This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Investing in a Strong Community

The Yes! for Beverly group has updated their website with some new information supporting the Proposition 2½ override effort. If you haven't looked at it recently, please check it out, particularly the new section titled "Why Beverly's Worth the Investment". You can also download an override fact sheet here.

Some of the points worth noting:
  • Proposition 2½: Implemented in 1982, the law caps real estate tax increases at 2.5% per year plus additional taxes from new development. The cap does not adjust even when expenses (energy, salaries, healthcare, state mandates, etc.) rise at a higher rate. In recent years, reductions in state aid coupled with fixed expenses rising beyond the 2.5% rate limit have created a structural deficit in Beverly and many other Massachusetts communities. Voters are allowed under the law to approve additional taxes to close this deficit by overriding the 2.5% cap.

  • Beverly's School Budget: Beverly faces the same issues impacting all Massachusetts communities. State aid has decreased, while operating costs and unfunded state and federal mandates have increased. Beverly has already cut dozens of classroom teachers, increased class sizes, added school fees, and closed Memorial Middle School to avoid an override. In FY09, Beverly voters now face a choice of cutting public education services further or supporting an override to close a $2.6 million budget gap for its public schools.

  • Beverly’s First Operational Override: Should the override pass, it will be the first time since the law went into effect 25 years ago that Beverly has increased revenues for operations by more than the Proposition 2½ cap. Two-thirds of Massachusetts towns have already approved operational overrides, some multiple times. At $10.40/thousand, Beverly’s tax rates are lower than Swampscott ($13.63), Wenham ($12.92), and Salem ($11.67).

  • Educational Costs: According to the Massachusetts Dept. of Education’s 2007 figures, Beverly's per pupil expenditure was $11,210.67, which is below the state average of $11,864.91. Beverly spends less than Salem ($13,665), Manchester/Essex ($12,865), Lynn ($12,220), Chelsea ($12,199), and Hamilton Wenham ($12,100).

They also include quotes from the Superintendent and School Committee President:

“Over the past few years the Beverly Public Schools have faced difficult challenges, such as the closing of Memorial Middle School and the addition of many new fees. We have struggled to maintain programming, which has been challenging with dramatically rising costs in Special Education, utilities, and Health Care. I believe that without additional funds the cuts next year will be severe and irreversible. With an override, the school district can develop a plan for a future configuration that will be sustainable and appropriate. As an educator, parent, and School Committee President we need to show the community how much we value education here in Beverly.”
—School Committee President Annemarie Cesa


“The citizens of Beverly need to know that we are at a crossroads. Over the last several years we have chipped away and chipped away at the kind of education we should be providing the children of Beverly. The professionals we employ have done their best to adapt what they do with the resources they have and have “made it work.” We can make this reconfiguration work, too, but it will not be easy, and Beverly will not be providing the quality of education we aspire to. That difference in quality has a direct correlation to the perceived quality of a community. And that has a direct impact on all Beverly citizens. If you think these cuts to education don’t affect you, you are wrong. Yes, it costs a lot to educate a child; it costs even more if you don’t.”
—Superintendent Dr. James Hayes

Please go to yesforbeverly.org to read more or download a fact sheet here.

No comments: