​​It is generally advisable that we spend more time relishing what we have in life than what we do not. The same applies to our city’s schools — we’re lucky to have such bright and talented students, passionate and committed teachers, excellent arts and athletics programs, and strong ties to New Bedford heritage and roots, through our innovative Sea Lab or our collaboration with the Whaling Museum and Zeiterion Theatre. However, this year’s budget process has me straying from my own advice. While we do indeed have much to celebrate, I find myself lamenting what we do not have, and why we as a community must continue to fail to provide even the most basic resources for those exceptional students and dedicated educators.

The School Committee’s budget recommendation for the upcoming fiscal year is $120.4 million. If you’ve followed the process, you know that this figure was formulated by taking requests from the district’s principals and managers to reflect what they reasonably need to educate and serve the students in their care. This totaled over $125 million. Knowing well the fiscal context in which we live, the School Committee instructed the administration to cut this further, and they did, coming back at $120.4 million after the painful reduction of the most rudimentary of items, from crayons and paper folders and routine technology purchases to the maintenance budget — even as our custodial staff struggles to keep up with the oldest stock of schools in the commonwealth and after a harsh winter that saw them unfairly maligned for their performance. Citing the fiscal realities affecting the city budget, the mayor recommended a school budget of ​$​118.8 million to the City Council for its consideration this June.

While I can certainly understand his very practical opinion and respect his dogged advocacy for the city’s fiscal health, there are a few broader questions that frustrate me dearly as a proud alumnus, a resident and a School Committee member. First, why does this have to be our fiscal reality? Why can’t we, as a community, commit to providing the resources our schools need, not just to function, but to thrive? Why must we constantly settle for less than other communities? The reinvention of New Bedford starts with education. We should not succumb to the same challenges and pitfalls that plague other Gateway Cities — at least not laying down anyway.

​ ​A school system that has what it needs to prepare an educated population of the future is a most worthwhile investment — an assertion that few will argue against but seemingly even fewer will argue ardently for.

Here’s an example that illustrates the disadvantageous position our students are placed in as a result: We are the only school district in the state that has an “early release” day every week, in which students go home at 1 p.m. on Fridays, an embarrassment that deprives our elementary students of 60 hours of learning a year — 60 hours that kids in other cities spend in front of a teacher. In restoring that time, our students would also get the same amount of art, music and phys-ed as their peers in other communities. Don’t they deserve it? How can we deny this?

The old excuses simply aren’t there. The current administration has managed the budget masterfully. Gone are the days of shortfalls, deficits, wastes and scandals. The assertions that the district is too “top heavy” are myth. We spend a smaller percentage of our budget on administrative salaries than the overwhelming majority of the state. Every cent of the ​$​120.4 million budget can be defended and justified for its impact on student learning. And while some school turnaround methods can be contentious and frustrating to those of us who often disagree with the state-mandated practice, they’re even more expensive. We can’t afford to ​have any more schools slip under their Level 4 or Level 5 authority by underfunding them while we still have a chance to right the ship ​ourselves without the heavy-handed intervention of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

This investment and reinvention through education has the potential to transform. Only when people are trying to move in​to New Bedford​ because of the schools, rather than out, will you see property values rise significantly. Surely that takes some effort on the front end, but it prepares our next generation for bigger and better things. Isn’t that what we all want?​ We’re trapped in a vicious circle in which underfunded schools create a skills gap that feeds into the income inequality that leads to more or further underfunded schools. It’s time we step up to remedy the situation.

It is for these reasons I support and applaud my colleague Bruce Oliveira for his bold efforts to get the City Council to consider adopting a provision ​of state law that would allow the council to consider the budget recommendation of the School Committee independently of th​at of the​ ​m​ayor​, this year ​and​ in the future. I hope they do vote in favor of this provision, as City Councils in other communities have in the past​.​ ​While their approval of that provision does not guarantee it, I hope that later in June, the Council​ give​s​ the school administration a chance to justify the expenditures ​included in the $120.4 million budget. While I fear we still might see another year of more of the same, another ​$​118.8 million, the bare minimum our schools — our kids — can receive, I’m hoping for something different. And I hope you are too.

