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Nerissa Wallen of Triton Regional testimony

On Tuesday, Triton Regional School Committee member Nerissa Wallen offered the following testimony before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. 

My name is Nerissa Wallen. I’m a parent and School Committee member in the Triton Regional School District, and I work with the Support MA Regional Schools group. I read the article in the Boston Globe yesterday about Brockton’s schools, which was a great snapshot of the extremes of education in MA today. I think the piece it missed in contrasting just the two towns is that no district is getting enough aid right now. The towns that have relative wealth can compensate to a degree, but it can only hold up for so long before we are in the situation Brockton is today.

Over the last 15 years, Triton has gone from seeing 33% of its funding come from Chapter 70 to just 22%, and at the same time, our local assessments have risen from shouldering 62% of our funding to 75%. It is unsustainable. My small town’s total tax levy plus new growth is usually a little under $400,000, that’s the TOTAL, and the last four years, the Triton assessment increase has been at or over that amount because of a combination of negligible increases in Chapter 70 funding and the effect that the Minimum Local Contribution formula has had on the town assessments. Even with local support, Triton is one bad budget year away from being close to Brockton. I have two kids in the district, and with one teacher cut in my youngest son’s kindergarten grade, class size would go from 18 students to 28 students. In my older son’s grade, one teacher cut would take them from 24 students to 36. It’s the same across all grades. It is devastating. Year after year, I see the damage on not just our schools, but our towns and our residents. This is our situation, but its reflected across the Commonwealth.

Please, we need your help. When Triton was founded, our three member towns understood that they would receive full reimbursement for regional transportation costs. Please, keep that promise and fully fund regional transportation.

I want to draw a contrast here with Secretary Peyser’s use of the word “significant” earlier today: please make significant strides toward funding the Foundation Budget Review recommendations. On top of those recommendations, please fund a study to look at how the foundation budget formula affects regional school districts in particular, as described in Senate Bill 217.

We are facing almost a million dollars in Special Education increases this year. Please, return Circuit Breaker to 75%.

Triton’s enrollment, like so many other districts, has dropped, and we only receive a per pupil increase in Chapter 70. We need FBRC and S217 for the future, but please fund that increase at $100 per pupil for now.

Our students are Massachusetts’ future. We need to give them the quality education they deserve, and it becomes more and more difficult each year.
Thank you for your time and attention.