As an ORR School Committee member this year, I have learned first-hand how passionate our townspeople are about the quality education at our junior and senior high schools. At the recent FY2018 Budget Public Hearing, many people spoke out about the positive impact teachers and programs are having, or have had, on their lives. We also talked about the nuts and bolts of school funding at this meeting and how it is a mix of state funds, local funds, and self-generated revenue, such as the fee the high school must charge students to participate in athletics ($225 per sport, with family caps).
Within that discussion we touched on the broken promise on the part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to fund regional transportation. Participants asked for more information on this topic and the school district’s administration has pulled together key points and posted them on the District website (http://www.oldrochester.org/pages/ORR).
Essentially, when the Tri-Towns decided to regionalize, the State’s promise of reimbursing regional districts for the cost of transportation beyond 1.5 miles was a key incentive to participate. However, the State didn’t follow through and now only reimburses about 68-70% of the cost. This lack of full funding means that the ORR operating budget must cover over $200,000 in transportation costs. If Beacon Hill does not alter this funding for next year, we will have to pay even more since transportation costs are going up and the State’s transportation reimbursement fund will be spread over more regionalized districts.
I think we can all agree that when the State does live up to their end of the bargain puts tremendous pressure on our local junior and senior high schools’ budgets. Imagine the technology upgrades, the social-emotional supports, and the facility improvements we could make with those funds! We would be able to bring our stated five-year plans to fruition.
What can be done? Currently the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools (MARS) is pushing hard to increase the rate of transportation reimbursement and they need your help! Take just a few minutes to reach out to your state officials and the governor and let them know that they need to follow through on the promise to reimburse regional district transportation. Like every School Committee member has done, let your representatives know that making up this shortfall puts tremendous pressure on local budgets. Tell them that education is important to you and a key driver for the future of Massachusetts! You can find contact information for your state officials at the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts’ website, https://lwvma.org/.
Thank you for your continued support of the ORR Junior and Senior High Schools.
Heather Burke, Marion
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