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School budget cut as Assabet rises.

Byline: Jennifer Breen

After a long hard winter, we are all looking forward to a little taste of spring. Snow banks are shrinking, flowers are beginning to emerge and the talks between the schools and the town with regard to the budget have begun.

The town of West Boylston, like most cities and towns, is facing a sizeable gap in its proposed budget for the schools. This year, like last year, one of the largest expenses outside of staffing is the cost associated with tuitions paid to vocational schools. Vocational education has always been more costly, averaging nearly $6,000 more per student than per pupil expenditures in a system like West Boylston.

Since fiscal year 2007, we have seen tuition at Assabet go from $12,300 to $16,079 per student, an increase of 30 percent. The total cost for the town has gone from $430,500 to $1,054,704, due not only to the increase in tuition, but to the increase in the number of students attending.

In fiscal '07 we had 35 students who chose a vocational education. This year, that number increased to 66.

While students who choose a vocational education instead of staying in our system have every right to do so, and while parents absolutely need to do what is best for their children with regard to their education, we need to consider how this impacts the students who remain in West Boylston. Looking at the overall budget, with the cost of vocational education rising, there has been a significant decrease in the funding for our kindergarten through grade 12 system.

Looking at the town's allocation for education, our schools have actually seen a decrease in funding. In fiscal '07, the total appropriation for the town was $8,857,690, with $430,500 going to vocational education. This left the schools with $8,426,910.

This year, the town appropriation was 8,920,792, however, with $878,106 going to vocational education, it left West Boylston with $8,025,041, a reduction of almost $350,000.

The town cannot continue to pay for the increased cost of vocational education by cutting the budget of our own school system. The challenge for our town is to find a way to fund the increased cost of vocational education, while providing the funding necessary to maintain a quality, well rounded education for the students who remain in West Boylston.

Jennifer Breen is a member of the West Boylston School Committee.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 3, 2011
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