By Seth Daniel
The City Council is preparing to take on a request very soon from Mayor Carlo DeMaria on behalf of the Everett Public Schools – a $1.3 million request that will help the schools fill a critical gap left by a change in the state funding formula and help them begin to bring back many of those laid off last year as a result of that change.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria is believed to be ready to ask the Council to approve a $1.3 million payment to the schools from the City’s Free Cash payments, which were certified just recently by the state. Free Cash is an annual payment from the state that comes to the City as a result of positive revenues and financial positions from the previous fiscal year.
Last year, the Everett Public Schools, and many school systems in neighboring communities like Revere and Chelsea, were hit with a change in the way the state calculates the numbers of low-income students. A school district receives more money from the state when the numbers of low-income students in a district are higher. When the state made that change, it caused the numbers of Everett students officially classified as low-income to plummet – causing the schools to lose nearly $5 million in funding over one year.
The key difference is that only students on official state or federal assistance programs qualify for the economically disadvantaged designation. In Gateway Cities like Everett, Chelsea and Revere, many students are very poor, but don’t qualify for official public assistance programs.
Supt. Fred Foresteire said the change last year meant laying off 96 teachers, teacher aides and other staffers. With the commitment from the City, if passed, the schools can begin bringing folks back to their jobs.
“This is all very positive,” said Supt. Fred Foresteire. “It’s what you’re seeing for the first time in a long, long time where the city government is working so well with the School Department…Everyone used to play it as the schools against the city or the schools and city against the state or vice versa. You’re not getting that at all. It’s more about how do we fix it than how do we make it a bigger problem. It makes all the difference in the world.”
Foresteire said the mayor stepped up last year to commit the $1.3 million in funding, and on that promise last October and November, Foresteire began hiring back some of those lost last year.
“Last October and November we began to hire more people with that promise,” he said. “Now we’re hoping to bring on more people. We lost 96 people due to that change at the state level. This is going to soften the blow.”
Similar situations played out in other communities as well, with Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino making a similar commitment to the Chelsea Schools last year when it suffered the same fate as Everett.
In Revere, a state appropriation helped the schools fight off the loss in funding, though they still finished the year down significant dollars from what they expected prior to the change.
So far, some city councilors seem very agreeable to the idea.
Councilor Michael McLaughlin said he had heard about the plan and supports it fully.
“I am unquestionably looking forward to supporting that because of what the governor has done to cut the state budget and the pothole fund that Senator Sal DiDomenico set up,” he said. “I want to take the bull by the horns and get the kids the resources they need to be successful. I see this as a big positive.”