School Committee Approves $139 Million Budget for 2019-20

The following is a press release from the Framingham Public Schools

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FRAMINGHAM – Last night the City of Framingham’s School Committee voted to put forward the Fiscal Year 2020 budget request for the Framingham Public Schools (FPS).  

This budget request is built upon the philosophy of investing in academic achievement, supporting employees, meeting the requirements of contractual obligations, establishing access and equity models, enhancing technology, continuing to streamline operations, creating opportunities for innovation, and utilizing data-driven decision making.

Fully aligned not only with the Framingham Public Schools Strategic Plan 2017-2020: Where Every Child Can and Will Reach High Levels of Achievement and School Improvement Plans at all individual schools, but also with state standards, this forward-looking budget creates a pathway to optimize student success.  

The budget was also developed with transparency in mind, with public forums, meetings, and web-based communications from the fall of 2018 to the present. In full compliance with Article VI of the City Charter, the School Committee held a public hearing on the budget on March 20, 2019.

The request totals $139,096,821 which would enable the the district to fund targeted and proactive education efforts in numerous departments, as well as at BLOCKS Preschool, nine elementary schools, three middle schools, Framingham High School, and the Framingham High School Thayer Campus.  

The total budget is supported by at least $50 million in Chapter 70, a projected $4,742,841 of special education support from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through its Circuit Breaker reimbursement program, and a projected $5 million in federal and state grants.  The year to year increase of 4.57% and $6,078,872 is similar to the current fiscal year’s 4.48% and $5,702,478.  In the last seven years it is the third lowest FPS budget increase.

At the same time, this request does not fully meet the realistic need the large, complex school district requires.  In fact, the identified need from the Superintendent’s zero-based budget process found that the district needs an additional $10,805,267 in FY20 beyond this specific request.  

The Superintendent worked with the School Committee during the budget process to reduce the original request from schools of 12.69%, to 5.66%, to 5.17%, considered additional options, and ultimately voted on the 4.57% submission to the Mayor.  

“I appreciated the opportunity to build the FY20 budget with our new Executive Director of Finance & Operations, Mr. Lincoln Lynch, and our entire leadership team,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Tremblay.  “This student-centered budget was built from the ground up on both the materials (operating) and staffing (personnel) sides of the ledger and is squarely aimed at investments in teaching and learning. As we continue to work toward equitability and desirability of all of our schools, we will continue to prioritize areas of inequity in every iteration of our budget.  I thank the School Committee for their support of and commitment to meeting the needs of all Framingham children and for asking important clarifying questions to ensure that every dollar is properly invested in our schools.”

“Analyzing and building upon the successes throughout the current fiscal year, investing in core areas to lesson challenges, and focusing on staff and student achievement led to this responsibly crafted Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal for the Framingham Public Schools,” said Adam Freudberg, Chair of the Framingham School Committee, District 4.  “This funding will allow the district to continue to build a strong foundation of high quality instruction with a fully aligned and engaging curriculum for our more than 9000 students. I strongly believe that the time is right to invest in our schools as the district is poised to make further substantial improvements. Thank you to FPS staff for their budget planning efforts, to my colleagues including the Mayor for their thoughtful questions and ideas throughout a multi month process, and to the Mayor and City Council for their upcoming review.”

Throughout the budget process examples were provided of recent FY19 success stories which show a strong return on previous investments and reflect that the strategic plan is making tangible progress.  This includes academic growth at Wilson Elementary School, new literacy and STEAM efforts, a student-led ecolab at the high school, voter approval to proceed with the construction of a new Fuller Middle School, award-winning drama and robotics programs, expanded dual language programming to include Portuguese Two-Way, new social emotional supports, a district-wide fourth-grade field trip to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and too many individual achievements by students, recent graduates, and staff to mention!  

Numerous reforms and cost savings were proposed as part of this proposal.  Examples include changes to how bulk purchases and instructional materials are procured, consolidations in central office staff, and a change in the transportation vendor for out-of-district students which alone saved $500,000.

With any budget comes the need to plan for year-to-year drivers.  This coming fiscal year, this district has carefully planned for projected increases in enrollment (including a new Grade 5 at King Elementary School), special education costs, dual language expansion, gifted and talented program investments, added instructional time in all elementary schools, and, moreover, increased social, emotional, and behavioral health initiatives.  This year is unique as it is part of a new series of six multi-year collective bargaining contracts. Investing in and supporting staff while extending their workload and hours in order to benefit our students directly is a priority of this budget and it requires an additional one-time investment to meet contractual obligations. Click here for details about the Unit A contract covering FY20.

