FRAMINGHAM – Tonight, April 1, the 9-member elected Framingham School Committee unanimously approved a $147,350,934 million budget, which is a 6.4% increase from the current school year.
The budget is an $8,865,948 million increase over the current 2019-2020 school budget.
“The increase can be broken down to account for the unique first year of specific new education funds through the Student Opportunity Act, which according to the state is approximately half of the increase at $4,347,619,” said the School Committee
The budget now goes to Mayor Yvonne Spicer, who can cut or increase the budget before presenting it to the City Council for a final vote before June 30.
“This budget request is built upon the philosophy of investing in academic achievement, supporting employees, establishing access and equity models, enhancing technology, improving safety and security, legal compliance, meeting contractual obligations, continued streamlining of operations, creating opportunities for innovation, and data-driven decision making,”‘ said a joint press release from the Superintendent of Schools and the Chair of the School Committee.
“This year’s submission is framed by two major changes and external events. First, the detrimental impacts of COVID-19 to the community and economy, and second, the positive and long-awaited changes to Framingham’s foundation budget and increased levels of state support from the new Student Opportunity Act,” said the press release.
The fiscal year 2021 budget request totals $147,350,934. which would enable 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, at this moment, by at least $58 million in Chapter 70 state aid which includes Student Opportunity Act (SOA) funding, a projected $5,958,633 of special education support from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through its Circuit Breaker reimbursement program, and a combined projected $7,555,734 in federal and state grants.
“Analyzing and building upon the student and staff achievements throughout the current school year, investing to deepen current initiatives to address the various inequities in existence, utilizing new state funding secured by the Student Opportunity Act, and focusing on the next phase of the school district’s strategic plan led to this responsibly crafted Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposal for the Framingham Public Schools,” said Adam Freudberg, Chair of the Framingham School Committee, District 4.
“When our building and district-level leaders started to build the FY21 budget back in October, we could not have imagined then what we are facing now in our world,” said Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay. “We are surrounded by the unknown in nearly every facet of our lives. I am grateful to our teams of teachers and administrators who spent the time they did – when they did – to build the thoughtful, forward-looking budget framed by our philosophy of providing every Framingham student what THEY need in order to achieve at a high level in our schools.”
“We submit this budget during the COVID-19 era of uncertainty, stress, and anxiety about our way of life, our health, and the future of our education system. With crisis however comes pride. We are all so proud of our school community. Teachers, custodians, nurses, food service employees, secretaries – in fact all FPS staff no matter what their role have stepped up, along with parents, guardians, and students. Never before has the meaningful impact schools have on a community been made even more clear during these times. We look forward to collaborating with the Mayor and City Council during their upcoming reviews so together we can all continue to strongly support education in the City of Framingham,” said Freudberg, who is chair of the School Committee.
“Fully aligned with the Framingham Public Schools Strategic Plan 2017-2020: Where Every Child Can and Will Reach High Levels of Achievement, the updated 2021 strategic plan which is currently under final stages of development, the School Improvement Plans at all individual schools, and state standards, this is a forward-looking budget, focused on creating pathways to optimize student success,” said the press release.
“As one City, we will work through the many details that still lie ahead, always putting students first and with the understanding that the most important investments in our budget will continue to be those human resources that connect our students with educators and support staff. As a community, we are learning firsthand that human interactions, in school, could not be a more important investment,’ said Tremblay.
During the School Committee meeting tonight, multiple members and district leaders discussed how this budget is being submitted during the COVID-19 period of great uncertainty.
The School Committee motion to put forward this budget passed with the understanding that revisiting this submission and working with the Mayor and City Council over the next several months will be necessary, said the Committee in a statement.
“As city revenue projections are adjusted, federal stimulus allocations become better defined, state aid is finalized, city and state stabilization funds are potentially used, and other factors influencing the FY20 and FY21 budgets are assessed, the School Committee and FPS will work with all branches of city government to arrive at a collaborative solution, while also never once losing sight that they are all fully committed to support our school system staff and our students as they work through a crisis-driven paradigm shift in education,” said the press release.
This year is a groundbreaking year for how the state plans to increase funding for education.
Signed into law in November 2019, the Student Opportunity Act implements the recommendations of the 2015 Foundation Budget Review Commission and includes other provisions to benefit public schools over the next seven years.
The main focus of the legislation is to invest in evidence-based areas to improve student outcomes within subgroups of students who are not achieving at the same high levels as their peers.
Preliminary numbers from the Governor’s budget proposal have Framingham receiving $4.3 million in Student Opportunity Act funding.
As part of this budget, public school district will have a Student Opportunity Act implementation plan built on current programs, and ultimately is proposing to invest in evidence-based initiatives to deepen success, said the district.
The Act funding will be utilized to cover year to year budget increases from enrollment growth, focus on student subgroups who are not achieving at the same levels as their peers, and seeks to address the various inequities in existence and the opportunities to support student achievement and social-emotional behavioral health in our schools.
At recent School Committee Meetings, members and staff noted that throughout the district they are so proud to have recent current school year (FY20) success stories showing a strong return on previous investments and reflections that the Strategic Plan is making tangible progress.
This includes the expansion of the elementary school day, increased number of dual-language classrooms, expansion of robotics and video production in the middle schools, construction of the new Fuller Middle School, award winning drama and robotics programs, new social emotional supports, and too many individual achievements by students, recent graduates, and staff to mention, said the district.
With any budget comes the need to plan for year-to-year drivers.
This fiscal year, FPS has carefully planned for projected increases in enrollment (more than 220 new students over last school year), dual-language program expansion, new special education expenditures required by law, and, moreover, increased social, emotional, and behavioral health initiatives, said the district.
With this budgetary approval, FPS will also meet contractual obligations by investing in personnel to support student achievement and professional development, said the district.
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 by early May,” said the press release.
The draft FY21 Budget Book with details and proposed funding for every school and every department can be found here.
“The final FY21 Budget Book will be updated by early next week, submitted to the Mayor, and posted on the School Committee’s website. This budget book builds on recent changes to continue to strive to make the product a thorough document reflecting recent accomplishments, school profiles, and all planned initiatives and expenditures,” said the press release.