Councillor explains vote to hold School Department Budget ‘for additional clarity’
On Thursday, to fulfill my obligation to oversee and approve expenditures of the city, I voted to keep in committee for further discussion the $151 million Cambridge School Department Budget. This budget comprises nearly one-third of the city’s entire FY14 budget of $ 507 million.
Just as a teacher uses lesson planning to ensure subject objectives are covered, I feel the expenses within this budget should link to objective measures that produce a stellar and successful school district.
Specifically, I voted to keep the school budget in committee for further discussion because I would like to know how expenses relating to charter school tuition, out-of-district tuition and the high school extension program can be better controlled.
I would also like additional clarity regarding whether this budget supports the use of e-textbooks and world language instruction in the lower grades. These are key 21st century economy skills and technologies that prepare our children. The present budget does not seem to pursue these programs in a timely manner.
I am also mindful of the city’s commitment to the construction of three schools and I want to ensure that we do not exceed future debt obligations.
There are an estimated 8,100 school-age children in Cambridge, and yet only 6,400 are taking advantage of our public schools. The reasons nearly 20 percent of school-age children choose not to participate in our very well financed public school district should be vigorously studied. Bringing more Cambridge families into the public school district will improve experience for all.
The City Council date for adopting the entire city’s FY14 budget is May 20. There is a Finance Committee meeting scheduled for morning of May 16, and presumably this will serve as time for further discussion.
I am confident we can come to a clear understanding of the concerns raised by myself and my colleagues on the City Council in time to pass a Cambridge School Budget that works for all students, teachers, parents, administrators and residents of our city.
Minka vanBeuzekom, city councillor