Let’s let the numbers do the talking
ConVal Tax article chart 1.jpg
ConVal Tax article chart 2.jpg
ConVal Tax article chart 3.jpg
I read this newspaper and it has had plenty of information written about the ConVal School District. I’ve researched and sourced facts that have been presented at School Board meetings and in newspaper articles and editorials. If any of you are like me, I learn better when I see the same information presented to me in different formats. I develop a deeper understanding of information and concepts when it is presented to me in a visual format. Therefore, I have created three charts documenting this information. Residing in Peterborough, I use only its tax information. It is my intent that the reader can develop their own understanding of these indisputable facts, and draw their own informed conclusions about the state of our school district.
The first chart, “Populations & Costs per Student,” shows the following changes in a seven-year period, from 2005 to 2013: A 0.5 percent increase in the Peterborough population; a 24 percent decline in student enrollments in SAU 1; and a 58.5 percent increase in the cost per student. This dramatic increase in the cost of educating a single student far outstrips inflation or the Consumer Price Index for our area — 1.4 in 2005 to 1.7 in 2013.
The second chart, “Class of 2015 NECAP Scores,” shows what we get for this increased spending: declining NECAP scores as our students matriculate through our high school. This graph is repeated fairly consistently in recent graduating classes. So, why are our students falling behind in high school, despite spending more per capita on their education? Is the majority of this increase in taxpayer-funded education going primarily to direct student education, or to escalating administrative overhead costs, or maybe facilities upkeep?
And the third chart, “2005-2014 Peterborough Property Taxes,” graphs the amount of taxes its residents have paid over the last eight years. What it shows during this time period, from 2005 through 2014, is an increase of 19 percent in county taxes; a 1 percent increase in state educational taxes; a 30 percent increase in Peterborough town taxes; a 47 percent increase in SAU 1 local school taxes; and a cumulative increase in our tax rate of 35 percent.
My opinion? It is likely that centralizing our nine towns into one school district in 1968 cut costs and improved overall educational benefits to our students. But over time this centralized school district grew and grew, just like its bureaucratic cousins at the state and federal levels, and became the ineffective administrative unit we have today. And just like its cousins, throwing more taxpayer money at problems doesn’t really solve them. People solve problems, leaders who inspire a community to make hard but necessary choices in order to serve the good of all, not just the few. I do believe we have viable solutions to the runaway costs and declining enrollment of our school district that will also enhance the educational benefits to all students. Local control is always more in line with the needs of their respective communities. I agree with those that say it is time for change.
I suggest we either revise or terminate the current Articles of Agreement and write a totally new one. I would suggest a school district consisting of a single middle school and high school for all nine district towns, with the elementary schools managed by their own towns. And if Antrim, Bennington and Francestown want to keep Great Brook Middle School, good for them. We work it out, such that these towns only pay for their students to attend ConVal High School then. There will always be naysayers, but at least I am voicing one solution that a fair number of residents have supported — not necessarily by their votes. Oh, and did someone mention charter schools? But that’s for another day.
Teresa Cadorette lives in Peterborough.