Some districts score big $ despite low enrollments
by Elisabeth J. Beardsley
Friday, August 1, 2003
Top Senate leaders have quietly arranged to lavish nearly $1 million on
hometown school districts that have only a handful of students - including
several without any kids at all.
The 15 Western Massachusetts towns, which have 52 students between them,
have long since regionalized their schools - but held onto their cash after
furious lobbying by their local politicians.
Ten of the 15 towns are in the district of Senate Banks and Banking
Committee Chairman Andrea Nuciforo (D-Pittsfield), whose efforts landed
$763,494 to support 47 vocational students - or $16,245 per student, far in
excess of the state average of $9,184.
``Hey, in my judgment, this is not some grave injustice - this is part of
getting us back to even,'' said Nuciforo, adding that his towns took steep
cuts in transportation and school building aid.
Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed $451,048 from the districts, paring each town's
money down to match the actual number of students - but the House and Senate
overwhelmingly reinstated the cash.
Four communities that had zero students - Raynham, Buckland, Rutland and
Sandisfield - reaped $21,961 combined. The town of Holden, which registered
a single student, made off with $111,568.
The big winner is Dalton, which got $229,451 for nine kids - pocketing
$216,539 because it spends less than the state requires.
The revelation surprised even some lawmakers who represent the
beneficiaries - prompting calls to reform the school aid formula.
``Obviously, they probably shouldn't be getting any money,'' said Rep.
William ``Smitty'' Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat whose town of Sandisfield
received $6,389 without having a single student.