School Budget Funds Teacher Visits To Student's Homes
The second largest public school system in Massachusetts will operate with a $346 million budget in the next school year, a 2.4 percent increase over what the Springfield schools spent this year.
The Springfield School Committee approved the new budget that avoids teacher layoffs and counts on energy savings and other cost cutting, according to Superintendent of Schools Dan Warwick.
" We have really worked hard to make cuts and look for efficiencies far away from the classrooms," he said.
Two dozen jobs have been eliminated in the school department’s central administration during the last two years. Warwick said he did not anticipate the need for additional layoffs in the fiscal year that starts July 1st.
The Springfield school budget is largely funded by the state through the Chapter 70 program.
" We have $7-$8 million in federal grant dollars going away," he said.
Warwick said the school administration budget writers faced a $16 million deficit as they struggled to present a balanced budget that would maintain current classroom education to the school committee.
" I think we accomplished all our key goals in the budget," he said.
He said a program started several years ago to replace furnaces in the city’s school buildings will cut energy bills. Additional savings will result from leasing, rather than buying, new computers. Principals will be asked to cut spending by 2 percent at each school.
Warwick said a math tutoring program that takes place during school vacations will continue as will a parent-teacher home visit program. The program where teachers make after-school visits to the homes of their students to meet with parents is funded by a grant that is expiring.
School Committee Vice Chairman Chris Collins said principals will be directed to use funds from an existing budget line item to pay for the home visitations.
" We were able to find a way to institutionalize home visits and actually spread it from the six pilot schools to all elementary schools using some Title 1 funds that were more than anticipated," he said.
Teachers are paid for the after-school home visits. Participation in the program is voluntary.
" Now, more teachers in the system will have the chance to go visit homes. The very first question they are taught to ask is: ' What are your hopes and dreams for your child?' Too often the only contact between teachers and parents is negative -- this is positive," Collins said.
Springfield was awarded $1.25 million from the National Education Association Foundation in 2010 to pilot the home visit program, which according to NEA, is now used by school districts in 16 states.