Friday, June 7, 2002
Like many Carlisle voters, I have been grappling with the recent town meeting and vote that turned down an override request to fund the schools. I have also done some research. After consultations with members of various town committees, here's what I've learned.
Carlisle has nearly 1800 houses, with a population of just over 5,000. There are currently about 840 students in the Carlisle school system; 304 Carlisle students attend Concord-Carlisle High School. About 40% of Carlisle households have students in the public school system. The annual cost, per child, of an education in the Carlisle School system is about $8,800. The annual cost, per student, at CCHS is around $10,800.
Our tax rate at the moment is $15.75 per thousand of assessed value (but due to increase soon). The average assessment in Carlisle is $500,000. As a result, the average tax bill is around $7,900. In order for a family with two children in the Carlisle system to contribute the actual cost of their children's education, they would have to live in and pay taxes on a house assessed at a little over a million dollars. If a Carlisle family had two children at CCHS, they would have to live in a house with a correspondingly higher assessment. Since far more than half of us do not live in a home assessed at a million or more, our children's education is being subsidized, if you will, by other taxpayers. It actually does take a village to raise, or at least pay for, a child.
About 60% of families in Carlisle do not have children in the Carlisle or Concord-Carlisle school systems. That works out to a little over 1,000 homes of the 1,800 total. Let us say that 50 homes without children in the school system, or 5%, are sold and then bought by families with two children each. I have spoken to a real estate agent in town, and this seems reasonable. (One of the great attractions of Carlisle to prospective home buyers is the school system.) This would add 100 more children to the school system, thereby increasing the total to 940. This in turn would raise the school budget by roughly $800,000. Currently, the total school budget is $7.1 million for the Carlisle School; $3.8 million for CCHS; and $87,000 for Minuteman Tech. The overall education budget totals $11 million. Such a change in just 50 homes could result in nearly a 9% budget increase.
Some might use these numbers to advance their own agendas. But these numbers make a far more compelling case, to my mind, that we need one another. We need the views and support not only of parents, but also of those 60% of taxpayers without children in the schools. We can't afford, in a very real sense, to ignore one another.
If you attended a public school or university at some point, chances are very good that someone else's taxes paid for your education. The chances are also high that the money spent on your education was the single best investment of your life. Even if it only opened one door, it made possible your share in the wealth of the community and the nation. Just as others once paid for us, we now pay for the next generation.
As a result of the recent vote, we are going to have to raise more money through private donations. If we all pull together, we can answer voters' concerns about rising taxes, parents' concerns about the school program, and teachers' concerns about compensation. We do have common ground, and it's on School Street.
Is METCO expendable?
While town officials wrestle with raising the money to match the Concord FinCom budget for Concord-Carlisle High School in fiscal year 2003, I'd like to respond to a recent "Letter to the Editor" in the Mosquito titled "High school's METCO program is expendable".
Parents with school-age children are having to face budget cuts here at the Carlisle School and at CCHS. Can you imagine what it must be like for inner city families to face far deeper budget cuts that will be affecting the Boston schools? There are approximately 90 METCO students attending CCHS. Can't those of us living in an affluent community like Carlisle, the third wealthiest town in Massachusetts according to a recent Boston Globe article, support a program that helps inner city students gain a better education?
And what about our own students at the high school? Isn't it beneficial for them to be interacting with students of different races and backgrounds? The majority of CCHS students will graduate and go off to colleges where diversity is an important factor in college life these days. Times are changing. As we head into the 21st century, this country is becoming a multi-cultural society where we all must learn to get along together. Wouldn't it be a good time for our children to start the process now as they enter the secondary school system? In Concord, METCO students attend Concord schools as early as the kindergarten.
From my own family's experience back in the early eighties, being a host family for a METCO student was an experience we wouldn't have missed. For both of my sons, there was a METCO student on one of the CCHS sports teams who sometimes needed a place to stay overnight. In each case we got to meet the students and their families at the beginning of the freshman year, and then were able to celebrate together at graduation time. Even now, 16 years after graduating together from CCHS in 1986, my son Tim and Alex Gonsalves run into each other in Harvard Square, where they have an opportunity to catch up with each other's lives.
No, the METCO program is not expendable. It benefits our students as well as METCO students.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito