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Thread: Newton Override and METCO program

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    Default Newton Override and METCO program

    As part of the debate over tax override in Newton, one aspect being raised by supporters of override is 10% increase in student enrollment leading to higher teacher-student ratio (25:1 in some elementary schools) and the need for more classrooms. Opponents are focusing on the non-Newton students enrolled in the district. These are the children of Newton teachers and METCO kids from Boston. In my opinion, Newton has low taxes - median tax bill is $7,000 and tax rate is 1.2%. There is also no reason for making such a big deal out of a 4% tax override when the bulk of the money is going towards rebuilding 2 crumbling elementary schools and expanding a 3rd elementary school. Having said that, I do think the METCO student enrollment issue has some merit.

    The money for METCO comes from the State and I believe, their reimbursement pays for additional expenses of the district administration but not for teachers and higher infrastructure. The program has been justified by the thinking that the negatives associated with a higher student-teacher ratio is made up by better educational opportunities created by a diverse student body.

    These are some of the complaints about the system being raised in Newton:

    A. The racial orientation of suburbs have changed since 1966. The suburban school districts are becoming diverse due to an increase in Asian student population. Also the ME program is not keeping up with the times as hispanic students continue to account for a small proportion of its student base.

    B. Suburbs have higher taxes than Boston primarily because they don't have Boston's commercial base. Boston also has a tiered property tax rate for commercial and residential. It also gives a generous 30% exemption for owner occupation. Boston is proud of the fact that it has had no override for 30 years. Newton anti-override group is asking for Boston to pay suburbs for educating its students at charter school rates.

    C. Just like NCAA scholarships, Newton schools use the Metco students to win sport titles.

    In my opinion, a case can be made for lowering Metco enrollment and also asking for higher reimbursement rates.

    I am very interested in your opinion? The details regarding Metco program are given below (source: Wikipedia)



    Metco program

    The mission of METCO is two-fold: (1) to give students from Boston’s under-performing school districts the opportunity to attend a high-performing school and increase their educational opportunities and (2) to decrease racial isolation and increase diversity in the suburban schools.

    It has been reported both qualitatively and quantitatively that most families weigh the opportunity for an excellent education as far more important than decreasing racial isolation. While families may acknowledge it as an important side factor, it is generally referred to as secondary to the goal of maximizing educational opportunity.[4] The program focuses heavily on the support network and environment in each of the towns in which it operates. METCO partner families or METCO “buddies” are designed to bring the communities together and provide support for METCO students in the town in which they attend school. A look at any of the community METCO sites is generally filled with advertisements for community events, such as the Weston/METCO Family Friends WHS Pumpkin Festival or the Weston/METCO Family Friends Ice Cream Social.[5]

    Funding and Administration

    METCO is a state-funded grant program run by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. While the Department has final authority related to the grant program, the Department works closely with the METCO Advisory Committee on policy, which consists of representatives from the METCO community, directors, superintendents, METCO Inc, and parent representatives.[6] Overall, the program has two levels of administration. The central office in Roxbury organizes placements, transportation, special programs, and policy decisions. METCO directors and counselors in the suburbs work with METCO students, their parents, and the personnel in the school district. The program was originally supported through a grant from the Carnegie Foundation and the United States Office of Education. While some of the participating suburban communities pay for a portion of the costs themselves, METCO is paid for in large part by the state.

    History of METCO

    The program grew out of the dissatisfaction and frustration that preceded the violence and turmoil of Boston's desegregation busing efforts in the 1970s. After Judge Wendell Arthur Garrity Jr. of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled that the Boston Public Schools were unconstitutionally segregated, he developed a busing plan designed to “balance” any school that had a non-white student population of over 50%. This policy was specifically designed to comply with the Racial Imbalance Law (passed by the state in 1965), which required school districts to implement plans to “balance” any school that was over 50% non-white. The busing caused incredible turmoil. Racism ran rampant in many parts of the city, leading to the creation of Restore Our Alienated Rights, an anti-desegregation busing organization designed to protect the “vanishing rights” of white citizens. Just prior to the implementation of this policy, a large number of black parents boycotted the Boston Public Schools for their failure to integrate. As this was happening, the Brookline Civil Rights Committee of Brookline, MA (a Boston suburb that borders the city) broached the possibility of enrolling black students from Boston in the Brookline Public Schools, sparking the conversation that would lead to the development of the METCO concept.[7]

