Michelle Geoghegan: A funding crisis in Easthampton schools

Last modified: Sunday, March 30, 2014
EASTHAMPTON — The futures of our children in the Easthampton public schools are fragile and seemingly on the verge of collapse. Over the past several years, access to a quality education that continually expands and improves the minds of our children and their prospects has decreased to the point of utter ridiculousness.

At the March 25 School Committee meeting, Superintendent Nancy Follansbee stated that budget cuts over the past five years have meant the loss of 21 teaching and support positions and $4.99 million in educational programs in the Easthampton schools.

In order to maintain existing services, which are sub-par at best, the School Department is asking for $16.6 million from the city for the coming fiscal year. That represents an increase of $1.36 million — or 8.9 percent — over the $15.3 million the city allocated to the schools last year.

Mayor Karen Cadieux called such a request “unrealistic” and indicated that there is no money in the budget to increase support for the schools.

At a time of arts and business revitalization within our city, where is the revitalization — and the resuscitation — of public school education?

Last year, voters defeated a proposed $1.4 million property tax override. Easthampton has so much to offer, but what message are we sending to families and children when education is not considered a high enough priority?

What message are we sending when we put the potential value of tourist-generated income from a proposed boardwalk around the pond ahead of funding for our city schools?

Yes, the funding sources are different, but if we can’t invest in our children’s education, well, at least we’ll have a pretty place to walk.

If I sound cynical, it’s because I’m losing hope. I believe many families in Easthampton feel the same despair.

I call on state Rep. John W. Scibak and state Sen. Donald F. Humason, as well as other government leaders, to demand a significant and sizable increase of funding from the state for the 2014–2015 school year.

I ask them both to advocate on Easthampton’s behalf. Our children are worth it. They need to be valued, respected and educated beyond the unacceptable standards in place in our city today.

Michelle Geoghegan is the parent of two children who attend Maple Elementary and White Brook Middle schools in Easthampton.