Thursday, April 20, 2017

Lynn Schools Facing $3.5 Million Deficit in FY17

The Lynn Public School district was in the news recently as the city continues to deal with a school spending deficit that has led to the threats of decreases in Chapter 70 state aid. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's most recent report indicates that the $825,689 shortfall mentioned in the Daily Item article was for fiscal year (FY) 2016 which ended on June 30, 2016. For FY 2017 which ends at the end of June 2017, the DESE is currently reporting a shortfall of over $3.5 million.

FY 16
FY 17
Total Net School Spending Requirement
Actual Net School Spending

In order to avoid penalties, the city would have to allocate the additional monies to the school budget by the end of June. It is unclear whether the state would permit carryovers up to the customary 5% below the net school spending requirement as Lynn was under that threshold for FY16 but the state opted to enact an $825,689 penalty as opposed to carrying that amount over to FY17.

As previously reported (here here here), this is not the first year that Lynn has dealt with deficits related to its net school spending. 

Since FY11, Lynn has had school spending deficits in varying amounts.

Looking ahead to FY 18, which begins on July 1, 2017, Lynn is expected to allocate just over $200 million on public education based on preliminary DESE reports (excluding any potential carryovers from FY17). This is based on a student population of 16,852 (including students attending charter and out of district schools).

Approximately, three-quarters of that allocation is to come from Chapter 70 state aid, while the other quarter will come from the city. This has been standard practice in Lynn's education spending as the majority of Lynn's required net school spending has come from Chapter 70 state aid. The House Ways and Means budget currently puts Lynn's Chapter 70 funding allocation slightly higher than the initial projection at $153,442,426 (Sections 2 & 3).

Compliance with net school spending totals is continuously in flux as the fiscal year has not ended and review of spending amounts occurs on an ongoing basis. While this is subject to change, Lynn is still facing a considerable under-funding of public education.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Lynners Weigh In on Recent New Schools' Vote

On March 21st, Lynn voters headed to the polls to weigh in the proposal to build two new middle schools in the city, one on Parkland Avenue and the other on McManus Field. When the votes were ultimately tallied, the 16.32% of registered voters who turned out rejected the city's plan. Some city residents were pleased with the outcome while others were of a different opinion. Andrea, a native Lynner in her late twenties with a young child, said she was initially a 'No' voter who, after learning more about the project, was ultimately in favor of the project and voted 'Yes.' When asked what she thought the vote came down to, she said:
I talked to a lot of voters on the hub dialer and I would say the biggest thing people voiced was misinformation about the Pickering location (it's Lynn woods, they are taking three homes, it's cemetery land) but in reality I think people didn't want their taxes to go up because they don't have kids in the system.
Another native Lynn resident also in her late twenties and expecting her first child submitted the following comment in the wake of the city's vote:
It is upsetting that this country spends more money on penitentiaries than it does on education. We live in a community with a rising crime rate and the only way to stop that is to educate our children. The conditions of our schools are embarrassing. Cramped, low light, falling ceilings, and water leaks are some of the many things that the children in our community have to deal with and all those elements can impair a child’s ability to focus. I understand the fear that new schools could impact taxes in our community and since our community is comprised of working class individuals, every penny counts. But can we really put a price on education and the decrease of crime in our community? Even if you do not have a child in the school system, everyone can benefit from a lower crime rate.
Scott, a Midwest native with two children in the Lynn Public School system, had this to say:
I was very disappointed in the recent vote in which an overwhelming number of Lynn residents voted against replacing the decrepit Pickering Middle School with two new schools. While I have only lived in Lynn for ten years, I have been very active on issues related to public education. I have spent many hours meeting with parents and community organizers and attending school committee meetings. I have two children in the schools. The older one, my daughter, attended Brickett Elementary School, where my son is still a student, and this building, like many of the schools in the city, was built before the Great Depression and before the first World War. When its one hundred year anniversary came in 2011, it was acknowledged, but not celebrated. Like most schools in the city, this building needs to be replaced. 

The citizens of the city of Lynn have neglected the upkeep of their more than twenty schools for over a century. The city has had many difficult periods economically in that time, and that accounts for part of this neglect. But the recent no vote suggests that there is also a belief that the physical structure of the schools, as bad as they are, is acceptable. Either because Lynners do not expect much from their schools, or because they have no have children or expect to educate them privately or in charter schools, citizens seem to be happy to let the schools remain as they are. There was a grassroots campaign to prevent new taxes, but there is no new grassroots campaign demanding better facilities in its wake.

My daughter currently attends the new Marshall Middle School. My family moved from one part of Lynn to another and our primary concern for the location was whether or not she would be able to attend this school. We love it. If I were in the one of the neighborhoods that had the possibility of a new middle school dangled in front of me only to have it taken away, I would be giving serious consideration to moving. The recent vote asked whether or not the citizens would fund the building of two specific schools, but as far as I’m concerned the real question is this: do the residents of Lynn love their town enough to replace ten schools or more so that our children, all of them, can get the education that they and their city deserve. If it is not, the city of Lynn will always remain a place that people end up when they cannot afford to live anywhere else.
Given that she has a young child, I asked Andrea if she had considered moving, as Scott mentioned, in the wake of the city's vote; understandably she is torn saying: 
Yes and no...I love Lynn. But honestly after the city voted this way I feel like I would actually consider moving whereas before I wouldn't entertain the idea. If we stay in Lynn, this 'No' vote and the future of LPS may change our choice on public versus private school. I never wanted private school but for K-8 we may seriously consider a private or charter school if the city doesn't get new schools. I want the best for my baby and the city has a few years to figure that out!  
She also added:
 I think families with young kids may look to relocate due to this.  
The long-term repercussions of this vote will remain to be seen particularly after the most recent development in this story - the city's decision to withdraw its application for new schools. This decision likely means that the construction of new schools will not occur at this point until at least the year 2020 at the earliest. Before then, the city will continue to grapple with an increasing student population and aging school buildings as well as the question as to whether split sessions will need to be implemented at the middle school level. Continuing discussion around this issue is also bound to be a factor in this year's mayoral election

Do you have thoughts on this issue? Submit them to