Q: Have you read the Citizen Advisory Group’s School Cost Structure Report? If so, how would you see School Leaders and the School Committee creating “a blue print that clearly outlines what is essential to maintaining a high quality educational system”? According to the CAG this blue print would require leaders to “make difficult decisions about the desirable and the essential.” Would you support student user fees to maintain access to “desirable” school services?
I believe that the process to creating a blueprint must start with a long range budgeting study using multiple scenarios. We should start by projecting out our present trajectory as a baseline. The time frame for this projection should be between 5-10 years.
We should create multiple alternate scenarios that consider variations of compensation levels of teachers, the biggest cost driver; variation of the number of teachers; contributions of technology; energy savings alternates; the contribution of overrides of different levels; and possibilities of corporate funding, possibly through naming rights.
The imperative to”make difficult decisions about the desirable and the essential” will only be clear to our citizen/taxpayers when the outcomes of these scenario projections are presented. Otherwise the thinking process is too abstract.
We should not forget the impact that our long range facilities planning will have on our educational choices. Although the budget for capital projects come from the municipal and not the school side, capital costs will affect the funding available to support our direct educational mission. We must spend wisely on buildings to insure there is enough to fund what will take place inside of them.
As a practice, user fees should be assessed in pursuit of specific policy goals, and not as a revenue source. Their contribution as a revenue source is small relative to their impact on behaviors, and is miniscule relative to the cost drivers in our school system. Therefore they should be assessed judiciously. Currently assessed and proposed fees should be eliminated where they will result in lower access to instruction, such as the 4th grade music program, and maintained where they may proactively influence behavior, such as assessing parking fees at a level that will discourage students from driving to school. School bus fees should be high enough to so a student will take the bus (“We paid for that bus pass, so don’t t ask your mom or me to drive you to school!”), but not so high that parents will choose to avoid the fee by driving their children in.