The Board of Education accepted and forwarded the Superintendent’s Budget, as proposed to the Board of Finance last week.
Superintendent of Schools Kelt Cooper’s 2015-16 budget proposal asked for a 10.5 percent increase including 60 new positions. The new budget would stand at $136,112,393. That’s an increase of $12,912,393 over the adopted 2014-2015 budget.
“The learning environment we are able to provide our students is vital to their success. Our children deserve the same quality academic/facility components as their suburban and magnet school peers,” said Sharon Beloin Saavedra, school board president. “This budget represents what we believe we need to be a regionally competitive school district, providing our students with the necessary tools to be successful both while they are in New Britain schools and when they seek a post secondary education or go directly into the workforce. Lowering class size in our elementary schools and expanding elective course options at NBHS are the Board’s budget priorities along with maintaining a commitment to provide 21century instructional materials, increase the use of technology across content areas and making facility improvements.”
Included in this year’s budget is the addition of 60 additional full-time staff. Forty-two of those are teachers; 27 are classroom teachers. The additional classroom teachers are requested to alleviate overcrowded classrooms, especially in the kindergarten and first grade levels.
Additional classroom space for new teachers would be freed up by moving a total of eight preschool classrooms, from Lincoln, Chamberlain and Smith, to a new preschool center created at the former Roosevelt Middle School. There would continue to be preschool classrooms at DiLoreto Magnet School, and at the new Gaffney Elementary School, to be completed for the next school year.
To alleviate overcrowding at Smalley Academy, the administration proposes altering the neighborhood schools border between Smalley Academy and Lincoln Elementary School. The result would be approximately 90 current Smalley students moving to Lincoln next school year.
The superintendent has also proposed moving HALS Academy from its existing, rented space at St. Francis of Assissi, to the former Roosevelt Middle School. This would provide HALS students with needed classroom space, plus art and music rooms, a computer lab and media center, which the existing HALS building does not have. The district would save money by no longer paying rent for the existing HALS building.
In addition, the science and technology organization known as CPEP, which runs a program out of Slade Middle School, is looking to move from Middletown to New Britain. Under the superintendent’s proposal, CPEP would rent out two to three classrooms at the former Roosevelt Middle School. Students from both HALS Academy and the Satellite Careers Academy, also at Roosevelt, would be able to take advantage of CPEP’s programs.
The budget also calls for the creation of a district-wide warehouse, to streamline the purchasing and inventory of textbooks, furniture, supplies and other materials. The district has a potential space in mind in the city, at a cost of approximately $30,000 per year, after initial renovation costs.
“We understand that a $13 million increase is a big ask. However, If you divide that request by the number of students we serve, it is an increase of $1,300 per pupil. Taking our current per pupil expenditure of $12,842 and increasing it to $14,142 – which is still below the state average and well below magnet school expenditures,” said Saavedra. “In 2013-14 New Britain was 157 in per pupil expenditures. Children who begin school from behind need more. When students from impoverished communities are asked to succeed at the same pace as their suburban counter parts, they need to be provided the resources to accomplish that expectation. The State Constitution clearly spells out that education is a right and is the duty of the State to fulfill. As much as we here in New Britain appreciate all the current support we receive from the State of Connecticut, our children need more. Child Poverty is on the rise and education is the great hope and promise. We must keep that promise.”
Board Member Nicholas Mercier said he also would like to see more money from the state.
“The problem in New Britain is not local support and funding, it is the fact that we are constantly underfunded by the State,” said Mercier. “If we received the average of what the rest of the districts in our reference group received we’d be getting over $15 million in additional state funds. It is time our state government addressed the education funding issue it’s attempted to avoid for over a decade.”