By Meredith McCulloch
The School Committee has prepared an FY17 budget designed to meet the needs of Bedford’s children in the face of change. School Superintendent Jon Sills presented the School’s request totaling $37,343,398 to the Finance Committee on January 28, 2016.
The 3.50% increase over the previous year meets the Finance Committee guideline.
The Finance Committee’s guideline for the school budget set in December was for a 3.5% increase, or 1% higher than other Town departments, in anticipation of increased enrollment.
Beyond the “maintenance of effort” budget, which supports ongoing programs, there are four elements Superintendent Sills described as driving increases in the budget:
The first driver is that more special Education Social/ Emotional and Special Education staff are needed as more special needs children are educated in the district. Bedford continues to serve children with special needs in the district rather than send them to other schools. Serving more children with need for behavioral and emotional support in Bedford is part of a national trend. According to Mr. Sills, the Center for the Study of Social Policy reports that, “The number of children [in Massachusetts] whose parent was told by a doctor that his/her child had autism, developmental delays, depression or anxiety, ADD/ADHD or behavioral/conduct problems rose from 18% to 19% in from 2008 to 2012.” The number of children needing English as a Second Language support has grown from 5.1% to 7.1%.
By providing more support for special education and behavioral and instructional coaching, the necessity of adding an additional kindergarten class was avoided. Some offsets in staffing were made, resulting in a full-time-equivalent increase of only 1.45 employees.
It was noted that the enrollment of children from families in transition, living at the Plaza Hotel, has decreased to eleven and is expected to decline completely as the emergency housing program is phased out. With a small number of children spread across the system there is currently no impact on class size.
The second driver of the budget is an increase in the overall number of Bedford children served. Currently, increases are most apparent in kindergarten and at Lane School, grades 3-6. Lane is expected to need more classrooms in FY18.
The third driver is program improvements that provide curriculum leadership and more one-on-one instructional support
The fourth driver includes more support for professional development, increases in supplies for technology curriculum including robotics, and a continuation of a program of leasing iPads across all schools.
Where to find more information:
- Enrollment projections are derived from a comprehensive of current and projected enrollment. For a Bedford Citizen report on the study go to: https://thebedfordcitizen.org/2016/01/15/school-space-the-final-frontier/
- The full report is available on the Bedford Schools homepage (note that this is a large document and may take some time to load) at:https://www.bedford.k12.ma.us/images/stories/pdfs/super/spaceneedstaskforcereportlaneschool010616%20final%203.pdf
- A PowerPoint document outlining the budget request can be found at: https://www.bedford.k12.ma.us/images/stories/pdfs/super/SUPERINTENDENTS_FY17_BUDGET_REQUEST_Revised.pdf
Correction on February 3, 2016: This article was corrected to say the School budget request is a 3.5% increase, which meets the Finance Committee guideline.