Anyone with a child in public school knows this one all too well. You pay even higher taxes to support the schools, but you’re also kicking in extra all the time.
That made Chuck from Hudson curious. He went to our Curiosity Web page and asks:
“How was it possible that when I was in school and property values were a lot less, there was enough money in the budget so there weren’t any fees?”
Well as David Wade found out, there’s a big difference between then and now.
The “good old days” have been overtaken by the “expensive new days,” and that means in most communities, fees for buses, sports and other activities are as common as a pep rally in the fall. When we were kids, tax dollars paid for pretty much everything in school. But now, in addition to activity fees, parents are constantly being asked to support a variety of school fundraisers and to donate classroom supplies.
Schools today certainly look the same as in the past and the goal is the same, to educate kids. But school officials say getting to that goal, accomplishing that mission, is entirely different now.
“It requires more staffing, more specialists, more expertise,” says Maureen LaCroix, the Superintendent of Schools in Bedford.
Even though her school system hasn’t had to institute fees so far, as Vice President of the Massachusetts Superintendent’s Association, LaCroix has a statewide view. “The way we look at education and the way we approach children has changed significantly,” she said.
The most important factors: The growth of Special Education needs, the growth in computer technology which is now an expensive priority, class sizes have come down so more teachers are needed, school nurses today are dealing with dangerous food allergies and other medical problems, paperwork requirements have gone through the roof, and the realities are just not the same as when “we” were kids.
“We’re preparing the students for their future, not our past,” says Rob Ackerman, the principal of the Lane Elementary School in Bedford. “Parents, when they say it was good enough for me, why isn’t it good enough for my kid? Their education wouldn’t be good enough now,” he says. “And in the good old days, some kids fell through the cracks. “Students with certain disabilities, students who might have struggled, schools didn’t focus on them as much as they do now,” says Ackerman.
Some administrators also say the tax limits of Prop. 2 1/2 don’t allow schools to keep up. But other people argue we’re taxed enough and that expensive pensions and generous benefits result in a failing grade in the schools.
Whichever side you come down on, one thing is certain. With today’s economy, schools can’t expect funding increases, and that means there could be more pressure on parents to dig into their wallets.
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