Monday, February 18, 2008

School Budget Transparency

Will and Robin are in kindergarten and first grade at Wildwood, and yet I find I don't have a lot to say about Amherst's public schools.

The "cost" side is easy, thanks to the Massachusetts Department of Education web site. Amherst spent about $14,000 per elementary school pupil, and the regional school district spent about $15,000 per middle/high school pupil. Yay for budget transparency and accountability! (if only the Massachusetts State Budget was available online in a user-friendly form...)

I'm not an expert on educating children, and I don't trust anecdotal evidence, so I have no idea whether or not Amherst's schools are doing a great job educating them or not. Amherst kids do better than average on the MCAS and NCLB tests, but is that because the schools are better or because the families in Amherst are better?

There's a $700 per pupil budget gap in the Elementary school budget. And an override ain't gonna happen this year.

It seems to me we should spend more money per elementary school pupil than we do per middle/high school pupil; the research I've done shows that giving students small class sizes in grade K-3 makes them perform better in later grades. If I were King, I'd cut the regional school budget by a million dollars and give it to the elementary schools. I think I'd say that even if Robin and Will were in 10'th and 11'th grades, but I don't know what it would be like to have to tell a petulant teenager that they can't take Russian next year because I voted to cut their school budget to hire another kindergarten teacher or three.

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