To the editor:
There is zero doubt that we have all felt the impact of this historic rise in inflation over the past 12 months.
The Pentucket Regional School District is no exception. With a failed override in May 2022 and additional state-mandated increases on all school districts throughout the commonwealth, fiscal 2024 is proving to be a major challenge.
It is critical to understand what has been cut in recent years and what we stand to lose if the current proposed budget is not funded this spring.
Over the past 10 years, 50 teaching positions districtwide have been eliminated versus the 36 recommended to maintain manageable classes due to teacher retirements and a declining student population.
Over the past five years, 34.1 teacher positions have been cut versus the recommended 10. It is important to note that student population has leveled off over the past three years, and we are no longer seeing a decline in the number of students throughout the district.
Simply put, a declining student population is no longer the driving force behind the reduction in staff. Positions have been eliminated and class sizes have increased due to budgetary constraints.
This current school year alone, 12 teaching positions were eliminated across the district despite an increase in student population from the previous year. In addition, the middle school nurse was eliminated.
In addition, multiple non-personnel cuts were implemented due to lack of funding. That included the elimination of nine coaching positions, all freshman athletic teams and four junior varsity teams.
To prevent further cuts, athletic fees doubled, the family cap was eliminated, and the monthly tuition for the before- and after-school program at the elementary level was increased. In addition, a one-time infusion of $250K was added to last year’s budget from the stabilization fund, which is impossible to sustain going forward.
To maintain the same levels of staffing, programs and services for 2023-24 (fiscal 2024), $1 million in additional funding is currently needed for the upcoming school year.
The proposed budget currently under consideration has an estimated shortfall of $1,674,345.86. This amount has already been reduced from $3.1 million that was first presented to the School Committee in November 2022.
If the proposed budget is not approved, it is the equivalent of cutting 25.8 additional teachers and/or other programs and services.
Although it is yet to be determined what specific cuts will be made, class sizes will inevitably balloon as the student population remains the same.
These are simply the facts. Not my own opinion.
PRSD faces significant challenges that require immediate action. Kicking the can down the road or hoping that the Massachusetts public school funding formulas will eventually be reformed are no longer options.
Significant cuts have already been made in recent years and the elimination of additional teaching positions would place the district at significant risk for long-term decline.
It is also a fact that school districts directly impact property values. The quality of local school districts is the major external factor affecting the value of homes. In a high-caliber district, you consistently see home values increase as well as higher buyer demand over time.
It is important to remember that regardless of whether you currently have a PRSD student or not, properly funding the upcoming school budget, or at minimum maintaining level services for PRSD students next year and beyond, is a necessary step to protect all home values in Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury alike.
To quote the great George Lucas, “Education is the single most important job of the human race.” During these challenging times, please educate yourself and learn the facts on what lies ahead for Pentucket.
And remember, everything you read on social media is not necessarily factual and true.
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