I hope your spring is starting sweetly.
As we enter the final stages of developing and adopting the Cambridge Public Schools’ annual budget, I thought you might appreciate an update. The Superintendent presented her proposed FY24 budget in mid-March. Her $245m budget draft includes many recommendations that I support, such as the expansion of the Educator Pathways Programs I wrote about last month, the Math department’s growing partnership with the Young People’s Project and use of Flagway, and a cybersecurity specialist. While I was troubled to see the Design Lab and summer scholarships eliminated in the Superintendent’s first draft, I am pleased that Dr. Greer has since reinstated funding for both. In addition, I was grateful that the Superintendent heeded my request to fund school meals for all students, but have since agreed that we should shift that $700,000 to the Fletcher Maynard Academy and King Schools Extended Learning Time programs for School Year 2023-24, as the state just informed districts that it will no longer provide support for select longer school days, and schools and families are already planning for next year. I am now lobbying our state delegation to have the Commonwealth fund universal school meals, which appears to be a real possibility.
(CRLS 9th graders consult during the Social Action Summit)
The top four budget-related concerns the Committee has heard are that (1) the community wants more time to review and comment upon the Superintendent’s proposal, (2) we need to make the budget document accessible to speakers of languages other than English, (3) families want staff positions allocated equitably across school communities, particularly at the Kennedy-Longfellow School, and (4) families and educators would like to see CPS expand its partnership with the Cambridge Math Circle. I took this feedback to heart and, with my colleagues, added another meeting specifically for public comment on the proposed budget, as well as pushed the Committee’s vote back by a week. We also asked the administration to post the Superintendent's proposed budget on the website, which has a widget for translation. These are process changes we will continue to improve upon in future budget cycles.
(I had a blast sharing a favorite book with first graders at the Kennedy-Longfellow!)
As for the staffing questions, Dr. Greer and the Chief Financial Officer responded to the Committee’s inquiries in this helpful document.
Regarding Cambridge Math Circle, please allow me to clarify my stance. I think CMC is a wonderful program. I have concerns about our internal process for funding partners generally, not about this particular partner. For four budget cycles, I have asked that we have a clear timeline, as well as a set of criteria for awarding and evaluating grants to local organizations. District leaders suggested that we update this funding process with a new District Plan, which we now have. I will continue to advocate for a transparent grantmaking process for the roughly $1m the district invests in community non-profits.
(CPS' amazing Family Engagement team at Rollin' & Summer Resources)
Finally, the Committee unanimously pushed for less funding to go to central administration and more to student-facing positions. When the Superintendent brought her revisions back to us this past Tuesday, she had cut 1.5 full-time positions from the administration and added a paraprofessional to the KLo. She also allocated $60,000 for schools who have a higher proportion than the state average of students considered “high needs” (students with disabilities, who are multilingual learners, and/or from a lower socioeconomic status).
The Committee is now scheduled to vote upon the revised budget proposal next Tuesday, April 11th. If you would like to share additional perspectives or requests, please email the full Committee at [email protected] or sign up for public comment here.
As always, I welcome your questions and comments.