Police Officers Medical is over budget by $645,190 this year and for the FY2014 budget $511,349 over this years budgeted amount. That is a total of $1,115,539 that some how magically the city will find the money to fund it.

Listening to the Mayor's chief of staff and personnel director they actually presented the 2014 budget numbers as a decrease in spending. How did they do this? They based line the over budgeted 2012 figure of $3,410,733 and compared it to the 2014 budget item which is $3,276.892 and declared they are saving taxpayers money.

In reality the 2013 budgeted figure is $2,765,543 and that is the basis of my calculations above.

Let's give the schools a reprieve for one year and cut city spending by $2 million over the fiscal 2013 budget year and give it to the schools. That would mean no tax increase and send the message to schools to consolidate because you will not be receiving any more funding next year.

Under this plan schools new local tax dollars since 2008 would equal $2.5 million while the city $33.6 million.

It seems logical to me to say the cost of educating a child in Warwick has not gone up in 5 years since the funding to the schools has not gone up during this time. The only significant cost I have seen increase is the cost of educating special education students. The number of students in Warwick HAS dropped slightly BUT they have been replaced with students who require Special Education.

If you have 10,000 students, and 2000 require special education (approximately 1 in 5 students requires special education of some type). If you reduce the number of students to 9800, you have 200 less students. BUT, if 400 actual students left while 200 new students joined the group and the 200 new students require special education, then you haven't just reduced the population 200 students. The makeup of the population has actually changed. This is exactly what is happening in Warwick.

So, while the costs to educate go up with special education students, the State still requires all students to get a fair, equal and appropriate education. Warwick MUST provide this education. Warwick SHOULD provide this education. Would you like to tell the student who needs a special headphone so they can hear the teacher that they can not have it? Would you like to tell the parent of the student who has diabetes that we will not provide their student with a staff member to regulate the insulin? Even if you wanted to do this, you can't, the child can not inject themselves with the medicine. Did you know that All schools are required to have a dentist come in to check the children's teeth? Did you know this requires $30,000 each year? This is a state mandate that is required but not funded. These are the types of increases that are happening, these are the "costs to educate" the student. A dentist checkup HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH EDUCATION, it is a social program administered through the schools BUT the schools have to pay for it. The same happened with the H1N1 Virus, the schools administered the appropriate prevention, principals and medical staff were on hand to help with the vaccinations. Another cost to educate the students. Along with this cost was the cost for cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer. This all costs money. If the H1N1 vaccinations were done at city hall and the dentist check up was done at city hall, would it be a school cost? Before a person says, "The cost to educate a student is $17,000 per pupil", they should know that the State is continuously mandating programs that are to be administered through the schools.

Here is a novel idea, stop electing the same politicians at the state house trying to push their social agenda. When it comes to health of the population, the costs should be covered but it should NOT be added to the cost to educate a student because that skews the actual data.

Costs continue to go up for many reasons, the schools have done a good job controlling the costs with no additional funding. We will all have the students with the cleanest, germ free hands, brightest smile but they will have difficulty with reading, writing, math skills, science and Technology.

It is simple, if there is no increase to the budget, Music, sports, ALAP and everything that makes people want to move here will be gone. I expect many people will leave the city and their tax money will go with it. That will leave those who can not afford to leave with an even higher tax burden.

Essentially, private schools like Hendricken and the other parochial schools have the luxury of taking who they want and, historically, they don't want some of the kids that publics have to take. That is a gigantic distinction between public and private and one of the key determinates in the calculation of cost per student. You just can't deny that fact.

Thanks David, I had not thought of that but it is true.

First, I would have absolutely NO problem cutting the city budget by, say, 5% for starters. No problem at all. But the article focused on the school side of the ledger, which is why I discussed school costs only. You won't get an argument from me concerning the mindless escalation of the city budget.

Sorry, David, you're factually incorrect. The most significant factor is teacher salaries and benefits. The 30% difference in the cost to educate one kid is not remotely related to student selection. Please consult the expulsion and admissions data from the school of your choice to confirm this. And keep in mind, students with behavioral issues are unlikely to apply to Hendricken in the first place, so it's not like there was ever a decision about acceptance. And those with learning problems come with IEP's from their sending district. Again, let parents decide what's best for their child, not government.

John,

I didn't say that salaries and benfits were not a significant factor. When they comprise 80-85% of your budget, they by definition are significant. As to privates taking kids with IEP's, while I don;t have access to the data, I'd submit to you that the private schools ratio of IEP to non-IEP students is quite small. I agree that behavorial problem kids miost likely would not apply there but you say that the IEP follows the student there. But Hendricken, and other privates, are "..not legally required to follow .. (IEP) plans commonly used inthe public schools.." This comes directly from the 'Learning Differences" link on Hendricken's websitewebsite. http://www.hendricken.com/academics/LearningDifferences. Some good reading there..About the only accommodations they'll make are moving a student to the front of the class or give them extra time for tests and if the parents are seeking accommodations, they must provide them with an educational eval and a neuropsych eval. That's a pretty high hurdle. My only point is that the privates don't take therse kids on anywhere near the ratios of the publics. More services = more expense to educate the child.