    In 1966, METCO’s first year of existence, METCO Inc. was established and seven school districts (Braintree, Lincoln, Arlington, Winchester, Sharon and Concord) began to accept students.[8] METCO Inc. was established in 1966 as the service provider, and facilitates the admissions process and day-to-day operations. Today there are approximately 3,300 students enrolled in the METCO program, the majority of whom come from the city of Boston (about 150 come from the city of Springfield). Overall, approximately 4,300 students have graduated from the program since its founding.[9] In the 2010-2011 school year, 75.2% of METCO pupils were African American, 3.4% were Asian, 16.8% were Hispanic, and the remaining 5% were classified as multi-race or “other.” The majority of the 37 METCO receiving districts are largely white: 40% of the districts have populations that are over 90% white, and only two of the 37 districts were under 70% white. Boston's school district is currently 35% African-American, 41% Hispanic, 13% White and 8% Asian.[10]

    Participating METCO cities and towns

    Arlington
    Bedford
    Belmont
    Braintree
    Brookline
    Cohasset
    Concord
    Concord-Carlisle
    Dover
    Dover-Sherborn
    East Longmeadow
    Foxborough
    Framingham
    Hampden-Wilbraham
    Hingham
    Lexington
    Lincoln
    Lincoln-Sudbury
    Longmeadow
    Lynnfield
    Marblehead
    Melrose
    Natick
    Needham
    Newton
    Reading
    Scituate
    Sharon
    Sherborn
    Southwick-Tolland
    Springfield
    Sudbury
    Swampscott
    Wakefield
    Walpole
    Wayland
    Wellesley
    Weston
    Westwood

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Wayland MA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Sawrikar View Post
    As part of the debate over tax override in Newton, one aspect being raised by supporters of override is 10% increase in student enrollment leading to higher teacher-student ratio (25:1 in some elementary schools) and the need for more classrooms. Opponents are focusing on the non-Newton students enrolled in the district. These are the children of Newton teachers and METCO kids from Boston. In my opinion, Newton has low taxes - median tax bill is $7,000 and tax rate is 1.2%. There is also no reason for making such a big deal out of a 4% tax override when the bulk of the money is going towards rebuilding 2 crumbling elementary schools and expanding a 3rd elementary school. Having said that, I do think the METCO student enrollment issue has some merit.

    The money for METCO comes from the State and I believe, their reimbursement pays for additional expenses of the district administration but not for teachers and higher infrastructure. The program has been justified by the thinking that the negatives associated with a higher student-teacher ratio is made up by better educational opportunities created by a diverse student body.
    In Wayland, the funds that come with METCO cover administration, transportation, and about $1,000 per student. That's enough to more than cover variable costs such as curriculum materials and supplies. The 130 students coming from Boston equate to an average of 10 per grade. While it's possible that the presence of those students trigger an additional teacher, that's a rare occurrence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Sawrikar View Post
    These are some of the complaints about the system being raised in Newton:

    A. The racial orientation of suburbs have changed since 1966. The suburban school districts are becoming diverse due to an increase in Asian student population. Also the ME program is not keeping up with the times as hispanic students continue to account for a small proportion of its student base.
    It's perhaps a bit of a stretch to say that suburban districts are becoming diverse solely due to an increase in the Asian student population.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Sawrikar View Post
    B. Suburbs have higher taxes than Boston primarily because they don't have Boston's commercial base. Boston also has a tiered property tax rate for commercial and residential. It also gives a generous 30% exemption for owner occupation. Boston is proud of the fact that it has had no override for 30 years. Newton anti-override group is asking for Boston to pay suburbs for educating its students at charter school rates.
    Most if not all of METCO costs are covered by METCO.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Sawrikar View Post
    C. Just like NCAA scholarships, Newton schools use the Metco students to win sport titles.
    This old canard? I'd love to see some evidence to suggest that this ugly assertion is the case.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Sawrikar View Post
    In my opinion, a case can be made for lowering Metco enrollment and also asking for higher reimbursement rates.
    Over the years, Wayland has spent considerable time and energy lobbying for increased reimbursement.

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