A well-educated population benefits people at all ages, because education is a key indicator for economic prosperity as well as health and well-being. The City of Leominster is responsible for educating more than 6,000 public school students annually, but for years, we have underinvested in them. It is time to get out of this rut so we can better prepare Leominster’s youth to attend college, enter the workforce, the military, or devise their own unique path.
Investing more in public education does not mean that property taxes must increase or that some other city department must get cut. What it does require, however, is transparent budgeting and planning and a mayor who is a proven coalition builder and a champion for education. As a new leader with professional experience in priority setting and meeting facilitation, I look forward to starting a new chapter of collaboration with the School Committee, Superintendent, and City Council. With professionalism and dedication to shared goals, we will be able to balance the City’s needs to save for rainy days, pay for promises already made, and also better invest in the future generations.
Investing in the future of Leominster requires a multi-pronged approach...
To lay the groundwork for the success of more children, we need to find ways to provide high-quality and affordable early-childhood education, including pre-kindergarten for every family that wants it.
We also need to insure that our Center for Technical Education & Innovation has the equipment, resources, and partnerships it requires to meet the future needs of emerging and evolving employers.
Because we are getting better at identifying unique learning styles and special needs of students at earlier ages, we need to be properly-staffed to work with families in order to support all students in reaching their potential.
As a multicultural Gateway City, we have students from all over the world who often speak more than one language already, but still need to learn or improve their English in order to thrive here. We must support English language learners and have high expectations for them, just as we do for students who are working to learn Spanish, French, or any new language.
Lastly, students will also benefit from more choices for internships, AP classes, and other opportunities to excel and discover potential career paths
Each year, Massachusetts school districts receive from the state varying amounts of “Chapter 70 funding” based on each district’s population and other demographics. Each municipality must add local funds to the state portion to at least meet a base line of funding for its school district. This is what is called “net school spending” (NSS). The vast majority (90%) of Massachusetts’ municipalities contribute well beyond the minimum baseline. They do this because they know that public school funding contributes significantly to the community as a whole and is an essential investment in the future.
Unfortunately, in the past few decades, Leominster has rarely invested more than the bare minimum required by the state—even though we have the resources to do so. The few times we were above the base level, it has been by a miniscule amount, compared to the full school budget. This means that for more than a generation, 90% of all public school students in Massachusetts have had more advantages than our youth. Compared to Leominster students, nine out of 10 students in the Commonwealth have benefitted from things like smaller class sizes and more guidance counselors, school nurses, art and music teachers to additional AP classes and more computer and current technology.
We know that prospective businesses, developers, and homebuyers are drawn to communities with the best school districts. Even though our teachers and staff are working their hearts out to prepare students for their next steps after high school, the story told by the dollars and cents over the past many years is that Leominster’s schools are on the bottom shelf. Other communities on that bottom shelf with Leominster include Everett, Fall River, Lynn, Chelsea, and Lowell—even though Leominster is a wealthier community than each of them.
Looking at communities with similar median household incomes as Leominster, you can see the significant difference in how they support their schools.