Mob Of Clueless Leominster Kids With Signs Walks Out Of School, Yells At The Mayor About Budget Cuts Who Then Boom-Roasts Them With Facts
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So shit went down in the city of Leominster today when a mob of students walked out of school and marched to City Hall to protest budget cuts in the schools. Many have suggested that the students should be heralded for caring enough about their education to take part in a protest. Others saw the way that students conducted themselves and realized that they probably would be taken a lot more seriously if they weren’t acting like a wild mob of savages. But credit to Mayor Dean Mazzarella for going outside, hearing their grievances one by one, and explaining his side of the story:
Ya know what I hate? Whenever kids get together and protest we’re all supposed to say, “good for them for being civically engaged.” Which is fine if they actually know what the hell they’re talking about. But it’s bullshit if they’re only protesting to throw a hissy fit, and haven’t even bothered to do even the most basic amount of research into what they are protesting for. And that’s exactly what this was – a mob of kids who have no idea what they’re talking about. They all marched down there today because some political rival of the mayor on the Leominster City Councilor totally savaged him in this letter to the editor in the Sentinel and Enterprise. It’s actually extremely boring to read, and there’s a 0.0% chance that mob of millenials made it through this paragraph without falling asleep:
Besides the low level of funding, in fiscal 2016 the city charged the School Department a whopping $6.4 million in city services, including a large portion of City Hall expenses. In response to a question posed by the superintendent to the business manager about the underlying justification for $2.3 million in employer retirement contributions, the business manager responded the city does not provide documentation explaining how the employer retirement contribution charge is calculated. This one chargeback expense has increased dramatically by 44.9 percent from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2016 with no accounting justification.
I’m a grown man with a Master’s Degree who is very interested in local politics. And that was the most boring thing I’ve ever read in my life.
But the gist of her letter was clear – she wants to fund the schools and the Mayor wants to fire all their teachers. Because school budgets are just simple like that.
Look, I don’t pretend to know the first thing about Leominster politics, but it’s clear from reading this that it’s a Gaffney-esque, Tito Jackson-esque power play from a City Councilor going after a political rival sitting mayor. Oldest trick in the book. This was one of the paragraphs that got kids all fired up:
Funding public schools is a challenge that all municipalities face. Schools are a competitive business and are expensive. Quality schools are key to attracting good jobs and for preparing our children and grandchildren to compete for jobs. Leominster, unfortunately, puts its students and community at a disadvantage with its long history of funding schools with one of the lowest percentages of net school spending in the state.
Several students brought this up during the rally. That Leominster doesn’t spend money on schools. So since we know nothing about any of this we just Googled it. Turns out Leominster is actually ahead of 74 other school districts in Massachusetts when it comes to average per pupil expenditure:
I’d hate to see what the protests look like in East Bridgewater. Just sayin. And for what it’s worth most of the schools that spend less money per student than Leominster are pretty highly regarded school districts – Wachusett, Dudley-Charlton, Melrose, Easton, Shrewsbury, etc.
Meanwhile here are the districts that spend the most per student:
Notice a trend? They’re mostly Cape towns (mostly the smaller cape towns with more money and less kids like PTown Wellfleet, Truro, Eastham, Orleans, Brewster), island towns (Nantucket, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Tisbury), insanely wealthy districts with tons of property tax revenue (Weston, Concord-Carlisle, Dover-Sherborn, Lincoln-Sudbury) and Western Mass towns with extremely small populations (Mount Greylock, Pathfinder, Northern Berkshire).
It’s really pretty simple. Schools are financed by property taxes. Bigger school districts cost more money because there’s more special needs students, which costs a lot more money to fund. Small, wealthy towns have the most money to play with, and a much smaller and less diverse student population to fund.
That’s also why the lowest spending schools tend to NOT be urban districts too. Urban districts have much higher special ed populations, and since SPED classes require much lower student to teacher ratios, they’re gonna be much more expensive to finance. The lowest spending districts are towns like Northbridge for a reason – it’s not exactly a rich town, but it’s not big so it’s not nearly as expensive to finance. When you live in Weston, and everyone pays property taxes on their million dollar home, you can afford to buy fancier things. Because….math.
