We want to thank those of you who came out to the Forum on Regional Finance last Thursday with our state auditor, Suzanne Bump and our full legislative delegation. With over 150 in attendance, I also know there were many who wanted to attend but couldn’t, and some of you were were watching online. As a result of that discussion, many have asked what they can do to help! I apologize for the long email, but there’s important information below on ways you can help!
As a start, if you weren’t able to attend or watch, reviewing the video will give you a context of the challenges that we face. You can find the full video online at https://youtu.be/7dzM-eVJKdQ. The focus of the meeting was on regional schools specifically, although state wide challenges also arose. Most importantly, there was a focus on not pitting schools against towns with limited resources, and calling for the state to live up to their funding promises. This following statistic tells it all. From 2002 to 2017, a 15 year period, the state’s share of our total revenues fell from 34% to 22%. Where the state used to pay for a third of our budget, they now pay less than a quarter of it, and the balance is being paid for by our member towns. This has become untenable for our member towns.
Secondly, we need your voice and action. Through the forum last week, as well as information reviewed at the School Committee Workshop this past Saturday morning, it has become clear that we are looking at cost increases that are higher than usual, and state revenues that will barely increase to help offset the impact to our towns if not increased over the Governor’s numbers. The state’s funding formula (Chapter 70) is broken and doesn’t work for regional schools, and the state has never fulfilled its promise of paying for regional transportation. Regional transportation alone is a loss of over $300,000 annually for the Triton Schools. The state’s failure to adequately fund education is coming to a crisis point, and we are looking at potential cuts across all areas, all grade levels and all programs for next year; cuts to a degree we haven’t seen in decades.
So how can lend your voice and effort?
- First – Attend the tentative budget public hearing on Wednesday, February 7th at 7:00 PM. This is an additional hearing, and earlier than usual, but we believe it is important to share the severity of the shortfall in this year’s budget and the potential impacts. The meeting on the February 7th will provide an overview of the current budget projections, its impacts, and then provide an opportunity for all members of our community to provide comment.
- Second – Write letters to our state legislators. As mentioned by our legislative delegation last Thursday, thirty (30) emails or letters on a single subject is a deluge in their offices. We can easily exceed that 10 fold and ensure our legislators know that we demand more as a regional school. That is how change happens. Attached you will find two letter templates, and two contact lists. The first letter is intended for our five local legislators who attended last week’s forum, and the second is geared towards the Regional Schools Caucus, which includes 41 senators and representatives from across the state. You can certainly adjust and edit the letter as you see fit, but sending letters or emails will make it known that we’re paying attention, and we need and expect their help for necessary change.
Please find the two template letters in Word format, and a contact list linked below. You can send via email, or via formal letter, but the contact list shows all 41 members of the Regional Schools Caucus, and then our five (5) legislators highlighted in yellow.
- Third – Consider signing a petition, or starting one locally. This is NOT a substitution for writing to our legislators, but a campaign has been created by groups from the Wachusett and Ashburnham/Westminster regional schools districts on Change.org. The focus, similar to the draft template letters referenced above, is on the state backing away from their promise to fully fund regional transportation. The hope is to show the magnitude of the issue, and support for a remedy, across the entire state. You can find the petition at http://bit.ly/2DKQJc2. If you are interested in starting a more local effort in this regard, please contact Dina Sullivan at the email below and she’ll be able to help make connections with those behind the Wachusett effort.
Thank you for your attention and support. If you have any questions about the above information, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Otherwise, we look forward to seeing you on Wednesday, February 7th at 7:00 PM in the Triton High School Library.
Dina and Brian
School Committee Chair
Brian L. Forget
Superintendent of Schools