'Unconscionable': Marblehead Teachers Push Back On Budget Cuts

MARBLEHEAD, MA — The Marblehead teachers union is pushing the School Committee to seek increased funding from the town as the district faces another $2 million in budget cuts for the next academic year.

The cuts, which the Marblehead Education Association said could result in an additional 15 percent staffing cut on top of the 31 equivalent faculty positions and services cut when a general tax override failed last year, would come as the MEA has begun contract negotiations with the town that include asking for better student mental health support, equitable parental and family leave, competitive wages that reflect regional standards, and a living wage for paraprofessionals, custodians, and other support staff.

“The School Committee must go back to the town and advocate to fully fund the FY25 budget. We will go to the town with you as an advocate for fully funded schools because the MEA will fight to protect the quality of education provided to the children of Marblehead” said co-president of the MEA Jonathan Heller, a teacher at the Village Elementary School and parent of a 3rd and 8th grader in MPS, in a statement to Patch Monday morning. “Student needs continue to rise, and it is unconscionable to consider deep cuts to our school staff and programs. Budgets are moral documents, and it is time to invest in our children and see where Marblehead stands when it comes to public education.”

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The latest budget clash comes after attempts to raise the school operating budget through a townwide tax override vote failed substantially in two consecutive years, as well as a series of contentious School Committee meetings dealing with an overhaul of district student services leadership, a student restaint report that found negligence on the part of some staff members involved, a revolving door of district leadership and an open letter to the School Committee signed by hundreds of residents expressing “a lack of confidence” in its performance.

The MEA said more than 250 teachers, parents and students attended the budget hearing last week to testify against proposed cuts and “advocate for fully funded public schools.”

Find out what's happening in Marbleheadwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

“The Marblehead Education Association has asked for the School Committee and Town Meeting to address the looming crisis facing Marblehead Public Schools (MPS) with increased investment in our schools and a commitment to meeting the needs of all students,” the MEA statement said.

While the School Committee had not shut the door on override attempts at a recent meeting, the consecutive failed attempts appeared to have both town and school officials focused on how to meet the constraints of the structural deficit — including at the school level a potential 371 percent increase in some school athletic participation fees.

“We need a school budget that protects high-quality learning,” Michael Fu, Math and Computer Science teacher at MHS and parent of a 1st and 5th grader in MPS. “Without an adequate budget, we will continue to have systemic issues. Without an adequate budget, we will continue to lose exceptional educators and be unable to attract new ones.

“Without an adequate budget, we will continue to be understaffed and have unsafe work environments.”

(Scott Souza is a Patch field editor covering Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem and Swampscott. He can be reached at Scott.Souza@Patch.com. X/Twitter: @Scott_Souza.)

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