Municipal school budgeting is not all that complicated, particularly in Everett. The school superintendent comes to the city council with a budget request, the council approves it, then the superintendent is responsible for spending it. If there’s a $9 million deficit, that’s on Superintendent Fred Foresteire. Meanwhile, Foresteire, the school committee and the teachers’ union are whipping up protests. It’s misplaced anger that will be somewhat mitigated at Monday night’s city council meeting anyway.
There is no doubt a change in state funding formulas left the school short as the number of economically disadvantaged students wasn’t properly calculated. But that’s no excuse. The funding formula was changed for all municipalities, not just Everett. Why don’t other cities and towns have massive budget deficits? And why did it take until just weeks ago to know the extent of the problem?
Meanwhile, Foresteire has made it clear that it’s the city council and the mayor who are the bad guys here. It’s the easy thing to do. But it’s not the right thing. Students, parents, teachers and others have already descended on city hall with chants of “save our schools” and “keep our teachers.” Another, bigger protest is set for Monday afternoon. That’s what happens when the school committee and Foresteire hold a special meeting and tell everyone 109 positions—including 58 teachers—are on the chopping block if the city and the mayor don’t pony up millions more than already appropriated to the schools.
There seems to be a troubling lack of oversight of Foresteire. The school committee is a rubber stamp for the superintendent, most of them owing their elected positions to him. How in the world could an $9 million deficit pile up? Why wasn’t anyone watching?
Foresteire’s game plan is fairly obvious. He spends all the money his department was appropriated (and then some), allows the massive deficit to pile up and then starts screaming that the mayor and the city council don’t care about teachers or kids and starts threatening that they better come up with more money or face massive protests.
The city council will meet Monday night—as the protest at city hall continues—and will appropriate $5 million as proposed by the mayor. It may not stave off the layoffs that set for Friday.
Besides Foresteire, the school committee needs to held accountable as well. Foresteire, nearly everyone believes, operates with a disconcerting level of autonomy—he does whatever he wants. The school committee and the city council would do well to initiate an audit of how the $74 million school budget was overspent by $9 million. Residents of Everett deserves nothing less.