The FY20 Budget’s New Reforms, Initiatives, and Investments Aligned with the FPS Strategic Plan:

  • Preparing for School Expansion and Enrollment Growth
    • Addition of one new grade and a new bus at King Elementary School, as 5th grade is added to the school for the first time.
    • Funding to support 1% projected increase in district-wide enrollment.
  • Accessing Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Career and College Readiness Programs
    • Flyers By Night at Framingham High School to increase access to affordable, relevant, and potentially career-igniting classes for Framingham community members.
    • Pilot program to provide chromebooks to a to be determined group of students to take home from school.
    • Continued consolidation of all technology hardware expenses and use of the recently created Sustainability/Life Cycle Model, offering the opportunity to better leverage timing, purchase power, and equity across schools grade-levels and departments.
  • Providing New Tools and Personnel to Reduce Student Stress & Anxiety
    • Continued targeted investments building off FY19 to support the social, emotional, and behavioral health needs of our students.
  • Strengthening School Safety & Security
    • Building on last year’s district wide Safety and Security Director, this proposal adds additional funding to support proactive efforts with city public safety agencies, perform District-wide assessments, and further develop and implement emergency response planning.
  • Supporting Bilingual Education
    • Increases to translation services, curriculum planning, and the Phonics program.  This will support dual language programs at Barbieri and Brophy Elementary schools, as well as the district’s diverse student population which currently services students from over 70 countries.
  • Investing in Additional Learning Time, Personnel, and Retention
    • Extending the School Day and Creating Equity in Teacher’s Working Hours
      • The new Unit A contract compensates teachers for an unprecedented change in working conditions.  As a result of the new contract, elementary teachers will work an additional 46.25 hours each per year, resulting in an additional 22,000 hours of instruction per year for our elementary students.
    • Supporting our educators with responsible cost of living and steps increases
      • Higher compensation for teachers when coupled with opportunities for professional growth are the key to hiring and retaining diverse and highly qualified staff who will possess equity in their workload.
    • Diversity Initiatives
      • Launching new programs such as Affinity Groups and Equity Ambassadors to serve as in-house resources to students and staff and support inclusive environments where all are valued, included, and empowered to succeed.
      • Increased funding to provide professional development and training for school staff in cultural proficiency, anti-bias training, culturally responsive teaching along with additional diversity and inclusion work.
      • Funds for the Human Resources Department to attend a greater number of recruitment fairs, and join organizations that assist schools in the recruitment and retention of diverse teachers, administrators, and coaches.
  • Teaching and Learning
    • Gifted and Talented (SAGE Program) Increase
      • An investment into the SAGE Department is included in the FY20 request.  Operating expenses have increased to $20,512 and new requirements for this Department include 1.2 employees for teaching and screening.
    • Creating a new summer program at BLOCKS Preschool for incoming kindergarteners with no preschool in order to help student successfully transition into Kindergarten.
    • Enhancing online music curriculum resource for K-5 students.
  • Increased Focus on Customer Service and Family Engagement
    • Upgrading the routing software to allow parent access to the arrival times of their child’s bus.
    • Analyzing bus routes to enable the optimization for scheduling and routing buses.
    • Establishing a Kindergarten School Choice Lottery module to establish efficiencies in the Kindergarten lottery process.
    • Supporting the Media & Communications Office to strengthen communications between FPS and families, as well as continuing the ramp up social media, and reforms to the FPS website and methods schools communicate to all stakeholders.
    • Creating parent organizers (liaisons) to assist in developing an expanded model of family engagement that focuses in on parent voice, parent rights and parent support.
    • Continuing Family, Friends, and Neighbor Days, a new district initiative launched this school year to foster community, family, and business partnerships that further support and engage our relationships and encourage collaboration.
    • Not increasing school breakfast and lunch prices, bus fees, and for the second straight year there are no high school athletic fees.

This budget, in accordance with the City Charter, has now been submitted to the Mayor.  This early budget submission by the School Committee (due April 9) now allows the Mayor additional time to review and consider the  Framingham Public School’s requested appropriation to the total municipal operating budget the Mayor will submit to the City Council in early May.

Dr. Tremblay recorded a short video this week introducing the budget process. It’s been subtitled in Spanish and Portuguese and can be found on the Framingham Public Schools website.

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: editor@FraminghamSource.com Phone: 508-315-7176

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