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The $100 Million School Budget

Resident George Levinson questions the cost of education in Hamden, which is more than it may appear.

 

To the Editor:

Happy 100th “Anniversary” Hamden!

Sorry, it’s not exactly an anniversary and it surely is not happy. Hamden has now passed the $100 million spending level on the schools!

But the new school budget is “only” $80.3 million, you say? Not quite. You see, the Board of Education gets its health care and other benefits from the town essentially free, without any direct budget.

The board’s share of the whopping $33 million health care plan alone is over $20 million. That brings the total over $100 million, not even counting other pooled benefits.

By the way, the board intends to create 12 new positions, four teachers and eight lunch aides (previously part time) with their new bigger budget. Benefits for those people will add about another quarter million in hidden cost. It’s like the board has a right to pick the town’s pocket!

So what do we get for that princely sum? We provide mediocre education for 5,800 students, less than 10 percent of the population.

The math is simple: 100 million divided by 5800 is $17,240 per student. That’s one of the highest numbers in the state. How come our district is ranked 130th of the 165 districts in the state?

This taxpayer just doesn’t understand.

George Levinson

Charles Baltayan June 04, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Extortion... what is not to understand? The 'retired' superintendent is treated as not retired but being paid more with a per diem and possible hidden $105,000 assistant. I wrote Mr. D'Agostino for confirmation of the arrangement and copied the town FOI officer (Susan Gruen) who claimed she couldn't comment as the BOE operates outside the Town's 'control'! For $5,000 you can send a child to Notre Dame or Sacred Heart with far better results. The mismanagement, corruption and theft continue to run rampant and unchecked.
JM June 04, 2012 at 12:56 PM
why don't we lease all the schools to the private sector? then we could lose all the employees and pay a much lower cost per student.
Sean Grace June 04, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Notre Dame and Sacred Heart are subsidized religious schools with selective admission. Both schools cost over $12,000 per year not the $5,000 you claim. Please provide the data to back up your claim that these schools get better results.
Sean Grace June 04, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Private education does not cost less. Non religious unsubsidized private schools such as Hamden Hall cost upwards of $30,000 and that doesn't even include transportation.
Charles Baltayan June 04, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Six students within 200 yards of my house attended both schools noted and parental reports were the trusted source. Neither school has excessive administration costs like two assistant superintendents, an unconfirmed but likely personal aide or four assistant principals. Even if it were $12,000 (which it isn't), thats a 30% difference meaning $30 plus million dollars.
karleen loughran June 04, 2012 at 03:19 PM
That's true Sean, but I think the point they are trying to make is that we are already paying for the public education through taxes but not receiving what we are paying for. At least if you are paying for a private education you get what you pay for. Keep in mind there are many scholarships available for the private schools (I teach in one). I would also like to mention that the catholic schools are not as selective as you say.
Sean Grace June 04, 2012 at 03:53 PM
FYI Charles; Tuition for the 2012-2013 school year is $12,300 for SHA not the $5,000 you claim. Tack on the cost of books and uniforms and subtract the special education budget from HPS and the picture starts to look different. Keep in mind that the $12,300 is subsidized by the catholic church so a better comparison can be made with unsubsidized private schools such as HHCDS ($30,000). I am not knocking these great private schools, just pointing out that its comparing apples to oranges.
Ted B June 04, 2012 at 04:05 PM
The Hamden Public Schools have to provide education to every child with special needs, unlike the private schools. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on special education which can run almost $100,000 for one child and they can't reject the child as the private schools can. That said, the public schools are way overstaffed, both in administrators and teachers. Class size is a myth. Look at the story that was on here a few weeks ago about how some administrators went to China and came back to report they have 50 kids in a class. There are lots of ways they could save money, but it would also involve the teachers contracts which are now untouchable. The Catholic schools do more with less because it's a matter of their survival. The public schools and the government in general have to profit and loss concerns so they do whatever the hell they want.
Ted B June 04, 2012 at 04:07 PM
That should be NO profit and loss concerns. They don't even have to worry about getting less money than they did the year before. They know they are guaranteed at least the same amount as they got the year before.
