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School Committee Approves $96.6 Million Budget; Parents Advocate for Instrumental Music Program

Parents and a high school student advocate for reinstating elementary school music programs.

The Framingham School Committee, without much discussion, approved the Superintendent's recommended $96.9 million budget, including 22.5 positions needed due to rising enrollments or state mandates.

School Committee member Carol Phalen’s motion to accept Superintendent Steven Hiersche’s $96.6 million budget and have the document prepared for Town Meeting passed without discussion.

When asked about a $218,000 difference in what the schools want and what the town will allocate, Hiersche said he would be able to overcome the gap.

Hiersche’s report showed an increase of 22.5 full time positions that were either driven by enrollment requirements or by state regulations.

Another 13 positions are added as enhancements to current programs. Of the 22.5 enrollment/compliance positions, at least 10 are special education positions mandated by the state.

Four, new assistant elementary school principal positions are required to oversee and implement an involved state-mandated teacher evaluation program, said Hiersche.

Hiersche said the budget books will be delivered to Town Meeting sometime next week in advance of the April 24 start of the Annual Town Meeting.

School Committee members while agreeing on the $96.9 million budget, have not specifically agreed on how that money will be spent.

Also at Tuesday night's meeting, several parents and and one high school student implored School Committee members to reinstate the elementary school instrumental music program.

Michael Berkson, one of two Framingham High representatives to the Framingham School Committee, gave his personal opinion as to why music in the lower grades is important.

“Music is not just special because you learn to play and instrument,” Berkson said. “It is special because of the community that you build out of a collective passion.”

Parents who spoke related how music has helped their children academically, socially and artistically. 

Assistant Superintendent of Schools John Brackett responded to the parents with a promise that a committee is reviewing at all the issues and will be looking for ways to reinstate the elementary school music program. Committee members include music teachers, elementary school principals and parents.

“The issue is availability and cost,” said Brackett. “In the short term, what can we do for next year and what will be a long-term solution?”

He mentioned the committee will be seeking grant money to help offset the cost of lessons. “It’s going to take a while to put things in place,” he said.

This year and last year, PAC said there about 200 students across all 8 elementary school students participating in the fee-based instrumental after-school lesson program. This year, based on state education numbers there are 650 fourth graders and 645 fifth grade students.

Students enrolled in the fee-based after-school instrumental music program have to pay about $150 twice a year, plus the cost of a monthly rental of an instrument.

Jim Rizoli April 07, 2012 at 05:01 PM
As I was saying..... So..... since we have the little kids here how about getting the Feds or the State to kick in some money for us considering we would be considered a hardship case, as we are having a hard time paying for them. So far our Reps are not getting us ANY money. Let me set all of you straight here......I don't care if there are a million immigrant kids in our schools I'm just concerned about why WE are paying for them and the bill for them isn't dispersed throughout the state, Country whatever. Why should we be the major recipients of the kids and have to pay for them, and the other towns get off scott free and saying I'm glad Framingham is the town where the kids are ending up and not our town. Lets get ALL the towns to kick in. it isn't fair for us to be the town that gets all of them and then have to pay for them. Are we all clear on what my thoughts are here? If they are going to stay lets have them (or someone else) for that matter chip in and pay. It's not fair for us to foot ALL the expenses for these kids. Jim@ccfiil;e.com
Diane Tiger April 07, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Now finally we can tease something actionable out of the rhetoric. Maybe you can partner with those who are advocating for the schools to get more Title 1 funding? Help with the case to support updating the formula to reflect the change in demographics?
Ray Salemi April 07, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Jim, have you ever noticed that when you pull a number out of the air it is always 80%? You should mix it up.
Jim Rizoli April 07, 2012 at 07:29 PM
I'm all ready to go! This is what I said at the meeting with the W&M the other night. I just think the people advocating for the schools are going about it the wrong way. I had to let people know what the problem was, those advocating now have to go after the money but not from us Framingham people. So far they haven't gone after the right pocketbook, and that is the reason people like myself get a little bothered by it all. This is a Unique Framingham problem...... but it has to be addressed by more people out of Framingham. I think the good people of Framingham have spent enough. Jim@ccfiile.com Jim@ccfiile.com
Perry Lowell Bent April 09, 2012 at 01:13 PM
There are research-based studies that show that children exposed to music do better in math. So there are more than just cultural gains in having music programs for children in our schools. -Perry-

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