17 thoughts on “Success starts with well-resourced schools … By Joshua Amaral

  1. Are you posting all comments if they avoid threats and/or expletives? There seems to be some heavy handed moderating going on here. Are you protecting Joshua Amaral for some reason? I hope not. He is a total loss. The reformers have assimilated him.

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  2. When the Council asked the school committee to address their concerns in a meeting no one showed up! When the school committee does not address the issues of the public they should be called before the city council. Now we need more TLS people, new books, and whatever else is on the list. Take charge of the upper level hiring process. Outsiders making lots and lots of money. They certainly aren't spending it here.

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  3. We will never have schools that people move into the city for until we get a handle on the outrageous discipline problem we have in our schools. On a daily basis there are students in our schools that are becoming increasingly violent. This is happening at the elementary level and the students are not even listening to basic requests. Teachers are being degraded by vulgarity, unsafe students in the classroom and a lack of response from administration. As not only a resident of New Bedford but as a Tax Payer this infuriates me. Our schools will not be a place where people will want to send their children until we clean up the mess that has been made. Maybe Josh Amaral would feel differently if the SC took the time to visit the schools unannounced to see what really goes on. The dog and pony show is nice but reality would be eye opening.

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  4. I'm wondering …do you pay real estate taxes in New Bedford Joshua?? As a city Educator I'm being squeezed on both ends. Escalating taxes and nothing extra in my pay. We were given a meager $500 and then forced to have extra meetings each month for PD. What a joke. All of this and Pia gets over $180,000 and because she has no people skills gets to hire a PR person….are you kidding?? The money is being spent to hire administrators who haven't got a clue. Our district is imploding from within and the school committee is clueless. They even think we should hire homeless people from Boston to shovel during the winter….can you believe the stupidity!!! Josuha used the teachers to get elected and then sold us down the river!! Don't run again Josh because we aren't buying your BS this time!

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  5. More money is not going to stop anymore schools from slipping to level 4 or 5. The rapid turnover of principals who were hired by Pia Durkin who've been fired or quickly quit will further sink this district into a state takeover. If anyone thinks otherwise they are dreaming. Pia Durkin does not work for the New Bedford School Committee. She works for Mitchell Chester. You and your fellow members do as your told and shut up. You are a disappointment. Shame on you for allowing this mass exodus of teachers happen in front of your eyes yet still support Pia Durkin and her ludicrous requests for more money.

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  6. Josh A. keeps putting his hands up and saying the SC must stay in their lane. Look around Amaral–PLENTY of REAL school boards across this state make bold statements that discredit the path the DESE has us on. DO SOME HOMEWORK little man with your degree fresh of the press.

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  7. It is absolutely amazing to me that Amaral is pushing for more money for schools and teachers on Facebook are attacking him and making wild and inaccurate assertions about what he is looking for. No wonder we are……

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  8. Got to love the teacher on FB asking where the extra money goes. Ummm, maybe just maybe it goes to the new contract INCREASE for teachers. Stop living in fantasy land

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  9. The problem with Amaral and the rest is the money is going to the wrong resources. They believe in fully funding Pearson products. Another Pearson Math program is touted as essential. I disagree. It will not level the playing field for our kids. Put it off for now. Our elementary students are suffering and the math program will not be the spark to keep them in the New Bedford Public Schools. So many are leaving for the charter schools and other places like the Our Sisters School, Nativity, Catholic…if we were headed in the right direction these kids would not be leaving.

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  10. Does mr amaral know Friday release is for the elementary and that students would not get 60 extra hours compared to our suburb colleagues because they get a whole day every month to use for planning time ,whereas we get only the Friday afternoons that are usually taken up with dismissing students meeting with parents putting up with bullshit and other housekeeping things,Students need less time in school not more,that's why they are burnt out and so are their teachers..it's become like prisons for these children

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  11. I sat there and listened to josh and what all the great things he was going to do and his impartiality he would wear like a badge of courage….I am so sad to see they got to him………..: (

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  12. It is beyond me as to why people think more time in school is a good thing. I agree with the person that said the kids are burnt out and so are the teachers. Here's an idea , let's deal with the kids that don't want to learn by having more alternatives settings available . Oh wait, here's another one …. Why don't we try to be smarter about the time we do see them! We spend most of our time dealing with problematic students and teaching to a test ! Those that say we don't are fools !!!!! I wish I had the money or political backing to start my own school!

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