Opinion: Braintree’s school budget should be the priority
BRAINTREE, MA – The following opinion piece was written by Kelly Cobb-Lemire, Braintree School Board Member. All opinions expressed are those of the author.
COVID-19 has put enormous pressure on everyone in our community: working families, students – including those in need of additional services – and of course, our teachers. Traditional education has been virtually impossible during this public health crisis, leaving teachers, administrators, parents and students to scramble to find new approaches to learning. Even in districts without funding issues, educating children safely during a global pandemic is a huge challenge. All students and families have been negatively affected. As a school committee member and parent of two at Braintree schools, I know firsthand how difficult it has been. It really breaks my heart that two years of school traditions have been lost – and for many of our older students, they cannot be made up for.
Braintree, like other public school districts, depends on state and municipal tax revenues for the majority of its school funding. Our property tax rate is the lowest in the South Shore and, as a result, we rely heavily on tax revenues from commercial businesses. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, the mayor’s office recently announced that the city has a shortfall of $ 10 million; and asked each department to cut their budget by 10%. As you can imagine, cutting the school budget by $ 7.6 million would be devastating for our students and teachers. And while we may be able to offset some short-term cuts with one-time grants, we will face similar fiscal challenges over the next few years.
We need a better solution than letting our schools absorb two-thirds of the city’s lost revenue. Our schools have been underfunded for years, and it shows: our construction infrastructure is collapsing and our spending per student ratio is significantly lower than the state average. We have continually asked our teachers to do more with less and our students to do less with less. How can we, in good conscience, expect them to make even greater sacrifices to resolve the city’s budget crisis?
Parents and Braintree taxpayers must ensure that all other city department budgets are scrutinized and considered for larger cuts before the school department is asked to make such drastic cuts. Braintree School Department must work to ensure a fair maintenance requirement so that services for the most vulnerable students are protected.
Our heads of state and city must dip in their funds on rainy days, close tax loopholes, generate new revenue, and explore other creative ways to protect education funding and global services that benefit children and children. Braintree families. We must finally revive the millionaires’ tax which has been overwhelmingly approved by voters and lawmakers. We need to tap into the $ 113 million the state received in cannabis tax revenue in 2020.
The President and Congress must enact federal aid – not only to make school districts whole, but to replace lost tax revenue at the state and local level. In addition, Congress must vote against any privatization and commercialization of our public schools. They must demand that the Ministry of Education reduce Chapter School Program (CPS) funds not only because of the long history of siphoning money from public schools, but because of misuse and lack of oversight. , especially those managed by for-profit management companies.
We need to make public colleges, universities and trade schools tuition-free. We need to fully fund black colleges, increase funding for programs that help low income students and students with disabilities and first generation students so they can attend and graduate from college. We need to put a cap on student loan interest rates and write off the unpaid student debt of these young people who are burdened by the student loan crash. The federal government has much deeper pockets than the states and these costs could be covered by reallocating the money the government is already spending.
I believe in the importance of public education and collectively we can and must invest in our schools. We need to ensure that every student receives the high quality public education they deserve, from child care and preschool to college.