School Budget 2016 ‘no’ vote

This is a big week for many of us as our kids cross the stage at CRLS.  It’s hard to believe that, in my family’s case, 14 years of Cambridge Public School life have gone by so quickly but they have and we owe a huge ‘thank you’ to all the teachers, administrators, staff, coaches, volunteers, friends and more who made Robbie’s CPS experience the wonderful success it was.

 

Not everyone enjoyed our success, though, and that is why, as I have before, I will vote “no” on the City’s budget Monday night.  I don’t think the $164,000,000 we will allocate to CPS gets us the educational results we need.  Too many of the kids who have shared school with my kids did not have the successful experience we enjoyed and, honestly, we knew, statistically, that that was likely to be the case when we started 14 years ago.  While CPS has seen some improvements over the past decade-plus, improvements in educational results have been far too flat given our resources compared to our challenges.  I’m not talking about just test scores, as students are for more than test results, but also about who takes AP classes, who is participating in various after school programs, who is performing in our various events and so forth, all of which reflect a bifurcated school system.  Time and again I, and others, have urged the School Committee to make sure CPS is asking for the money it needs to properly prepare our kids rather than feel tethered to a somewhat arbitrary budget number based on a percentage increase over the previous year.  In particular, I’ve made my point before about the need for more support for school climate and classroom management issues but that message has yet to resonate with CPS.  I am not suggesting a blank check for CPS, for the $27,000 we now spend per student indicates that perhaps lack of money is not our problem, but I would like to see a healthy and ongoing discussion about how we spend our money.  That sort of discussion would help us all decide if CPS should get more money for various programs and how non-CPS programs like our youth centers, libraries and pre-school programs all intersect.  This discussion would, I think, get us to a better place in educating all of our children.  Perhaps the new Superintendent, yet to be hired, will think we do need more money for the various programs members of the School Committee themselves would like and will take the Council up on its offer.

 

Also, most of you probably already know about the 3 alarm fire that hit the King/Putnam Ave school that the City is building.  Thankfully no one was hurt and CFD, once again, proved its status as a Class One fire department, but it’s still a really tragic event.  It’s not clear how this fire, which apparently started on the roof and caused about 2.5 million dollars of damage, will impact the opening of this school in September but, at this point, the Manager doesn’t think it will impact the King Open/CSUS project which is due to start in September.  Although I suspect they’d do it anyway, I have asked the City to work with the School Department to aggressively update fire-related information on the web so we can keep the rumor mill from churning too quickly as we try to piece things together over the summer and prepare for the start of the next school year.   This is a really sad event- there was so much exciting about that project- and I am hopeful that we’ll get things back on track quickly to help alleviate the anxiety so many parents, students and staff are now feeling.

 

Finally, there is a Council Order on Monday’s agenda, pasted below, asking the Manager to, among other things, coordinate with the School Department to figure out how many school kids we actually have in the new large buildings that are being built in places like North Point in East Cambridge and Alewife out in northwest Cambridge.  My belief is that there are actually very few students in most of these buildings but the ones that are there require expensive van transportation to school because there are not enough kids to run a regular bus route out to, for example, the former Faces site in Alewife.  Having good demographic data about who is going to our public schools, and in what grades, from these new developments should help us better understand the impact of zoning changes on our schools.

 

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