william tuttle June 04, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Ted interesting fact about China, but could you provide any examples slightly closer where some school has large class sizes and outpreforms a low class size school? The answer here in CT is no, I will save you having to look it up. But I agree that class size is not the disease or the cure yet are more of a symptom. If you look up school rankings it actually comes down to one fact and one fact alone..socioeconomics- the richer the town the better the school. This is why all this tenure talk is a straw man, New Canaan has tenure for teachers and the kids do fantastic, Bridgeport has tenure and the kids don't do fantastic, so tenure obviously has zero to do with school rankings. Richer communties wil equal class sizes out perform poorer schools, however the smaller class sizes happen to occur mostly in affluent towns.
william tuttle June 04, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Charles your neighbor led you astray, or they get a ton of financial aid. The $12K is tutiton and then add in the books etc you are closer to $13K.
william tuttle June 04, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Karleen, the bottom line is that private schools (which many of the catholic ones have waiting lists) do not educate the special needs student. So yes you are not getting a $17,000 dollar education because it is not an even split between all students. But I doubt many people with kids in school are paying $17,000 in taxes so at the average home tax rate of $7000 a year and two kids in school you are paying $3,500 per kid and that would mean all your other town services are free. Not a bad deal. And for the special education that is provided, using my tax money to help these children succeed seems a very small price to pay and something that a civilized society ought to do.
william tuttle June 04, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Just one more quick fact, at my above mentioned numbers that comes out to educating children for $3.25 per hour, you cant get a babysitter for that price.
Charles Baltayan June 04, 2012 at 08:54 PM
I stand corrected SHA is 12,300+ and ND is 11,600+ for high school level students. Grade school is much, much lower and in the range quoted. The per student cost is not separated by grade so an average cost should be in the $8,000 range and less than half the cost. The subsidy situation is similar as the Hamden Schools get state and Federal reinbursements which the Private schools don't. The Hamden Hall comparison is like suggesting that we complare Fords to Ferrarri's. Both can get you an education but the socioeconomic status of your peers is certainly different and not everyone can 'benefit' from a Ferrarri. The special ed program can't take all the blame as it is clearly one that receives reinbursement. The fact remains, as noted above, the schools are very top-heavy and not cost effective.
Dan Garrett June 05, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Hamden has a fine school system. That is the reason my wife and I decided to buy a home in this fine town. We have been extremely pleased with all aspects of Hamden schools. I thank Mike D'agastino for his 12 years of commitment to Hamden's fine schools.
George Levinson June 05, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Hamden schools are mediocre by any standard. Some parents are satisfied either because they are mis-informed or maybe they are just happy to have their neighbors paying the bill for their kids. There is no question that private schools give much better education. It's time to stop the excessive spending and demand better performance from the Hamden public schools.
Bryan Johnson June 05, 2012 at 02:41 PM
George, What standard are you using to define mediocrity? Parental involvement is required for successful schools. Private schools are also not hindered by unfunded mandates from the government. I think folks need to quit comparing Hamden schools to schools in neighboring towns and use the state DRG's as the measure. Can the schools get better, yes. Must the schools get better, yes. Do we need to do it more economically, yes. However that being said the school facilities are in need of repair, technology is on average 6 years old in the schools. We also have a very senior (on average) teaching corps. These teachers cost money due to the many years of teaching they have. Unfortunately I was not able to be on the Board prior to the contract being negotiated. My own children are in the system and I will have one at every level next year so believe me I am very personally invested in making the schools great.
Sean Grace June 05, 2012 at 03:45 PM
According to George "There is no question that private schools give much better education." Actually multiple studies have shown that once you control for socioeconomic status there is little evidence to support that assertion.
Charles Baltayan June 05, 2012 at 10:30 PM
I am sure you will find some poor families with good performing students.... it is not about the socioeconomic status as much as it is about family values. Those families that value education will have students that perform well if given the tools to learn. The private schools provide a better education much more cost effectively. It is clear that the Hamden BofE has abused the taxpayer in the past and continues to do so with the 'new' retired Superintendent. Funny how it was reported by the NHRegister and the Patch to be a $750 per diem, then mentioned months later that the figure was now $850 and when I questioned, after being first ignored, I received a copy of an agreement stating that the figure to be $795 on an undated agreement. Mr. D'Agostino is a lawyer and is clearly covering tracks but to believe he and Ms. Rabinowitz would sign and not date their signatures is beyond normal comprehension and belief. The arrangement has gone beyond smelling bad to a rancid stench.