So yea, Turtleboy did his research. The students didn’t. I refuse to applaud a mob of kids simply because they threw some signs together and walked out of school without having any idea what they’re talking about.
The bottom line is, the mayor handled it like a boss. Italian people don’t play. That’s just science. First of all, the dude dresses like he’s in the market to buy a NFL franchise:
At the 6:45 mark the mayor shows a kids a copy of paperwork showing that Leominster spends more than $3 million over what is required of them. Kids start chanting “liar” and drown him out. Again, wicked smart.
Then the mayor then hands kids a copy of the budget. Kids tear it to shreds and start screaming like they just accomplished something. And I’m supposed to applaud them just because they protested? Sure thing.
Then this girl from the picture gets up there and asks him
“Why did the district lose $5 million?”
Answer – We had to pay $2 million in raises, another million in health insurance, etc.
Student: Did you guys know that we’re the lowest funded public school in Massachusetts?
Crowd: LOOOUUUDDD NOISESSSSS!!!!
Then the mayor starts talking about money. As he pointed out, money doesn’t grown on trees, so they have three options:
- We all take a pay cut
- We go back to the taxpayers and we raise their taxes
- We cut police and fire
As soon as he mentioned the pay cut the kids went nuts. Because they apparently think the deficit can get funded by cutting whatever the mayor makes for a salary. But in reality he was referring to city workers as a whole, which includes their teachers. The kids just cheered for cuts to the very people they are allegedly protesting on behalf of.
The reaction of the student who he showed the budget to was priceless:
“See, here’s where all the money went.”
“Yea but, I came here to yell!!”
After that Mazzerella pulls the ultimate power move and he says he wants option 1. He volunteered to take a pay cut. What can kids even say to that? Boom. Roasted.
Another kid brings up the $15 million that apparently is stored in a rainy day fund, and asks him why he can’t use that. First of all, these kids have obviously been coached by some adult who clearly doesn’t like the mayor. As if there’s just $15 million sitting around that the city has no intention of using, which can magically cure this. Why didn’t he think of that?? Should’ve just gone down to the high school and asked kids in the lunchroom how to fix Leominster’s problems.
Anyway, his answer really got the crowd going:
“Your bond rating will fall and it will cost you more money to borrow.”
Proving once again that there is no subject that is more complicated and more boring than a school budget.
Finally at the 22:15 mark a girl just comes out and says it – “Why don’t you just raise taxes instead of cutting our teachers?”
Oh yea, that’s gonna go over well. Meanwhile this girl’s parents are at work trying to make ends meet for her, and she’s telling the mayor to raise their taxes. Nice going.
Students at a leominster High taking their protest to city hall. Heads up, Mr. Mayor pic.twitter.com/7xBh6fvA0t
— Ashley Green (@agreenphotog) June 16, 2017
Then she points out that fifteen percent of Leominster is unemployed. Not sure if there’s any truth to this, but bringing up a large unemployment rate as an argument to increase spending makes TONS of sense. Because the unemployed are well known for their ability to pay property taxes. Definitely.
Anyway, this happens in urban districts every single year. A bunch of teachers get pink slipped in June. Then they find out a month later that they’re coming back because they moved some money around and get to keep their jobs. I don’t know if this is how it’s gonna work out in Leominster, but it happens all the time in Worcester. Is there fat to cut in Leominster? I’m sure there is somewhere. It doesn’t matter where you live in America, there’s always some useless slug of a paper pusher making $120,000 a year to compile meaningless charts. Perhaps students could’ve shown up with a list of things in the budget they think should be cut in order to avoid school budget cuts.
At the end of the day everyone will land on their feet, no one is gonna go broke because of this, and we live in the land of opportunity. So when one door closes another one opens. Everything will be fine kids. Now instead of emulating the idiots you see on TV whining about every perceived injustice in the world, try actually going home, having some fun with the Google machine and actually learn about how a school budget works.
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