FRAMINGHAM – My kids won’t attend Fuller Middle School, but I hope tens of thousands will be able to because of the decision about to be made on Tuesday.
Here are my top seven closing points on why I believe voting Yes is the right decision for Framingham.
#1. This is about Eli and his generation
Eli is an elementary school student and will eventually attend Fuller Middle School. Eli’s birthday is on Election Day. Eli told me, “For my birthday on December 11 I think a new school would be a good present. A new school will have new things that will help us learn. The new things will be cool and interesting!”
#2. Unified support
The Building Committee, School Committee, City Council, Mayor, State Senator, and State Representatives are united. Even the local Democratic and Republican Committees came together to endorse this project, writing, “We believe this project is right for Framingham and has widespread support no matter what one’s political party is…We encourage voters to learn about the project and consider joining us to vote Yes for Fuller on December 11th.” How often does this unanimous support occur in our nation?
#3. A rare chance at state funding
The state agency called the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is offering $39.5 million for Fuller. It took three tries for Framingham to get accepted, as only around 10-12 outof 120 statewide applications to the MSBA are selected for this unique opportunity. As a former state official who worked for a Governor and Lt. Governor on municipal relations, I learned time and time again that communities should simply not say no to this unique offer which comes with rigorous state oversight leading to on time, on budget school projects.
#4. The cost of saying no is too high
Here is one recent example. Do you want Framingham to be in this situation?
2012: $50M project for the Lincoln School. $21M grant offered by the MSBA. Voters said no.
2013-2018: Years of trying to get back in to the MSBA pipeline were rejected in 2013, 2015, and
2016. Kids are still trying to learn in a school where major systems are in need of repair or replacement.
2018: Last week Lincoln voters approved the project, now at $93.9 million due to construction escalations since 2012. Now, the average tax bill increase there is $2546, a 20% increase to every residential taxpayer. That $21M state offer? They tried, but now the state’s contribution is $0. I repeat that, $0.
#5. Balancing affordability with the reality that construction costs money
The proposed project cost is $98.3M. This ranks 9 th of 11 recent middle school projects in Massachusetts. The MSBA will provide $39.5M with the City’s share estimated to be $58.8M. From $58.8M, the town/city over many years proactively saved $8M for a down payment. That brings the specific impact to the average residential taxpayer to $101/year or $8.41/month or 28 cents/day. Without the state grant the $101 rises to $176. And with renovating versus new construction it rises to $244. This is why you may hear advocates say Yes Costs Less, because it really does.
The effort has been rigorous and transparent. 30+ School Building Committee meetings, ten community forums, four library forums, two senior center forums, and at School Committee and City Council meetings. Plus websites, posters, and press releases. One of the first decisions I made in January with the Superintendent was to put this project on every single School Committee meeting agenda to allow for public participation and constant transparency.
#7. Improving our system of education by righting a chronic inequity
Under the recent state ranking system FPS was ranked Level 3. It’s like golf, you want your score to be the lowest. With our talented Superintendent Dr. Tremblay, and a dedicated team leading us in our city’s new era, now is the time to continue the rebirth. The new school will allow for educational parity with three elementary schools sending students to our three middle schools, and will match Cameron and Walsh which has better infrastructure. It was also well designed with enrollment projections worked in, so together with Walsh and Cameron, FPS will have enough space for our middle school populations for decades.
#1 about Eli is enough for me. Perhaps Eli’s quote, along with #’s 2-7 are enough for you? I hope you consider the facts and choose to participate on Tuesday. Our new city will be a better place if Yes prevails.
Adam Freudberg is Chair of the Framingham School Committee, a Member of the School Building Committee, former Senior Advisor to the Governor and Lt. Governor, and is a father to three kids who will not attend Fuller Middle School. These are personal views not necessarily reflecting the views of these committees.