State legislators came to Brookline for the annual legislative breakfast, and there was one reoccurring theme, lack of money. State representatives, senators, School Committee members and residents attended a working breakfast to share ideas while munching on mini croissants.
From enrollment to special education transport almost every issue faced one major obstacle, funding.
“I would like to step back for a second and say what I believe…there is not enough money in the state budge to do many, many things and one thing is education…” said state Rep. Frank Smizik, D-Brookline. “We don’t talk about that.”
Key topics included, enrollment, reforming the so-called circuit breaker transportation and trigger, sustaining METCO, health insurance coverage in schools and what lies ahead for charter schools.
Special education issues were discussed at length. Brookline is a “destination community” for special needs because it satisfies particular needs, according to state Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem, D-Newton.
One pressing concern: Transportation for special education students, which costs Brookline approximately $1 million a year and is not state funded.
Creem said she has been trying to get transportation reimbursement, but has not yet been able to do so.
“We can still do better,” she said.
With all this talk of money School Committee member, Rebecca Stone asked what areas of education were most vulnerable.
“Creating new programs…also pre-K and stuff like that,” said Smizik in reply. “Reimbursement for special needs children is something that is not funded well enough…it’s hard to say…if we don’t have any more money, we’ll see cuts.”
Questions about charter schools and the funding behind these types of schools also came up.
“There has been a push whether senate would take up a bill for lifting the charter school cap,” said Creem.
Lifting the cap on charter schools would open the door for more to be founded in Massachusetts.
But where the funding for such schools would come from was another major topic. Smizik expressed concern that money from the budget going to character schools could be moving money away from more traditional schools.
The states concern for opioid use may begin to affect schools as well. Sara Sabshon, chief of staff for state Rep Jeffrey Sanchez, D-Jamaica Plain, discussed opioid training programs in schools. According to Sabshon, communities would have some flexibility in the plan for opioid training and there is a school-based component. However, no money is attached to providing these trainings.
With growth in the Brookline schools up 40 percent the district is looking to the future and the costs behind this. Connely discussed the need for “seriously looking at the expansion of a high school.”
A statement of intent for high school plans was submitted to the MSBA but was turned down because it did not rate as one of the most urgent projects. Another statement of intent for the project can be submitted again in April.