I attended a portion of the City Council Meeting tonight and commented on the Schools and the Warwick Sewer Authority.

My Comments:

The schools were $3.2 million over budget in 2007-2008 and it was all paid back in full years ago. The schools were publicly chastised for taking 2 years to pay it back.

The sewer authority was originally $7 million over budget at the same time the schools were over budget, it was quiet and was not featured on the front page of the Beacon multiple times as the School Deficit. The Sewer Authority paid back approximately $300,000 the first year and were publicly thanked for paying it back and coming up with a payment plan. Sewer Authority still owes $5.7 million to the city after 4+ Years after being over budget several years ago. I calculated they will pay back the full amount over 15 years, and that is without interest. To date, they have paid back only $1.3 Million of their total $7 Million deficit spending! Where is the outrage! Where are the people?

The council is expected to level fund the schools again tonight.

There are few parents of school children here tonight.

I count approximately 5-6 parents. When sports were to be cut, hundreds showed up.

There is a plan to increase the sewer budget 4%. Why are sewers more important than schools? No one I know asks the question, "How are the sewers?" before, "How are the schools?" The truth is the schools WILL be in the toilet if they are level funded again.

Did you know 46% of the sewer budget goes to debt service. This means 46 cents of every dollar doesn't go to projects, it goes to paying off previous debts for projects. It is not even self sustaining. The Mayor wants to have an APPOINTED School Committee. Look how well his APPOINTED SEWER Authority is doing.

No additional funding to schools means cuts to every program, Alap, music, sports, etc. Contact your city council NOW.

Emails are here:

http://www.warwickri.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=797&Itemid=237

John, I personally know of several students who were kicked out of Hendriken, LaSalle and St Ray's and are now in the Warwick Schools. They were sent to the schools because they created problems that those schools did not want to deal with and these problems cost the public schools additional money.

If kids get kicked out of private school, public schools shouldn't have to keep them if they become a problem. Kick them out and let them come back in the fall.

State law REQUIRES public schools to take in and educate every student, whether they are a truancy problem, a behavioral problem or even from this country and here illegally. Public schools do not have this luxury. They can NOT kick them out. That is exactly my point, and I believe one of Mr Testa's points. We are required to educate everyone even if it means an increase in cost.

I'm advocating that we change the law. A free education is a wonderful thing given to each of us by society. For students that don't appreciate it let them stay home. All kids deserve to be able to go to school and learn in a civil and safe environment. If some children can't abide by the rules send them home and let the other kids get an education.

The sad part is they flounder, drag other people back and then quit when they reach the age they no longer need to participate. I expect they can not or do not make it and eventually end up receiving benefits at the expense of society through social programs. If more money was put into education earlier rather later, they might learn the value of an education and contribute. More money used wisely could lead to avoiding law enforcement later saving money. I am not advocating for more funding via additional taxes, I think money could be taken from other areas to provide for education. I guess we could start with the IRS training programs and seminars, those cost millions. Education has no value to some people.

Not to belabor the point, but how many kids are presently attending a Warwick public high school who had been expelled from LaSalle, SRA, or Hendricken? It's not many, but let's way over-estimate and say fifty. That represents a whopping 3% of the male high school enrollment in the city, and barely enters the radar screen (in contrast to a "key determinate") as an explanation of why the giant chasm exists between government run and parochial school costs. As to IEP's, the special education industry has been expanding the definition of "educationally handicapped" for decades now because it's simply good for business.

One thing that must also be looked at... Schools like LaSalle, Hendricken, and St Ray's all have alumni who graciously give back to the schools through yearly fundraisers. These annual alumni outreach programs generate money that is used to pay for costs. No Warwick HS Grad gives back to the school this way. I also know that charter schools accept students in to get the state money and after a certain date, they kids are told that the charter is not a good fit for them and they are sent back to their public home school. The charter school does NOT transfer the money back to the home public school. I do agree that special education has expanded the definition, but that does not equate to additional funding to support the student needs. All student needs require they be met regardless of the cost, all students should get an fair and appropriate education, not as determined by the schools but by the state. If regulations are not followed, it results in fines and potential lawsuits, all which are paid from the current school budget. The regulations change constantly.

SO if 3% of the population are "troublemakers" and 20% are special education, that means 77% require no additional monetary attention. unfortunately, the 23% suck up the monetary resources and pull the funding away from the 77%. Did you know there is a late bus for students who are required to stay after school? SO, the students get in trouble and have to have detention but then the schools still have to provide a bus for them to get home... remember, each bus costs approximately $65,000. 3 busses for the Jr and Sr High Schools for students who require detention is a total of $195K, this is also nearly the amount of the ALAP program that will probably be cut due to budget cuts. I would rather KEEP ALAP than provide a bus for kids who require detention! Unfortunately, the State mandates that the school provide transportation so I am sure ALAP will go before the bus.

I think kids who stay for detention should either walk home or have to attend detention on a Saturday and their parents should provide transportation. Of course, having a staff member come in on a Saturday has a cost too.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Click here to log in.
Copyright © 2014, Beacon Communications. Powered by: Creative Circle Advertising Solutions, Inc.