JM June 06, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Just wait till next year when they give her a 100.00$ a day raise
Healthisgreat June 06, 2012 at 01:05 AM
"Private schools provide a better education"..... I'm really tired of hearing this claim. You have to look at the type of child that attends a private school. Everybody close your eyes and think of that student. Cookie cutter...yup! If you are a problem to the school and/or do not care about education then you are kicked out. What happens in the public system? EVERY CHILD HAS A RIGHT TO AN EDUCATION, it is NOT a privilege. Therefore, if a child gets suspended, kicked out..etc, regardless of whether or not they actually want to be there, they must return. If the public school decides that public school is not a safe environment for them to be a part of, that child will get sent to an alternative school such as ACES. What happens if they get kicked out of ACES? Yup... back to the public school where they got kicked out from to begin with. Teachers need help in getting children motivated, to like school, to want to be there. If a child feels connected and a sense of pride in their school, students perform much better!! There is plenty of research to back this up!!We need parents to back teachers, support them, read to their child starting at a very young age, hold them accountable with their homework (just as teachers do), value school at home, talk about school at home, make an effort to be apart of the P.T.A. I'm not saying that all teachers are perfect.... but they go into the force because they want to work with kids, not all parents have kids because they love children...
Dan Garrett June 06, 2012 at 09:48 AM
Healthisgreat, thanks for the accurate post.
John June 06, 2012 at 07:30 PM
$85k gym teachers hahaha
John June 06, 2012 at 10:38 PM
The problem is not the teachers, it is the hign number of administrators, who are not supervised at all and earn outrageous salaries and benefits (paid much more than teachers) and contribute nothing to teaching and in fact destoy education because they do nothing to support good teachers who try to hold children accountable when the parents complain that their children are not getting A's
John June 06, 2012 at 11:53 PM
I gather math was hard for you. central office $1.4 million directors $1 million principal $2 million clerical $2 million ------------------- total $6.5 million teachers $38 million aides $2.2 million ---------------- Total $40.2 million Cutting the office costs in half would save $3.25 million and is basically a fantasy it's going to actually happen. Cutting teachers wages 10% would save $4 million. If they where never allowed to get as high as they are in the first place there would be a smaller problem. Every year they managed to get another 1/2 percent or so ends up compounding over the decades. Only simpletons would pay a grammar school gym teacher as much as a high school physics teacher. The BOE, town council, mayors over the years, people running the schools are all clueless to pass the contracts over the decades. The USA is one giant trailer park full of people without a clue. 2010/11 budget $131 million in property taxes, yeah cutting a few million out off the school front office costs is going to save the day, sure is simpleton thinking considering the pension funds are massively under funded.
John June 07, 2012 at 12:11 AM
George How much of the town muni debt is because of school construction, it's another off budget costs paying that debt so the real cost per student is even higher.
George Levinson June 07, 2012 at 05:12 AM
I'm very impressed. It looks like you folks are really starting to get it. The Board of Education is loaded with pork at every level. A gym teacher may make 85K, no surprise, half the teachers make that much. We have 31 administrators averaging about 130K, not even counting the Superintendent.. The half filled buses cost a total of 7 Million. We spend $700 per student on paper! and the list goes on. This year the teachers didn't get a raise so they piled on the pork everywhere.else. Next year the teacher's raises alone will add between 1 and 2 million. Many people are not aware, but Connecticut statute does not allow a town to cut the budget at all, even if enrollment drops, as ours has. This year was the one that we could actually have had ZERO increase but the politicians just couldn't handle it. Politicians like Mike D'Agostiino keep piling it on and the mayor and Council buys the party line claim that any fiscal responsibility at all would hurt the children. We all know it's not about giving them more money. Many towns deliver superior education for thousands less per student. We should freeze the BOE from any more money next year and every year until it actually improves its performance.. Force them to cut the fat and fire incompetent teachers. In the end education quality might actually improve as cost drops.
John June 07, 2012 at 09:42 AM
George I got it years ago and left town.
Dan Garrett June 07, 2012 at 12:19 PM
George, John has great advice. Buh bye.

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