Today’s Worcester Telegram contains an articles by Brian Lee titled “Southbridge schools seek big budget hike”.
In that article Acting Superintendent of Schools Sheryl Stanton makes the observation, “Southbridge is a Level 4 underperforming district with 2,262 students. It projects an enrollment increase of 88 students in 2015-16, Ms. Stanton said.
Its per-pupil spending is $13,366. But similar districts that are working to shed their underperforming status, such as Salem, Holyoke and Randolph, spend $14,873, $16,151 and $15,587, respectively.”
She doesn’t mention other school districts that are also Level IV such as Athol-Royalston, Fall River and New Bedford that spend $13,378, !3,534 and $12,802 per pupil respectively.
In 2012 the estimated per capita incomes for Salem, Randolph and Holyoke were respectively $31,193, $27,951 and $20,278. For Athol, Fall River and New Bedford the corresponding levels of per capita income were $19,452, $19,869 and $20,450. For Southbridge the estimated per capita income was $22,722. Therefore, Southbridge’s per capita income was much closer to that for the second group and higher only than Holyoke in Ms. Stanton’s examples.
Southbridge is further distinguished by that fact that, as we reported earlier, it has the highest rate of unemployment in all of Worcester County.
Conversely, Holyoke is making great strides in improving its economic condition. In recent years there have been successful efforts to attract high-tech jobs to Holyoke and diversify its economic base. For example, a coalition of universities and tech companies are building the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, an energy-efficient, high-performance computing center, in Holyoke. These companies and institutions include Cisco Systems, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT,) the University of Massachusetts, Boston University, EMC Corporation, and Accenture PLC. The data center has been built in Holyoke in part due to hydropower accessibility.
The retail sector has been a major employer since the construction of the Holyoke Mall, one of the largest shopping malls in New England, in 1979. Retail has provided the city with a large and steady tax base, contributing over $7 million in taxes annually.
Southbridge has had none of these economic developments and has essentially squandered the revenues that it has derived from its landfill.
Ms. Stanton needs to realize that she cannot cherry-pick districts to compare to Southbridge that are not, in fact, comparable. Further, it is not constructive to use such dissimilar examples to subsequently imply that Southbridge’s failure to adopt her proposed budget indicates an unwillingness “to shed their underperforming status”.