K-8 School Committee rejects school choice option; Regional school committee to vote tomorrow

Every year our school committees vote on whether to allow out-of-district students to attend our schools as part of the state’s school choice program. The K-8 School Committee has never voted to accept the option in the past, and this year was no different.

The school choice program enables a district to allow out-of-district students to attend their schools. Students are chosen by lottery and once accepted, are entitled to stay in the district throughout their schooling, regardless of whether the district decides not to take part in school choice in the future.

If it participated in the program, Southborough would receive a maximum of $5K per student in tuition, with more funding provided for those students requiring special education services. Superintendent Charles Gobron said the tuition payment doesn’t come close to covering the cost of educating a student in the K-8 district.

In recommending against adopting school choice, Gobron also said given current class sizes, the schools don’t have room for out-of-district students.

“We don’t have room without adding additional staff,” Gobron told the School Committee at a public hearing last week. “It would negate any financial gain.”

The School Committee agreed and voted unanimously not to take part in the program.

“If we’re considering closing a school, it would be almost irresponsible to bring in students through school choice,” School Committee member Kathleen Harragan Polutchko said, referencing the ongoing debate about whether to close one of Southborough’s four schools in response to declining enrollment.

The Northborough-Southborough Regional School Committee is expected to vote on whether to open up Algonquin for school choice at a meeting tomorrow night. While the K-8 School Committee has always opposed the option, the Regional School Committee has been more open to the idea, going so far as to form a study group to evaluate the pros and cons.

They’ll vote after a state-mandated public hearing on the topic at their regular monthly meeting on Wednesday. You can see their full agenda here.

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Jeff Beane
11 years ago

This logic is a little hard to follow. If we are thinking about closing schools doesn’t that suggest there is some room in the K – 8 area? Why would taking taking out of town kids in this context mean we have to add staff? I’d think the teachers would see this as an opportunity to retain jobs versus the job loss implications of closing a school. To the uninformed like me, the ARHS willingness to consider this option certainly appears to make sense. They won’t be closing ARHS but it is certainly well below capacity. The addition of a finite number (maybe that’s the problem) of out of area students @ $5k per pop seems like a way to save jobs…what am I missing?

Tim Martel
11 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Beane

Because 5k is not nearly enough money to cover the expenses. Not to mention special needs (i.e. more money is provided, but not in line with the service cost increase).

Because its about student-to-teacher ratio, not the physical building size.

Because once you accept a student of any age into Southborough, they then have the right to continue in Southborough through high school.

Because Southborough town residents have no ethical or legal obligation to provide through high taxes a quality education to non-Southborough students.

Al Hamilton
11 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Beane

In the short run, if you view teachers as a fixed cost, which they more or less are for any given school year taking adding children to fill out a class (but not adding teachers) could be a good economic decision.

A typical teacher costs us north of 100k per year with benefits (72k in salary, 15k in benefits and something on the order of 20k+ in retirement).

If you had an incoming K or 1 class with say 50 students I am pretty sure that we would want 3 teachers. If the target was a 20:1 Student:Classroom Teacher ratio that would leave space for about 10 choice students which could cover the cost of 1/2 of one of the teachers. The risk comes if those 50 turn into 55 or 60 over the years then you might be stuck adding a teacher which could turn a profit into a loss.

Of course there is the other side of the coin. All parents have the right to send their children to a Charter School and have the District pay full in full.

John Boiardi
11 years ago

The School Committee has finally made a decision I agree with regarding school choice.
We don’t need the added burden of educating children from other towns. If the program reimbursed the town for the true expense of out of town students I might be for it.
I can see a town such as Marlboro taking the pressure of their budget for teachers and classroom space by covertly encouraging transfer to Southborough via school choice.

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