There has been a lot of talk about the WRSD budget for the next year. Part of the discussion centers around a Powerpoint presentation that is up on the WRSD Budget web site.
This is a very interesting presentation. None of the facts in it are incorrect, but they also aren't relevant. WRSD is one of the lowest per student funding in the state. However, this presentation compare us to 55 other “similar” schools. This includes 2 schools from Martha's Vineyard, 3 schools from Cape Cod and 3 schools from the Berkshires. Only 4 of these schools have a student population above 4000. WRSD is over 7500. Eleven of these schools have populations under 1000 and 6 have populations under 500. Another way to look at this is that of these 56 schools WRSD has total expenditures of over $78 million where the next closes school district is only $65 million. Six of the schools have budgets under $10 million. The top 10 schools by expenditure per student have less that 1700 students in their whole school system, which means they need 6 or less teachers per grade. If you look at 15 schools that ranged from 6500 to 8500 students the number change significantly. We are still the lowest per student, but the difference between the top and bottom are less than half.
Concentrating the presentation on the expenditures leads away from the real issues. How are our students doing academically? Massachusetts has separate ratings for 4th, 8th and 10th grade. When you rank WRSD against the 55 schools using MCAS rating we are 11th for grades 10 and 8 (top 20%) and 4th for grade 4 (top 7%). If you use the 15 schools of similar size, we are 2nd across the board (top 12%).
I have 2 children in the WRSD and I don't mind spending money on their education, but I want to see some relevant evaluation criteria for the monies spent. I don't want to trade teachers for technology.