In response to some questions already raised by inquiring minds, the School Committee has crafted a communication regarding the Massachusetts Department of Education’s School Choice program which is included below. If after reading the information below, you continue to have questions regarding the cost versus the benefits of this program, EducateHopkinton.com encourages you to contact anyone of the School Committee members listed below to discuss your questions.
In this article, the Hopkinton School Committee would like to clear up some misunderstandings that have arisen in the public mind about the School Choice program.
The School Choice program provides an option for any School Committee to vote to allow students from other school districts to attend its public schools.
The Hopkinton School Committee is considering whether to participate in the program during the school year beginning next September. The idea was identified by the Financial Plan Working Group in its report last October as a potential way to bring new revenue into the town to help alleviate the structural deficit in town finances.
Hopkinton used to accept School Choice students but has not participated since the 2000-01 school year because of growing enrollments and space constraints. We have had our hands full trying to keep up with a rapidly rising population of school-aged children living in Hopkinton. However, this situation has begun to change in the last few years. Enrollments in the lower elementary grades have shown a significant drop, and estimates from the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) are for this lower level of enrollment to persist over the next ten years.
Under state law, the School Committee can limit school choice seats to specific grade levels and specific numbers of students based on available space. If the number of applications exceeds the number of seats available in a grade, a lottery is held. After a student is accepted, he/she must be allowed to stay in the school system until graduation from high school.
The School Committee is NOT required to accept students who were expelled from schools in other school districts.
Participation in the School Choice program relates only to accepting students from other districts. It has no bearing on Hopkinton students who choose to go to school in other districts. State law allows students from any district to go to school in another district that accepts incoming students in their grade (subject to space constraints). There are currently seven students living in Hopkinton who attend school in other districts under the School Choice program.
The district that the student is coming from is required to pay the receiving district a certain amount for each student. The amount is based on a formula established by the state. The formula is tied to the average per-pupil spending in the receiving district. The amount that Hopkinton would receive for each School Choice student coming into the district is $5,000 per school year. For special-education students on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), the amount would be higher based on the state formula. The receiving district is not required to provide transportation to and from school for School Choice students.
To understand how participating in School Choice could raise revenue without compromising the quality of education, consider the following example. Suppose that one of our elementary grades has 240 students and 12 classes. The average class size would be 20. If we were to take 20 students into that grade via the School Choice program and add 1 class, then the average class size would remain the same, 20 (260/13). The cost of staffing the additional classroom would be about $50,000. However, the 20 students would generate $100,000 in new revenue. This would provide $50,000 that could be used for other purposes. This example assumes that no incoming students have special needs. A separate analysis would need to be done to determine if the incremental revenue that would accompany such students per the state formula would cover the incremental costs incurred by the school district.
The School Committee has great flexibility in deciding how to use the new revenue. For example, the money could be used to offset other expenses of the school district, thereby reducing the amount that Hopkinton taxpayers would have to fund. Alternatively, in the example described above, the extra $50,000 could be used to hire a second new teacher, thereby reducing average class size for the grade. This assumes that there is space available for a second new class. Another possibility is that the money could be used to hire a new teacher (or a portion of a new teacher) at the high school in order to add more sections of particular courses and thereby reduce the number of sections with high class sizes. These are examples of the possible uses of the incremental funds.
The School Committee is continuing to study the matter and will give careful consideration to the decision about whether to participate in School Choice for the school year beginning next September and, if so, to what extent.
Detailed information about the state’s School Choice program and data on those districts participating in the program is posted on the Massachusetts Department of Education web page on School Choice.
If questions remain about the parameters of the School Choice program, please let us know.
Hopkinton School Committee:
Rebecca Robak, Chair
Nancy Burdick, Vice-Chair
School Committee Member Email Addresses:
Rebecca Robak, Chair firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy Alvarez Burdick email@example.com
Lyn Branscomb firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Stoldt email@example.com
Phil Totino firstname.lastname@example.org