‘Adequate’ Pittsfield schools?

A detailed and eye-opening look at the insufficiency of the state of NH’s education funding payments

The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined in its Claremont decision that it is the state’s constitutional obligation to ensure that every child has access to an “adequate” education and that the state must pay for it. As a result, every year the state calculates a cost that it believes will be sufficient to provide an “adequate” education for all students in each town. For Pittsfield this year, the state claims that $2,690,333 should be sufficient.

Pittsfield’s school budget this year is $10,302,402, nearly four times what the state has decided is adequate.  If we take into account additional aid provided by the state to Pittsfield this year (a “stabilization” grant of $2,185,277, special education aid of $284,000, and Medicaid reimbursement of $130,000), the budget amount would be $5,289,610. We decided to see how the current year’s budget would have to be cut to bring it down to that level.

During this re-budgeting exercise, every attempt was made to keep in place as much of the “core” teaching as possible at all grade levels. We were able to achieve the $5,289,610 budget by making the following changes:

• Eliminate five of the 16 teachers at the elementary school

• Eliminate all art, music and physical education classes in all grades

• Eliminate all school nurses and any medical support

• Eliminate all regular and special education transportation services (parents to transport their children to and from school)

• Eliminate one of the two office secretaries at the elementary school

• Eliminate one of the two office secretaries at the middle/high school

• Eliminate teachers for business education, family & consumer science and health

• Eliminate one of four science teachers at the middle/high school, thus eliminating some labs and electives

• Eliminate all building and grounds maintenance and repairs

• Eliminate student participation in Concord Regional Technical Center classes

• Eliminate all foreign language courses

• Eliminate both counselor/behavioral support professionals and both support positions

• Eliminate four of eight custodians, reducing building cleaning to twice per week at best

• Eliminate health insurance and other benefits in current teacher contract

• Eliminate all field trips

• Eliminate all athletic programs: soccer, basketball, softball and baseball

• Eliminate the district reading specialist

• Eliminate 34 1/2 paraprofessional positions, including special education teacher aides

• Eliminate purchase of equipment, supplies, books, subscriptions, technology apps, etc.

• Eliminate ESOL program (English for speakers of other languages)

• Eliminate all substitute teachers, thus requiring students to be dismissed

• Eliminate three special education teachers

• Eliminate provisions for teacher development university courses, workshops, etc.

• Eliminate mentor teachers who support new teachers

• Eliminate all technology personnel, equipment, training, etc.

• Eliminate consulting specialists, such as vision specialists and psychologists

• Eliminate travel reimbursement for training events, statewide meetings, home visits, etc.

• Eliminate all co-curricular programs (clubs, activities, student council, etc.)

• Eliminate the summer recreation program

• Eliminate all guidance personnel

• Eliminate substance abuse counselor

• Eliminate speech/language, PT, OT and vision services for special needs students

• Eliminate stipend for teachers’ summertime work on innovation and development

• Eliminate stipends for teacher leaders

• Eliminate all librarians and media center staff and close media centers

• Eliminate school board stipends

• Eliminate school board expenses, including lawyers and auditing services

• Reduce time of superintendent to one day per week

• Eliminate all photocopiers and their supplies

• Eliminate maintenance of athletic field

• Eliminate one school principal, leaving only one for both school buildings

• Eliminate all office incidentals: postage, supplies, advertising, etc.

With these changes, the average class size will be 29 students, but this lower $5,289,610 budget is still more than double the amount the state has declared is enough for an “adequate” education in Pittsfield.

To reduce this further to get down to the state’s “cost of an adequate education” requires lopping off another $2.6 million. Having already removed almost everything else, this further reduction requires eliminating nearly half of the remaining classroom teachers. Class sizes in elementary, middle school and high school will then approach 60 students per teacher.

How can anyone honestly claim that this would be “adequate?”

John Freeman is superintendent of the Pittsfield School District and Doug Hall is a former state representative from Chichester.

Categories: Opinion